If you notice in most of my posts (apart from the ones where I intentionally want to indicate the roles), I usually try to avoid the common terminology of leaders and followers for the roles. Instead, I am mostly writing about partners. I do this on purpose because I find the terms leader and follower somehow unfitting to the essence of tango. Plus, what I write is mostly directed to both partner roles, so it is easier to refer to them as partners.
Let me explain… as we all know, the main influence on the form of dance today comes from a place and a time in history when a lot of very lonely immigrants were stranded in a place where it was very hard to find love. Technically, in Buenos Aires in the 20s 30s, there were a lot more men than women. One of the basic instincts of mankind is self-preservation and reproduction. People, like all animals, feel the need to reproduce, create new replicas of themselves, raise them, and inherit this world.
From Cavemen to Tango
Now, as I also wrote in the caveman post, people have evolved through the ages and developed somehow the different sex roles. The man and the woman. Since the caveman ages, they both had and still have different and complementary roles to each other within the smallest social group of a family/couple. So naturally, the surplus of men in Buenos Aires led to the need to somehow attract women outside of prostitutes. Because simply… people cannot “survive” on their own… and that, partly, led to the birth of tango.
Men attracting women through dance is one of the most primal and natural ways. You can also see it in many other animals. Tango was invented (partly) to find a life partner… the better half that all those immigrants were missing. Old milongueros say that they considered the dance as a gift to the woman they were dancing with. I find this as one of the most respectful, romantic, and emotional ways to attract another person into your life. To find your love, the person with whom you will share the rest of your life (or at least hope so).
So all these men in Buenos Aires were not looking simply for a follower in their life… they were not leaders in any way shape or form… they were simply men trying to find their life partners. Partners…. equal… to share the load and fill in the roles that they by themselves could not fulfill to create what we call a family (whatever that might mean to each and every one of us). They were simply looking for partners to complete them.
If you ever really grasp this… you can understand that there is no leading and following in Tango. There was never such a thing… not even from its beginning. There is only cooperation… partnership… like in a family… in a couple… from the age of cavemen till today… where the man hunted and the woman guarded his back… where we need each other to survive… where we need each other to dance. The man needs the woman’s emotional side to inspire him and guide him in his dance…. and the woman needs the focus and orientation of the man to guide her safely in space and provide the canvas to express themselves. We need each other… we are partners… we can’t do this alone… we are not leading and following… there is no such thing in Tango… we are creating a partnership of equals for ten minutes… we co-create an expression of emotions that most probably we are the only ones to get… and then let go.
THAT… the fact that you cannot dance the Tango alone… that it forces you to find a partner to do it… is the beauty of it. Because it forces you to realize how incomplete you are… it forces you to realize how much you need another partner for your dance… like the partners you need in life… to love… to work… to have some companionship… to live. Because after all… we were not made to live alone!
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tango is full of songs talking about loneliness and the pain of not having a partner. So for tonight’s Goodnight Tango, I selected one of the many such songs with a real story behind it.