Hi to all.

When I came to tango I was lacking confidence and to be honest I still am sometimes. But last year I realized when I am coming with a dance partner to milonga or to practica I feel more myself, more content, more secure. I knew that it is easier to dance at milonga if you came with a partner but I really didn’t know to witch extension. And the difference is huge. I remember trying to find someone to dance on Facebook group, wasn’t success. Anyway, I decided to make small app just for this, to find someone to dance with and invite by an email if a person puts herself/himself as an available to dance tango. Now it is in test environment but it is working and waiting for people to look and try it. Although there are only 4 countries just to test, it was meant for small communities. I can add more countries and cities after if I understand that people like it and want to use it or maybe it will not make it to survive criticism 😉  It is completely free. Good tango for all!

 

“Maybe you’re an Encuentro guy,” she suggested. “Aren’t Encuentros for elderly dancers?”, I said. She smiled diplomatically. “Eventually, we’ll all go to Encuentros.” I shared with her my concerns about my registration for La Cita de Los Amigos in Spa—a big event, with 340 participants. “I’m not sure if I have what it takes… Three days, tangos played from one o’clock in the afternoon until four in the morning…Big dance hall..” “Everybody has to be fit to get through a marathon,” she reassured me. “You’ll be fine.” “It’s something else I’m worried about.”

When registration for the summer edition of the tango marathon La Cita opened, my finger hovered over the Send button with mild anxiety before I pushed it. Some say La Cita is heaven. Others say it’s a shark tank. The “Amigos” in the title refers to the fact that everybody is a friend, of a friend, of a friend. It helps your registration if the organizers are familiar with your contribution as a dancer. This informal vetting system is, of course, despised by those who are not in. However, the 340 participants who are in couldn’t care less about such injustice. The highest quality of DJ-ing, a dazzling ambiance, and 170 experienced potential dance partners will soften any principles they may have.

“I’m not sure if I’m cut out for such big events,” I confided to her. “I become a spectator. My mind drifts off.” “Where is it drifting to?” “Crazy things. I calculate the number of tandas missed because dancers can’t decide on a partner. I find proof for the hypothesis that a fancy dress will get followers more dances. That sort of thing.” “You should focus on inviting those followers,” she said. “It’s beyond my control. When there are so many, it’s harder to focus. Also, I forget their names. I worry I’m confusing them with someone else.” “Everybody forgets names,” she said. “Lately, I forget the faces too. The bigger the event, the worse it gets. People greet me as an old friend, but I don’t remember who they are. Big events seem unreal to me.”

Weeks before the event, I cranked up my yoga class frequency. The Airbnb I picked was at a crawling distance of the venue. My mental preparation included a vow to ban any young-age emotions. I memorized the names of previous FB connections. On the first night, the crowd was like kids in a toy shop, feverishly figuring out which was the nicest to play with. I stayed until 3.30 AM and needed emergency yoga when I woke up. The second day ended with the big gala, until 4 AM. I felt like Thor the Avenger, squeezed in four hours of sleep and skipped yoga. I was cruising, feeling fine.

On the last night, the dream syndrome got me. As if I swallowed a truckload of mushrooms. I philosophized about tango anthropology while watching vaguely familiar people dance in the distance. After the last tanda, I returned to reality when the DJ played James Brown. “I guess it’s Encuentros for you, from now on,” my friend said. I scoffed. “I have to beat this Big Event thing”, I said. “I’ll be back.” “Great! Remember to bring your brain.”

Maestro Marko Miljevic, during a workshop, wore the most shiny, unscratched, black lacquered shoes I ever saw. They reminded me of a colleague who judged people’s character based on their shoes. “People forget, but the shoes give away who they are,” he claimed. Immaculately dressed always, he preferred gleaming, classic brown leather brogues, never a speck of dirt on them. “It’s very little information to judge a person’s character on,” I said, preemptively hiding my feet under my chair. I thought it was all nonsense, but it planted a sticky thing in my brain that made me wonder what these shoes told me, about Marko.

