Culture Magazine

Feminism and Tango

By Terpsichoral

Republished from The Saccharine Mountain, by request.

I am a feminist tanguera. And that means, among other things, that

1. No, I don’t think leading is this mysteriously difficult thing, that it must be much harder than following because it’s mostly men who do it. (They are different high-level skills).

2. No, I don’t think you have a responsibility to dance with every man or almost every man who asks. You have a right to choose your partners freely at the milonga and no, you don’t have to put yourself in a penalty box or sit out a tanda if you politely decline a dance. And no excuses or reasons are necessary.

3. No, I don’t think learning to lead will somehow ‘spoil’ your following. Or that a woman leader can never be quite as good as a man.

4. No, I don’t think the lead is something sacrosanct, that your responsibility is to make sure it is always followed to the letter, that your first priority in the dance should be to be careful not to bother, obstruct or disturb the leader in any way.

5. No, I don’t think that the interpretation of the music is mostly the leader’s job, with the follower just contributing a few brief moments of decoration.

6. No, I don’t think that ‘connection’, maintaining a sensual, pleasurable embrace, keeping the couple’s movement harmonious etc. is basically the follower’s job.

7. No, I don’t think that men can’t learn from a woman teacher.

Tango isn’t a sexist theme park. It’s not something disconnected from everything that is important to us in real life. It’s not a topsy-turvy world with completely different values from the norm. Connect the things you value in life with the way you dance — and both will be enriched in the process.

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