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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Woman's role in tango


Some interesting comments appeared on the previous post: Just follow the leader.

Andy highlighted the challenge of the woman's role and the timing of her response to the lead. Indeed the woman must contribute her interpretation of the man's lead and the music to the dance, otherwise she is merely a puppet being dragged around in his arms.

A very good female tango dancer achieves a sensitive balance between the lead and her personal expression, with the outcome being a beautiful unity of music and movement.  Two individuals dance as one in the embrace. Lidia Ferrari's article The place of woman in tango (or Is tango macho?) elaborates on what is required of the woman, as well as perhaps challenging some macho men who may see themselves as good tango dancers.  Thanks for sharing these articles, Andy!

Just take a look at Adela dancing with Gaston at the start of Dany and Lucy's milonga.
PP

13 comments:

Chris said...

"Lidia Ferrari's article The place of woman in tango (or Is tango macho?) elaborates on what is required of the woman"

"what is required of the woman". Ugh.

It has to be said that the concept of tango dance expressed in that article is extremely remote from the social tango dancing of the milongas.

Examples.

"a dancer's masculinity or femininity is more an imaginary phenomena that is attached to the dance"

"for a man and a woman to dance a tango, each of them must submit to the rules of the game that make the dance a tango and not, for example, a rumba."

"Thus, there are three elements: the woman, the man, and the tango structure."

(You'd hope that this list might include the music, but no.)

"This example alse shows that tango is a game, like chess, in which each piece moves according to standardized rules. A rook, for example, moves at right angles, while a bishop moves diagonally. But both pieces, and all the others, are necessary for the game to be played. Similarly, to dance tango, and to enjoy doing so, each dancer has to try to follow the rules pertaining to his or her position in the dance. Thus, I am privileging the structure of the dance in this analysis, and not the passions and emotions that circulate in that structure. I believe that the passions and emotions are a consequence -an effect- of the dance, and as such they are not at the dance's hub."

And a classic shibboleth of classero culture:

"Even today, those who want to learn how to dance tango must invest a lot of time and effort before they can find anything in the tango embrace except that which makes it possible to dance tango."

Very sad.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Chris, some errors in the English translation of the article which you referred to may lead to misunderstandings. Yes, I agree that reference to the all-important music was unfortunately omitted.

However, my experience of traditional Buenos Aires milongas (annual visits over many years) supports Lidia Ferrari's insights into the woman's role. Unfortunately, the other article is not available in English translation, but it describes how the woman should use her body in order to respond with intention and musicality, rather than responding to the lead in a mechanical fashion. This requires some body control and confidence.

Most of us, including seasoned Buenos Aires milongueros, have made the effort to develop our skills, learning from respected peers, mentors, paid teachers, etc. Chris, you should count yourself amongst the lucky few "naturals", if you never required help with improving your posture, close embrace, navigation on a crowded floor, to name just a few of the challenges of this wonderful dance.
PP

Felicity said...

"Should", "required", "rules", "effort","challenges", the emphasis that one has paid, travelled and studied for many years and so must be right - these are indicative of the fault line that divides two fundamentally different ways of experiencing and thinking about this dance and because in dance as in life, then also much related to life in general. That clarity is so useful in knowing who stands where.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Thanks for your comment, Felicity.

I make no apology for sharing my experiences. You may not agree with my views, and that is OK.

Perhaps you have never felt "challenged" when trying to engage with the cabeceo at an out-of-town milonga where all the faces were new. Maybe you didn't have to put any "effort" into developing good balance, in order to dance well. I'm not afraid of saying that I did. I'm also not shying away from saying that tango isn't all that easy for most people.

Some dancers may find the insights and advice in this blog helpful in their tango journey. If not, there are plenty of other sources of ideas about tango on the internet.
PP

Felicity said...

PP wrote: "Perhaps you have never felt "challenged" when trying to engage with the cabeceo at an out-of-town milonga where all the faces were new."

I do in fact think the psychological aspect of the milongas, especially at milongas where one is not known can indeed be challenging. Coincidentally now PP mentions it, I have written about this aspect very recently and do so regularly.

But I believe PP has altered the context. The context under discussion seemed to me to be about things like balance, posture, embrace, technique, womens responsiveness and physical things of that sort. Apologies if that was not the case. Those things are I think as hard as you want to make them and it's true I do think that many people make them a great deal harder than they need be. Why they do is a very interesting question.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Yes, I believe that the psychological side of things in tango is frequently overlooked, even with apparently physical skills such as posture, embrace, responsiveness, etc. These skills often do take time to develop, for all sorts of reasons. And the individual's state of mind or attitude can either help or hinder.

Indeed, a woman's role in tango is affected by her state of mind, not just her physical skills. This important point was implied in Lidia Ferrari's articles, at least that was how I interpreted them.
PP

Chris said...