I’m not a shoe guy, though. I own sneakers for leisure time and a formal pair for professional situations, both bought in under ten minutes. A third pair is the collateral damage of an eight-minute emergency purchase, on a business trip to Helsinki. They are my most comfortable pair, but my former colleague would probably diagnose me as senile, seeing them. These three pairs are the sole survivors of a long process of elimination, leading to the tragic disposal of at least ten unused “comfortable-but-awkward-looking”, or “fashionable-but-feet-torturing” pairs in the last decade.

Considering this experience, you may understand my epic challenge in picking tango footwear. I used to prefer stealth shoes; shoes nobody could see. They had to have suede soles because I blamed any lack of balance on my shoes. I had soft rubber heels added to keep me from slipping. I developed a deep hatred for Argentinian or Italian design and learned that a dancer needs deep pockets when his feet prove his ancestors crawled out of the sea at one time.

In my first three tango years, I took six or seven pairs to the recycling container. My early choices signaled to followers that I was a dull, colorless, clueless dancer without direction. An unwritten rule says that male dancers’ shoes should match their dancing level, but I needed the upgrade. “It’s my mid-life crisis, so fuck it, I’ll wear whatever I like”, I thought. I bought attention-grabbing black-and-white leather shoes, aiming to transform myself into the dancer worthy of wearing them. I wore them for many years, and when they fell apart, moved them to the trunk of my car as backup. I replaced them with modest black ones, with a subtle white line. I moved on to a new phase.

Marko Miljevic’s tango turned out to be as impeccable and professional as his shoes, just like my colleague predicted. He also proved to be a funny, reliable guy with an eye for detail. His partner Maja Petrovic wore inconspicuous flesh-colored high heels, so I couldn’t let that go without inquiring. “They’re just a tool for me. I don’t want people to watch my shoes, I want them to look at me,” she said. Later, Marko and Maja delivered an impressive performance to thunderous applause. Everybody was indeed looking at her. “Marko was wearing the same shoes as during the workshops. What does that tell you?” I asked a friend. “I think his shoes say more about you than about him,” she suggested. “Right,” I said, glancing at her shoes. From what I saw there, she probably had a point.

 

Durante los cinco años de mi participación con la Asociación Club Tango C.V. como miembro de la Junta Directiva surgió el debate con referencia a la conveniencia de no mantener la costumbre mayoritaria de programar cuatro tangos en cada tanda, aunque manteniendo los tres tradicionales en milonga y vals. La razón por aquellas fechas era que, siendo habitual la mayor asistencia de tangueras (followers) que tangueros (leaders) a las milongas del Club, aquellas solían bailar menos que los líderes y por tanto, en tandas de tres tangos habría mayor cambio de parejas a lo largo de la noche, habiendo más posibilidad de bailar para ellas.

Hasta tal punto llegó el debate, iniciado a instancias de muchos asociados, que la Junta estableció una norma entre los musicalizadores habituales (e invitados) de programar tandas de tres temas de tango, vals y milonga en nuestras milongas.

Esto, evidentemente chocaba con el criterio de otros tangueros y tangueras asociados o asistentes a los bailes, y no pocos musicalizadores, que preferían la tradicional costumbre rioplatense de cuatro tangos, tres valses y tres milongas cuando correspondía en cada ciclo.

Esta norma se cumplió durante algún tiempo. Más tarde, algunos musicalizadores programaron tandas de cuatro tangos no cumpliendo las normas del Club, imponiendo su propio criterio y la revisión del tema se tradujo en un cambio de acuerdo de la Junta, se respetaría el criterio del musicalizador, si bien se aconsejaría programar tandas de tres tangos. Se daba así prioridad a la decisión del dj de turno aunque en la Directiva seguía predominando que lo mejor era programar tres tangos y no cuatro. 

Actualmente observo que los cuatro se han impuesto a los tres. Quizá entre los musicalizadores invitados hay rioplatenses que prefieren esta opción.

