Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation and compromise. If you believe in this cause, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.




January 21, 2015

The Gender Roles in Tango


The two partners in tango play different roles in correspondence with their respective gender. Gender roles are violated, for example, when the woman refuses to surrender, when she neglects her duty to make the man comfortable, when she resists him with her disobedience, when she initiate her own steps, when the man fails to protect the woman, when he coerces her with force, when he does not follow the music, when he shines himself instead of her, etc. Unfortunately, such things frequently happen in our tango.

One reason for that is we do not teach gender roles. Unlike in Argentina, in this country we do not use the words "men" and "women" in our tango instructions. Instead, we use the neutral terms "leaders" and "followers", and we allow either gender to play either role with absolutely no knowledge of what that role is about and how to play it. In our "politically correct" way of thinking, everyone is a neutral person. We do not train students to function as men or women, to be masculine or feminine, and to be seductive to the opposite sex. We only teach them mechanical movements. There is no role play, no passion, no emotional involvement, no masculinity and femininity, no attraction, and even no bodily contact. Consequently, our tango lacks what tango actually is. It becomes a gender-neutral dance.

However, in Argentina where men are much more masculine and women are much more feminine, tango is exactly the opposite of a gender-neutral danceArgentine tango is a passionate and elaborate display of masculinity and femininity. It highlights rather than hides the characteristics and functions of the opposite sexes. It fulfills the need for intimacy between men and women through close embrace and intimate bodily contact. It is an intimate, sensual and seductive dance. 

As fashionable as it is to transform gender roles in the US, this fact remains unchanged: no one can be at his/her best against nature. Frankly, 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. Likewise, a man is too masculine to be a follower. He simply cannot be as feminine as the follower must be, and function as a woman must function to a man, regardless of how technically adequate he cam follow. Tango is not simply lead and follow. It is the interaction between the opposite sexes. Without masculinity and femininity, tango loses its splendor. (See Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I).)

So, what are the roles of men and women in tango, and how different these roles are?

Men in general are physically taller, stronger, firmer and more dependable than women. They also have a psyche different from that of women due to men's hunting nature formed in the millions of years of human evolution through natural selection, such as their need for taking initiatives,
subduing, conquering, keeping under control, and protecting their loved ones, etc. Naturally, men assume the masculine role in tango as they do in life. The following are the functions of men's role in tango:

1. Leading the woman. For the couple to dance in unison, their actions must agree. For this to happen, only one person must take the lead, and the other must follow. In tango, the man leads the women. He does so not by force, but by showing an intention of how he wants her to move from his torso that she in his embrace can feel. He then matches her response to complete the lead.

2. Plotting the dance. In tango, the man dances around the floor and the woman dances around the man. The woman may beautify the dance by her colorful footwork, but she cannot plot the dance and change the choreography. That responsibility lies in the man, who must make the dance interesting, diversified and well-arranged, so that it may bring the woman's feminine beauty into full play.

3. Supporting her. The man must be supportive to the woman. Although she is liable for keeping her own balance, in actual dancing she often needs his help, especially if she is a less experienced dancer. The man must be the pillar for her, supporting her with his body to help keeping her balanced and executing her steps. He must be as stable as a refrigerator. Any unsteadiness and unbalance on his part will shake her trust and confidence.

4. Timing her steps to the music. The man must lead the woman dance to the music. His musicality is the most important element of leading. He must not stick in the steps and forget about the music. He must not just pay attention to his own timing and forget about hers. Rather, he must focus on timing her steps to the music, because he dances for her.

5. Shining her. A gentleman makes the woman shining in his company. He leads her to dance in such a way that fully displays her feminine beauty. He makes her, rather than himself, the center of attention. He does not show off over her for self-glorification and leave her eclipsed.

6. Protecting her. A gentleman is very protective to the woman. He must prevent her from being bumped, kicked or stepped by others. He must comply with navigation rules and respect the line of dance, keep a distance from others, halt when necessary and not run into people, and he must not lead steps that may hurt her or others. (See Spot Dancing in Tango.)

7. Pampering her. It is not manly to be rude and savage to a woman. A gentleman treats the woman with respect, admiration and attentiveness. He leads her carefully, patiently, tenderly and protectively. He makes her feel pampered in his arms and lets her fully enjoy dancing with him. (See Men's Common Mistakes in Tango.)

In comparison, women in general do not have the build and strength of men. They are smaller, shorter, lighter, softer, more beautiful and delicate. In addition, they have a psychology different from that of men due to women's reproductive nature, such as their need of beauty (to attract men), affection, submission and security, resulted also from millions of years of human evolution through natural selection. (See Femininity and Feminism in Tango (II).) Consequently, women assume the feminine role in tango as they do in life. The following are the functions of women's role in tango:

1. Complete surrender. The woman must entrust herself to the man. She must let go her ego, relax her body, settle comfortably in his embrace, be obedient, and move in unison with him. By her surrender she dispels his misgiving and gives him permission to be her leader. Just like when a baby is born the young parents suddenly become grownups, she makes him a man by being a woman.  

2. Following his lead. She must be calm and unhurried, wait for his signal to tell her how to move, and follow the lead one step at a time. She must not act on her own, initiate the step, or interfere with his lead. While being obedient, however, she must remain an active part of the dance. Following is not passively responding. It is a dynamic action that takes wit, ingenuity and creativeness. 

3. Being light and agile. She must make herself light and easy for him to lead. She must not put too much weight on the man and cause a burden to him. She must keep her own balance and not grab him or hang on him for stability. She must be sensitive to his lead and ready to respond at all time. And, she must move dexterously.

4. Keeping her own beat. A good follower follows intuitively so she can concentrate on the music rather than the lead. The man does his part to lead her dance to the music, but he can only do so by estimating the beat. As a result he may not be one hundred percent accurate at all time. The woman must listen to the music and be responsible for micro-adjusting her steps to the beat.

5. Complementing the man. As his partner she must help him, bring out his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses. She excites him with her femininity. She dances in such a way that is light, inspiring and contagious. She supports him when he loses his balance, keeps the beat when he is off time, slows him down if he rushes, and warns him if he is to run into others.

6. Beautifying the dance. A woman is a natural beautician and decorator. The man leads the dance, but it is the woman who shines the dance with her flexible body, beautiful footwork and sparkling embellishments. A good follower, however, does not interfere with the lead. She remains in perfect unison with the man while adorning the dance.

7. Being a woman. The woman must not dance as a mechanical follower, but as a woman. She must make the man feel comfortable in her arms. She must willingly show her female softness, flexibility, grace and seductiveness. She understands that her womanhood, femininity and gentle softness are the reason why he enjoys dancing with her rather than with a man. By being a woman, she can bring out the best in him and be rewarded fully as a result. (See Women's Common Mistakes in Tango and The Thirteenth Pitfall of  A Tanguera.)