Is musicality female?

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Just another milonga discussion

In a post a long time ago I was wondering if in any language the word music is considered masculine. This post is asking the question of whether musicality is also usually a feminine word or not in other languages and if there is some reason behind this phenomenon.

In a milonga some time ago a friend who is a very nice DJ and a (wonderful to watch on the dance floor) dancer sat next to me and we started talking about the importance of musicality. We agreed that it makes a huge difference when you know how to express the music and even more the emotions it conveys. Discussing the issue we also agreed that as a leader it makes a huge difference in the joy and satisfaction you get out of a tanda when your partner also knows about musicality and somehow tunes in with you on the same wavelength. This is when the magic happens! And then we seemed to also make the same observation… somehow men… leaders… seem to be interested more in musicality than women/followers. I don’t know if it’s true… maybe it’s just another biased observation but I hear it all the more often.

The big misconception

OK. To be honest, since the role of the man is the one who initiates and suggests the movement it is inevitable that they will be the first to get interested in the topic. Somehow there is a common misconception that the woman needs to just be good at understanding and executing the “commands” of the man. Musicality seems to come a bit later as an interest for ladies/followers. That maybe explains the phenomenon but then… isn’t this maybe the mirror of the leaders’ trap of wanting to learn more and more sequences and steps because that’s what they think that the women want?

In search for completeness

As I have written in many cases the simplicity when accompanied by the appropriate musicality and emotion can create a much more powerful result than the many complex fancy moves. I realized it myself from the responses of my partners when I started paying attention to them. But Tango flows both ways. It’s a dialog… not a monologue. The same kind of satisfaction, pleasure, and emotion a leader gifts the follower, he also receives back. When I dance with a partner who gets the music and the emotion of the tanda it’s like I get back the same gift I give even bigger and shinier! Otherwise, it feels… empty.

But let’s leave aside the communication and the dialog part. A dance where only the leader contributes to the musicality is half. It misses an essential element. Tango as a dance has a strong element of duality… the female and male… the complementary roles that together make one whole entity. If the female part of the musicality misses… where does this leave the result? It’s like a half-completed painting… like a song with rhythm but no melody… do you get the point? It’s incomplete because it takes two… TWO… to Tango.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

So is musicality a male or a female? After all this rant… I would dare to say… none and both! Musicality, unlike music, is both male and female at the same time and therefore it doesn’t have sex because, unlike the sexes which are incomplete,… half… musicality must be complete! Otherwise, dancing can feel so empty like the agonizing loneliness that Goyeneche so masterfully describes with his unique phrasing in tonight’s Goodnight Tango.

https://youtu.be/mz_ANXy2pS8
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4 responses to “Is musicality female?”

  1. Heather Ramsay-Acosta Avatar
    Heather Ramsay-Acosta

    Perhaps it’s because I was a musician decades before I became a tango dancer, but I am a follower for whom musicality comes naturally. I really can’t verify your supposition that leaders tend to be more interested in musicality than followers, but I can definitely tell you as a follower with good musicality that it feels like I’m being torn in two when I dance with a leader with poor musicality, because I have to choose between following the music or following my leader. I tend to opt for the latter just to keep the unity of the tango couple, but it’s painful! So to you and all the leaders who do put great effort into musicality: THANK YOU. It is truly a joy when both partners are hearing the music in the same way, giving themselves to the music and to each other. Time goes away, and magic takes over.

    1. Christos Kouroupetroglou Avatar

      Hi Heather. Happy new year!
      Thanks a lot for your comment!
      I can understand that it is really a struggle when you listen to the music and leader not! Our teacher used to say “This noise in the background is called music… Pay attention to it!!!”
      I also have to add that it is not a joy only for the follower but the leader too when for they dance with a follower that knows and listens to the music. See for example what I wrote in the following post a few months ago.
      https://goodnighttango.com/2023/10/30/musicality-independence/

  2. davidtangotribe Avatar

    When I dance in the follower role, I find that on the whole, the dance of female leaders tends to include simpler, more musical movements than that of male leaders.

    I empathize with Heather’s remark about how it can feel unpleasant to dance with a leader who doesn’t connect with the music.

    And when I dance as the leader, when my partner doesn’t feel and respond to the music, our dancing feels wooden and unpleasant.

    I don’t understand why, in my experience, tango teachers treat musicality as an advanced topic. I would (and do!) include it in my curricula from the start, and emphasize it throughout.

    1. Christos Kouroupetroglou Avatar

      David you are spot on!
      I also had the same impression about female leaders. Maybe it’s because they have already developed a sense and familiarity with the music from the followers side so they want to express what they can’t when they are dancing with male leaders that don’t pay attention to the music.
      It’s like their solution to the struggle that Heather describes. If you can’t do it right… I will show you how I want it!
      And yes… I also don’t get why some people think you need to be at a specific level to work on musicality. I think as long as you learn how to walk in the embrace… you can start including musicality elements. I mean… I remember as a beginner walking to the usual slow slow quick quick slow pattern… but why not change the exercise to walk 8 slows and 8 quicks in a row? And here you go … You learn to follow the marcato in 2 and in 4 rhythms for a whole phrase!

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