I have not written for quite a while, mostly because I nowadays also post longer texts on facebook and because I wanted to keep this blog (relatively) free of my everyday corona-rants.
So this is another annoying post about my signature issue, leading women.
As you many of you will know, we (Detlef and I) are using the concept of role-change in all of our local classes and most of our international work. This is why many of our female students have taken up leading. Some have worked real hard, e. g. in our teacher training and are now registering as double-role dancers at many events - if the organisers allow for it.
We of course encourage role-change at our milongas and encuentros and so the "leading ladies" and the few "following men" usually get enough dances in both roles at our events. We are very happy about the development because no-one has to wait as a wallflower anymore. It changes everything for the better!
But it is common knowledge that double rolers don't have good chances in most environments and that leading women in particular are often criticised for not being "experienced" or "good" enough. And sure, many of them have only taken up the "other role" recently, so they are still learning and very well aware of that.
But I ask myself: With whom are leading women implicitly compared when people are making such a statement? Not good enough in comparison to whom?
Is it with male "beginners" who have been leading a similar amount of time? Surely not, because as a tango teacher I can confirm that experienced followers who take up leading will be much, much, much more competent than the average man who starts tango. And I think that most people are aware of that. But are women praised for their achievement of learning much faster? Certainly not.
So, are these women then maybe compared to the average dancer at milongas or encuentros? That would actually be appropriate, because I am honestly convinced that many, many female leaders have long achieved that level of competency. Honestly: it is no rocket science.
And if you observe more closely, you will discover that the reason for them being of equal competency comes from the fact that they are taking classes and practicing and therefore still improving, whilst most men stop learning from a certain point on. Why should they? They will always get enough dances. I have danced with hundreds, maybe even thousands of so-called "advanced" leaders at events and will clearly state that the majority have a quite limited repertoire and musicality. That’s fine, because when I dance with someone, I do not expect "perfection" and I do not judge. I connect with another person and if that person is willing to "give" something of him or herself in the dance, I am perfectly happy. Most followers are, because this is after all a social dance.
So why are female leaders not likewise accepted with all their imperfections and restrictions? Why will another woman not accept the invitation of an average female leader, whilst she is happily dancing with the guy who has been dancing the same ocho-cortado variation for the last 15 years without even adapting the move to the melodic rhythm?
Because women have to be better to be perceived equal!
I think that they are implicitly compared with the very small amount of top dancers who are musical, have an extensive-enough repertoire and a fine embrace. Most likely, they are also good looking and are, well, men! These are the few guys with whom every follower will want to dance at an Encuentro or Marathon.
What most forget: These guys have often been dancing for more than 20 years and are either very talented or have worked hard to get there. Yes, they might merit the praise but how unfair is it to compare a female leader, who has started to lead 2-3 years ago to these "tango gods"? Also, no matter how good she gets, she will not lead "like a man". Because she is no man. But do you have to lead "like a man" to lead well? I very much doubt that.
I am impressed by everyone who tackles "the other role" despite the social inhibitions, the time consuming effort and the huge amount of money that they have spend to learn, to become better, to develop. I see how many of them improve by the day!
I do not want anyone to give leading women any more leeway than male leaders. But please give them the same chance that you would give to a male leader of a comparable level of competency. Try to judge them by their dancing and not by their sex.
Ok, unless tango IS about sex for you. Then of course, this is ok. Women will stay women and men men. If you only get your tango highs with the big hairy bloke (quoting a male friend), then so be it. ;-)
I have for 21 years lead in class, but only recently (2019) made the serious attempt of leading at milongas. I have practised despite the fact, that I understand all moves and musicality and can perfectly demonstrate them in class - mostly in an open hold. But it is different in close embrace at milongas. So it is obvious, that it will take me some time, until I’ve incorporated our repertoire in my everyday milonga life. I am improving.
But I have got the advantage to be a teacher and well known at many events I go to. So I will mostly reach my goal of leading 50%. It is only at events where I am not known (marathons) that I will be perceived in the same manner as the other leading ladies. This (and the fact that I actually talk to our female leaders) is why I know what I am writing about. And guess what: There are female followers who have learned with us but will not accept my invitation at a milonga. They will of course accept Detlef’s invitation - if he happens to be there on time and is not chatting at the bar. ;-)
Let’s see how that works next weekend at the Heidelberg Tango Marathon. By writing this post, I have certainly not improved my chances with the guys. ;-)
Update: At the HTM it went well after a little while. I did not reach the 50%, but close enough. ;-)