2019 was a very exciting tango-year: After 25 years of dancing tango and 18 years of teaching it, I found myself as a student.
Ok, this is not really new, because I constantly research and develop my tango-knowledge as well as my teaching and organising skills. I constantly initiate new projects, that "force" me to go out of my comfort zone and explore new fields: developing a teacher-training, learning more and more about website building and hosting, offering new forms of events, researching tango music in great detail, exploring various forms of bodywork and much more. I am an eternal student.
But when it came to dancing, I felt a bit stuck. Sure, over the past years, the dance with Detlef has become much better connected to the music. This was mostly a result of the musical work for and in our classes. But as we dance what we teach and nowadays almost never teach patterns, our repertoire has been streamlined to the basics. This is good, because we've eliminated all the superfluous and become even more puristic. But it does not feel like a great challenge. It is just what we do.
But this year, I practised my leading skills.
Although I had always been leading in classes. I almost never did it in milongas. In the first years as a teacher, I would still lead sometimes, but later it completely stopped. Mostly because of the shoes (not wanting to change them) and because of the Encuentros (more interesting leaders).
But it always bugged me that I was not capable of applying all that I lead in class in the ronda. The few times that I was leading in the past years, I just walked rhythmically. That was nice, but not interesting enough to want to do it more often. So finally I started practising consequently with one of our teacher-training-graduates in Saarbrücken. Over the first half of the year we managed to meet regularly, sometimes twice a week. Unfortunately this was not possible in the second half of the year, but I am going to take up practising again in January. Here's a resolution!
But the most important change was: I consequently started leading at milongas and encuentros. From the 520 tandas that I have danced socially this year, I have lead 184.
Yes, I count tandas. And yes, I know it is crazy. but craziness aside: Yay! I lead 35%!
But then recently I was asked: why do you lead?
My first impulse was to say: "Why not?" But that sounded lame.
So here are my reasons:
1. It is fun. It is different from dancing the followers role, but as much fun. (It could even be funner, if it weren't for the incompatibilities.)
2. It is a challenge. As stated above, I like learning and the sense of achievement that comes from successfully doing something new. Luckily I am no perfectionist but forgiving towards my own mistakes. I'm fine to know that I am "on the right way". So, most challenges don't frighten me. They inspire.
3. It is the right moment. This year was my year with women in tango, the preparation of the Tango Queens Congress, so many talks with women, bonding.... It was the right moment to also spend more time with women at milongas. Yesterday at the milonga, I sat and chatted with women and I danced with them. I only danced one tanda with one guy: Detlef. No, I've not had a sudden coming out. I just enjoy the company of women.
4. It is the right thing to do. I cannot preach that dancing both roles is good for the understanding of the dance and absolutely necessary from a practical point of view and then not lead myself.
5. Independence and peace of conscience. If I manage to up my game to 50% leading, I will have less problems getting into events. Ok, I don't have any problems getting into events now, because I often register with Detlef and most Encuentro organisers know me and want to be admitted to my evens as well. But when registering as single follower, I just feel super bad for the organisers. They will have to balance me with one of the rare leaders and that is so hard nowadays. For my conscience and karma, it is much better to register as double-role dancer.
6. The music. After so many years of musical work, I often suffer from unmusical dancing or diverging musical interpretations when being in the follower's role.
Sure, I can and will of course influence the dance actively. But depending on the receptive skills of the leader, this can be a bit of a struggle and I don't want to fight.
My considerable musical demands do not apply to every orchestra. To some orchestras, I am totally fine with some nice hugging, to other with dynamic moves, depending on what the leader's core skills are. Musicality is not always my first priority.
But there are quite a few orchestras that I can only dance to when I know that the musical interpretation of my partner goes conform with mine: D'Arienzo, Biagi, Pugliese, Troilo, even Canaro, all milongas and most valses... and some more. Di Sarli (formerly a hugging orchestra) has now transformed into a musical-priority orchestra. So... actually, my musical standards apply most of the time. ARGH!
I am lucky, because at many Encuentros I will often dance with our students who know what I like and mostly have the skills to put it into action. But at other events, I will more frequently prefer to not follow.
I might be exaggerating a bit, because there are now many more musical leaders than 10 years ago. Just recently I danced a Biagi tanda with someone I had never seen before. It was lovely!
Maybe I should take more risks, but I am not that brave. What if someone runs over the end of a musical phrase? My system might go into shock! Yes, I know, drama queen!
Long story short: Very often, I prefer to lead. Then I am on the safe side. ;-)
7. I am a leader. I always was. I am making decisions, taking action and "showing the way" to others. This is what I do. I can also follow and it is super nice to hand over responsibility. I can even perfectly overlook "mistakes" and compromise when someone else "leads the way", but not always. I lead. This is who I am. So my initial answer "why not?" to the question why I lead, was actually the most authentic.
I ask myself: Why have I not done it more consequently from the beginning? Maybe out of the same reasons, why so many women in tango want to follow: It is nice to not always be responsible for everything. But the more you understand, that both partners shape the dance, that both are responsible, the more "active" you become as a follower, the less you will ever feel that you can "just follow". So the whole concept gets reversed and restricting myself to the follower's role does not make any sense.
I am glad that I finally got it, but sad that it took my so long. Because I wasted 25 years in which I could have enjoyed both roles. Stupid me!
To all ladies out there: If you feel that leading would be the right thing to do, don't wait 25 years. Please read this post to be reminded that leading is no rocket-science.
And to all guys out there: if you feel, that following would be right for you, please don't renounce it out of misunderstood masculinity. Men can be super followers. They often just don't dare.
I am now looking forward to my last milonga of the year where I am going to dj and will therefore not be dancing a lot.
And next year?
That will be full of new experiences. I wish myself and you lots of fun and success!