TSA wrote: "Chris, some errors in the English translation of the article which you referred to may lead to misunderstandings. Yes, I agree that reference to the all-important music was unfortunately omitted."

That omission wasn't by the English translator. The omission occurs also in the Spanish original and the German translation.

"Most of us, including seasoned Buenos Aires milongueros, have made the effort to develop our skills, learning from respected peers, mentors, paid teachers, etc."

Anyone for whom tango dance is, as Lidia says "like chess, in which each piece moves according to standardized rules" is indeed going to find learning requires a lot of effort. Not just to learn these imaginary standardised rules, but also to overcome the handicaps that such rules foster.

From such rules and handicaps naturally emerges Lidia's "emotions are a consequence -an effect- of the dance, and as such they are not at the dance's hub." Where's for most of those who dance tango in milongas, emotions are very much at the dance's hub.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Chris, I suspect that we are in agreement about points which you raised.

Yes, the music is a critical element, and was unfortunately omitted from the article.

Yes, the dance is improvised.
The example of chess points out that there are some "rules" or conventions in the woman and man's roles. At least that's how I read it. A simple example: if my partner leads me to step backward, it would normally be wrong for me to step forward. I would not be playing my role.
PP

Anonymous said...

I would like to add my thoughts having read the article and the comments that have been made. The first thing I will say is that I believe some of what I have read is out dated in my mind.
Starting with comment made in regards to pieces in a Chess game and how they function. Chess is a game of strategy to win and dominate. Having a simple understanding of Tango, the dance to me is more about following and leading, it is not about being dominated or to dominate another person. In my mind it is about how a dance couple evolve and more importantly enjoy that particular music and dance at that moment in time.
I also find it strange in today’s society that people use the term “Seasoned Buenos Aires” as a way to validate their statement that they are making. It is very confusing and at times are careless references that people make regarding the dance, roles are changing we should not be referring to genders. This should be a wakeup call, you have men dancing with men, women dancing with women and what in reality to me it seems you have partners, that may change their roles not there gender.
In a world of equality I would like to think that gender in-equality is something of the past, yet in Tango we base our thinking around what happens in BA, “Wake up” men have been dancing with men for several decades in Argentina.
The gender in-equality that happens in BA is so backward having men sitting with men and women sitting with women is so out dated. Have you ever asked yourself if that way of thinking is still acceptable and if so why.
Tango is about the music, it is also about the connections we make with people, men and women it is not the gender but the role we may have throughout the dance.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Thanks for your comments, Anonymous.

It's always interesting to see how others interpret a situation. Those differences make conversations engaging, of course.

You wrote "Chess is a game of strategy to win and dominate". Lidia Ferrari's reference to a game of chess as an example of an activity which has certain conventions, was just that in my opinion. I don't think it implied that tango is a dance of domination. On the contrary. In Ferrari's other linked article "El hombre conduce pero la mujer no es una marioneta", she describes at some length the sensitive collaboration which enables two people to dance as one.

Ferrari also describes how the woman's and the man's role in tango differ in order for the dance to work. An obvious example is that only one person in the couple can "lead". That is no different when two men are dancing together. One dances in the woman's role. (I feel uncomfortable with the terms leading and following, because these terms suggest domination and passivity.)

Nowadays, there are milongas where "same-sex dancing" is quite common, and others less so. However, this is a more recent phenomenon in Argentina. Men have learned to dance tango and practised with men, but this is quite different to dancing together at a milonga, of course.

On another note, I thoroughly enjoy traditional milongas, where women and men are seated separately if they wish to dance with a range of partners. Those milongas also have other tables for groups and couples. And there are also many other milongas in Buenos Aires where men and women sit together in groups. Lots of options to suit different preferences.
PP

Chris said...

Anonymous wrote "The gender in-equality that happens in BA is so backward having men sitting with men and women sitting with women is so out dated."

In BA milongas, the option to sit with others of the same sex is available to both men and women. That's not inequality. That's equality.

"Have you ever asked yourself if that way of thinking is still acceptable and if so why."

The reason it is acceptable is that it is the preference of the majority of dancers in milongas. The fact that it's not the preference of some commenters on blogs doesn't change that.

Anonymous said...

I am sure that there is some foundation to both the responses that I have seen.

Can we agree to disagree with the some of the points that I have suggested. Firstly to compare chess, which is a game of strategy and tango steps, is not only unsophisticated but more importantly a simplistic way to make such a correlation based on how the pieces move. Tango is expressive, sensitive and poise of how a couple interacting to music with other couple on the Pista\dance floor.

If we take a minute and truly think about tango steps let us not undermine the charm and the beauty.

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Anonymous, I think we may be in agreement about the expressive and sensitive nature of the dance,.... as Lidia Ferrari would be, too, I suspect. Perhaps Ferrari could have chosen a better analogy. Chess clearly led to some misinterpretation.

Chris and Anonymous, thanks for your comments.

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