As many of you know, there’s sometimes more of one gender than another in tango group lessons or milongas. Rather than an issue, it is, in fact, a great opportunity for men and women to try the other role. What happened back in the day when tango emerged in Buenos Aires as a musical genre and dance? Read on…
When it all started in Buenos Aires…
Because of the large influx of men, there were many more gentlemen than ladies. Men, for example, were learning together and then only when they felt ready would they start to dance with ladies. Because ladies were scarce, men wanted to make their dance enjoyable and stand out so that ladies would dance with them again. Men therefore began learning as followers with more experienced men, and when their skills as a follower became natural and fluid, they started to learn to lead another man first. As a result, most men knew exactly what it felt like to be led, and it made their lead more gentle.
Nowadays, most people learn to lead (usually, men) and follow (usually, ladies). However, it is a really good practice to ‘try the other side’ of the dance. We met a lady once, who had learnt to tango for years and finally tried to lead. She told us: ‘It was absolutely incredible – today I understood what men have to do and why it is sometimes difficult to lead. I understood a lot about things I thought were the man’s issue when it did not work: in fact, it really is a bit of both! I will never complain about a man’s lead anymore!’. We feel her experience allowed her to discover what truly is tango: a conversation.
Going back to the gender imbalance in tango classes and milongas, whilst ladies have no problem dancing together, it may be a bit difficult for some men to dance with one another, as it is culturally a tricky thing to do. We do have exercises when this is the case and we feel nobody should feel forced to dance with someone if they don’t want to. But we encourage anyone to try, as it is a beautiful experience that will enrich your dance and make you understand a lot about tango. If you are so inclined to seriously learn the ‘other role’, you may even do as they do in Buenos Aires (at least, the very best dancers): change roles with your partner in the middle of the dance, same gender or not. We have a little video we’d like to show you, that we really love: two men – two brothers in fact – having great fun swapping roles. Here it is:
These two brothers are calling themselves “Los Hermanos Macana” – The Witty Brothers.
Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be able to dance like them?