Let’s picture the scene.
You see a tango class advertised and you’ve never danced before. How amazing would it be to do that? Sequins, heels, dancing. Move over Beyoncé, mama’s getting her tango on.
“It’ll be fine, there’ll be guys there I can dance with.”
You come to class with the expectation that the teacher will organise a man for you to dance with AND that he will be good enough to lead everything in the class without a problem. Well, this is your class right? It’s a natural assumption that if you go to a class you want a guy there to lead you. You get there. There are a few couples, three men and ten women. You realise tango isn’t about sequins and acrobatics. You get to dance and learn a little, but you spend a fair bit of time sitting down or doing solo exercises to make the most of the time, it’s not ideal.
Let’s say you’ve been learning to dance and you want to go to the milonga. There’s a ‘Special’ night on, everyone is going to be there.
You get ready and look great, you feel great. You arrive at the milonga, put your shoes on, last check in the mirror and in you walk. Lo and behold… there’s the lady’s bench. You know, that line of women, all looking great, all wanting the same thing. To dance.
And all of a sudden you don’t feel so great. The chances of you dancing seem slimmer. Your male friends are all dancing and it’s not even that. There are just so many women dancing that you don’t feel like you’re seen. You can’t dance.
As you’re sitting there you start to run things through your mind, or more like your mind starts to play havoc with your zen. Do I not look attractive enough? Am I too old? Is my dancing that bad? Have I not worked on my dancing? Do I have spinach in my teeth? You remember that thing you read on a tango blog and tell yourself to look less grumpy and more available to dance. You chip, chip, chip away at your confidence and your evening. Shall we just go home for a cuppa, a biscuit and straight to bed then? Tea??? Pour me a whisky Linda!
In reality, it could be any of those things. The decision process and motivation to dance with you is a very personal one and varies from dancer to dancer. But before you consign your shoes and dancing to the “all the gear and I can’t be bothered anymore’ heap, or “I’m just going to go to classes”, let’s consider a couple more scenarios.
Same scene, a change of approach.
You see a class advertised and you’ve never danced before. You go and find out that there are two ways you can dance tango, you can lead and you can follow. Great! I’m going to learn to lead. There’s people waiting for me to partner and dance with them and I’m learning loads. It’ll make me more aware of the other side of the dance and I can use that for when I’m following too.
You want to go dancing and arrive at the milonga. You look amazing and feel great. You see the lady’s bench and instead of walking over and taking a seat, you look at one of the other amazing women there and invite her to dance. You dance simply, building the connection and focusing on her, staying in the ronda behind one of your mates.
After the tanda finishes, you take her back to her seat and she thanks you. You spend the rest of the evening choosing who you want to dance with, as a leader or a follower, and have a blast. You go home too tired for a cuppa, but force yourself to take your makeup off before collapsing into bed. OK, maybe that last bit is a little too much to expect, but let’s go with it and stop using baby wipes on our faces. Erm, I digress.
So why aren’t there more women leading?
Really. Why? One of the most common frustrations in tango is a lack of leaders, let’s be honest here and say leaders who listen in the dance. We work on our dancing, go to the milonga and spend more time sitting than dancing. The point here is that we have a choice. We can lead, we can follow, we can dance.
Why you should lead.
It will make you more active in connecting and receiving when you’re dancing because you understand first hand what the leader is experiencing when he is trying something new. That alone will make you a better follower. It opens up a spectrum of tango that you may have missed before, not only for the roles but also for the feeling. Read as, you’ll also become more patient with the guys because leading is hard. If leading is hard, you’ll want to do it even more, because that’s what we do right? 🙂
You’ll experience the milonga in a different way. Women leading women and men is going to mix up the socialising aspect of the milonga too. Because we tend to chat with the people we dance with and if the majority of people we dance with are of the opposite sex we’re limited in the interactions we have.
Tango is a great way to meet people and whilst I’m not sure of the exact stats, many a union has been initiated through dance. But if we start using the milonga as some kind of live Tinder, we’re going to run out of options pretty quickly. More importantly, the spectrum of tango is wider than seduction and sensuality. Don’t get me wrong. Tango is erotic, it is sensual, but it is also more than that. It is friendship and love, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, it is beyond a man and a woman.
“Dance with a woman?”
“No thanks, I’d rather wait for a guy.”
“Do you know how to lead?”
“A man just feels different you know?”
“I need a man to lead me.”
The last three are things that have been said to me over the years when I have invited women to dance and you know, it could be that they just don’t want to dance with me. After all that is the deal, followers can and should say no. It could be that they didn’t know I lead, but isn’t that the same kind of risk they take when going to dance with anyone for the first time?
Is this queer tango?
With tango increasingly having to be described as “open” and “friendly”, maybe, just maybe, queer tango exists because there is still a need for the space where your sexual orientation isn’t important and the configuration in the dance is fluid. For me though it is tango. Two people coming together to dance in an embrace. Besides, queer or not, why are we still having to define that today?
This is fun and cool.
So ladies, we’re in the majority here. Let’s work it to our advantage. This is a call to embrace, a call to lead. If you want to explore the other side of the dance, you have a space to do that in my classes. If you need a gentle nudge to say you can do it this is it. It’s International Women’s Day on 8th March and I couldn’t think of a more apt time to start.
Next week there are two chances for you to do this. Wednesday we’re back at Kahaila for a class and milonga. And on Friday I’ll be at The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs at TOG space in Aldgate for a specific class on why women should lead. All the details below.
Wednesday 6th March
7:00-8:30pm : Class “the Cross in cross system”
8:30-11:00pm :’abrazos’ milonga
Class £15 (includes milonga)
Pay on the day
Tube: Aldgate, Liverpool Street
Train: Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street
Friday 8th March