Se dice que el primer tema sirve para evaluar si la tanda presenta suficiente interés para invitar o aceptar la invitación, y los otros tres para conocer a la pareja, desarrollar todas las posibilidades con arreglo a las características de los bailarines y finalizar con la satisfacción de una tanda gratificante a la espera de la siguiente.

A mí personalmente nunca me ha preocupado este tema y, en todo caso prefiero que el musicalizador se sienta cómodo en su trabajo pues eso será seguramente importante para el resultado de la milonga. Sólo me preocupo en observar qué criterio se emplea para saber si debo invitar en la primera pieza musical o puedo permitirme esperar a la segunda mientras escucho la música que se ha programado en la tanda en curso. Entiendo que invitar o ser invitado en la segunda pieza de una tanda de tres puede ser algo desconsiderado.

Creía que este tema estaba ya superado en Valencia, pero recientemente he vuelto a ver la reivindicación de las tandas de tres en algún foro tanguero local, con lo cual considero que aún se habla del tema.

Alguna amiga bailarina me ha comentado alguna vez que con algunos de nosotros las tandas de cuatro se le hacen “interminables” mientras que con otros de nosotros también se le hacen las de tres inapreciables. “¿Ya se ha acabado?” dice. Pues yo habría seguido.

Todo al final depende con el cristal con que se mire. O, bien, con el tanguero con quien se baile. Los líderes, hombres, conductores o proponentes, – como quiera decirse pues este es otro debate -estamos en una situación de privilegio al poder elegir generalmente en las milongas y las mujeres, seguidoras…etc lo están generalmente en desventaja. Así que yo creo que la opinión de ellas debería ser la más importante.

Pero, y ¿Qué opinión tienen los expertos? ¿Los profesionales del Tango?

He querido ir algo más lejos del debate local, aquí en Valencia y consultar algunas opiniones de webs profesionales de Tango que tratan en sus blogs este tema de las tandas y he sacado en conclusión que no difieren mucho de nuestros planteamientos.

En primer lugar, la totalidad de los consultados dan por hecho las tandas de cuatro tangos como lo más habitual, si bien admiten que en alguna milonga pueden ser tandas de tres y también que esto depende generalmente del criterio del musicalizador.

“Musicalizar una milonga no es nada simple y cada DJ brinda su propia sensibilidad y propuesta según el lugar, los bailarines, la pista…”

“Llamamos tanda una serie te temas en los cuales las parejas bailan durante la milonga. Por lo general incluye cuatro tangos, valses o milongas que las parejas siguen bailando juntos. Los temas que forman la tanda suelen tener un estilo similar”

“Una tanda es un conjunto de tangos, milongas o valses, generalmente agrupados de a cuatro temas de la misma orquesta, con un separador musical que puede ser de otro género, llamado: cortina. A lo largo de la milonga las parejas bailan diversas orquestas agrupadas en “tandas” y separadas por una “cortina” musical. Para el newmilonguero ortodoxo acérrimo, una milonga sin tandas de 4 temas de la misma orquesta y sin cortinas, no es milonga.” (https://tango21.info/de-tandas-y-las-cortinas/?lang=es)

“Y las tandas de tres temas para cambiar de pareja más a menudo?

Es una opción interesante, aunque yo no la recomiendo. Primero porque me gusta tener cuatro tangos para tomar el tiempo de invitar y bailar. También porque según el lugar y las costumbres locales, las parejas que empiezan a bailar al segundo tema se pueden quedar en la pista para la próxima tanda (por haber bailado solo 2 tangos). En este caso el resultado es inverso… En cambio para una milonga corta, puede ser útil para reducir los ciclos.” (https://www.el-recodo.com/tandascortinas-es?lang=es)”

“Las tandas de tango normalmente duran cuatro piezas; las tandas de milonga, que son más agotadoras, tres temas. Las tandas de vals también pueden serloTodo lo que el DJ decide hacer, es mejor si él se mantiene en su decisión. La mayoría de los bailarines lleva la cuenta, entonces ellos saben por dónde andan en la tanda.

