In tango, each partner plays a distinctive role in correspondence with his/her gender. Gender roles are violated, for example, when the woman refuses to surrender, when she irritates the man with her disobedience, when she neglects her duty to make him comfortable, when the man fails to protect the woman, when he shines himself instead of her, and when he is not gentle. Unfortunately, such happens all the time in our milongas.
One reason our tango doesn’t go very far is that we don’t teach gender roles. We don’t even use the words “man” and “woman”. Instead, we use the neutral terms “leader” and “follower”, and we allow either gender to play either role with absolutely no knowledge of what this role is about and how to play it. In our politically corrected mindset, everyone is a gender-neutral person. We do not train students to function as a man or woman, to be masculine or feminine, and to be seductive. We only teach mechanical movements. There is no role play, no passion, no emotional involvement, no masculinity and femininity, no seduction, and even no body contact. Consequently, our tango lacks what tango actually is. It becomes a gender-neutral dance.
In Argentina, however, tango is exactly the opposite of a gender-neutral dance. Argentine tango is a passionate and elaborate display of masculinity and femininity. It underscores rather than hides the attractions and functions of the opposite sexes. It fulfills the need for intimacy between men and women through embrace and intimate body contact. It is a sensual and seductive dance.
As fashionable as it is to switch roles in this country, one fact remains: nobody can be at his/her best against nature. A woman is too feminine to be a leader. She simply cannot be as masculine as the leader must be, and function as a man must function to a woman, regardless of how technically adequate she can lead. And a man is too masculine to be a follower. He simply cannot be as feminine as the follower must be, and function as a women must function to a man, regardless of how technically adequate he can follow. Tango is not just about lead and follow. It is a display of masculine and feminine beauty and a function of one gender to the other. Without masculinity and femininity, tango loses its splendor.