El conservar un ciclo como éste da a los bailarines un mapa de la velada. Con tres temas por tanda, cada ciclo de seis tandas toma una hora; con tandas de tango de cuatro temas, el ciclo lleva alrededor de setenta minutos. Esta información también ayuda al DJ a planear la velada” (https://tangocenturion.com/ronda-tanda-y-cortina/)

“Cada DJ tenía y tiene su estilo de organización. Depende de la comunidad puede ser más flexible la cantidad de temas, a veces son tandas de 3 temas solamente para que sea más dinámica la milonga. Hay mucha influencia del musicalizador que anima con su música.” (https://tangocenturion.com/ronda-tanda-y-cortina/)

Concluyendo, en nuestras milongas se musicaliza con los dos criterios, las hay de cuatro y las hay de tres y con nuestros excelentes djs las bailamos todas. Eso no exime de los comentarios en pro, contra y neutros, como los míos.

Si quieres saber más sobre tandas puedes visitar este portal

Si quieres opinar, puedes participar de nuestra encuesta: ¿Tandas de tres o de cuatro?

http://tangoenvalencia.es

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Este artículo fue publicado previamente en el blog de tangoenvalencia.es

“That arrogant idiot never stopped mansplaining on how I was supposed to be in my axis”, a friend in the milonga fumed. “Who’s he, Pablo Inza?” I felt uneasy listening to her.  “Maybe he’s trying to be helpful,” I suggested. “Helpful, my ass,” she said. “He’d better spend time improving his leading. I’m hardly surviving out there.” I knew the guy. He was no Pablo Inza. She had a wonderful balance, too. “Maybe someone should tell him his leading needs improving,” I said. “Yeah, maybe a real tango teacher, would be a great idea. It’s been a while since he saw one. When I tell him, he’ll never dance with me again. Guys are  awfully susceptible.” As if I didn’t know.

Her complaint, and many like hers that I’ve heard over the years, was about the – according to some – widespread societal phenomenon that men assume that a man knows better. It may even be more widespread in tango than elsewhere and I worried I was guilty of mansplaining myself. You see, the mansplainer is usually gloriously unaware of it, like white people’s unawareness of white privilege. “All men mansplain,” my friend clarified her position. I embarked on a perilous journey. “Give me some examples,” I said. “I once assisted in a beginner’s class. A guy twisting my arm was telling me mine was too stiff.” Taken from life. “Good one, but I once had a woman explain to me my arm wasn’t stiff enough, for clear leading. Was she mansplaining me?” Living dangerously. “It’s about a certain condescending tone,” she added. “Like not waiting for your response and making you feel dumb.”

Our debate went into the difference between explaining and mansplaining. “If a man explains to me what the best embrace is for a follower, I call that mansplaining,” she said. I remembered the times I was explained the correct way to separate laundry or set a table; things I knew well but was still somehow deemed too dumb for.  “What if she’s hanging on his shoulders like a bag of potatoes, and he tries to rescue his back? Still mansplaining?” She paused and then nodded. “If he automatically assumes it’s all on her, yes. Maybe his posture is crooked, and she can’t hold him any other way.” A good point. “Men explain to me followers lose their abilities when they start practicing leading. None of them ever followed themselves.” “Technically, that’s not mansplaining,” I said. “That’s just stupid. It’s not the same.” Still resisting.

I decided to come clean. “Okay, I have mansplained. I may have mansplained quite a bit. I offer my sincerest apologies to the victims. But I think it’s under control now.” “Really,” she said, “I didn’t think you were the type.” I thought about the exasperating frustration when tango wasn’t working. The subtle body language of rejection from some followers when tango wasn’t good. How it can deceive you into hoping it was all your partner’s mistake. Constantly trying in vain to figure out why the lead doesn’t produce the result it’s supposed to. Feeling insecure about it. And the genuine wish to solve tango mysteries. “Why do you think you mansplained?” she asked. I paused for a while. ”Assuming I know, would I explain it to you now?’

 

“Your face looks like a gravedigger’s while dancing”, a friend told me. I remember the occasion well, a crowded night in De Duif in Amsterdam. The woman I danced with was wearing an intoxicating perfume. I wanted to enchant and impress her with a subtle, yet surprising connection. The stone floor sagged into one corner, causing a weird sensation of drunkenness. The risk of bumping into other couples was high, so it required extreme concentration and my face was showing it. “You’re supposed to enjoy dancing,” my friend said, “and possibly inform your face about it.”

Isn’t it wonderful to have friends who tell you the truth. I had never given much thought to my facial expression while dancing. Her observation made me quite self-conscious. “I was focusing,” I explained to her. “A smile finds its way to the dance always,” she assured me. “How’s that possible? Dance partners can’t see my face,” I said. “Oh, they know how you feel without seeing it,” she laughed. “And let’s not forget all the dancers sitting on the side. They’re wondering what your face will show when you’re dancing with them.” I got the message. Who wants to dance with a gravedigger?

I studied the faces of leaders in the milonga. A dazzling plethora of options became available. Some danced Zombie-like, with a wide-eyed gaze. Others stared intently at some point in the distance, stone-faced, like a killer in a movie. A teacher told me tango couples face each other during the dance and I remembered with horror the plastic smiles of ballroom dancers. However, some tango leaders indeed continuously made eye contact with their partners, with a frozen grin on their lips. I tried looking at my partners more often too, but it made me even more self-conscious. “I shouldn’t care what people think or say about my face when I’m dancing”, I told my friend. “My face feels all contorted like Munch’s.”

We exchanged notes on maestros’ facial expressions. “Chicho’s is indifferent. He doesn’t care”, I said. “Noelia always seems slightly amused. Carlito has this dreamy Cheshire cat smile.” “Isn’t it all part of their performance?”, she speculated. “When they make a mistake, they laugh as if it’s all just great fun.” None of those performers looked like a Zombie, a killer, or a gravedigger, though. I probably should model myself after them. But weren’t we mere social dancers? “Are there different expressions for a vals, a tango, or a milonga?” I asked. “Sure,” she said. “And a different face for a d’Arienzo, a Troilo or a Di Sarli. Your face fits the music and the mood, I suppose.”

This was all years ago, and I eventually forgot about the whole thing. My face looked the way it looks, so what? Some things a man just must accept. But the whole episode came back to me, during a recent encuentro, when a couple came up to me saying “We’ve had so much fun looking at you dance, smiling all the time, you have such a comical expression!” The way they said it, it was hard to know what to think about it. “That’s not so bad”, I thought. “First a gravedigger, now a clown.”

Teachers show a sequence and innocently tell you to try it. “It’s easy,” you think. “Done this hundreds of times. It’s a breeze.” But you missed some stupid detail, or your partner didn’t get the memo. You try again. And again. And again. After a full hour of repetition and failure, you finally get it right, sort of. The teachers tell you that you are amazing and nailed it. You travel home all pumped with excitement. But by the time you arrive, the sequence is already fading. A week later, it’s wiped from your memory entirely. You’re dealing with a common case of Tango Lesson Alzheimer.

I used to think I was the only one with this embarrassing affliction, but I know now that people go into week-long seminars or ‘intensive’ weekends, joyfully accepting they won’t remember a thing afterwards. Try asking anyone returning from Buenos Aires what they learned, after a month of daily workshops. “It was amazing, sooo many new things.” “Okay, tell me one thing.” Silence, or repeated vague statements like ‘musicality’, ‘energy’ and so on. It seems they served them a wonderful high-rise sorbet, that melted in its entirety on the way home.

My first explanation for the phenomenon is my short attention span. Second, my childish over-confidence, tricking me into believing I can do anything on first try. Third, my brain aging. One follower told me she assumed smoking too much marihuana had caused it. Leaders struggle with it, too. Some fight it with an intricate notation system of logical symbols to capture the complex body movements of leader and follower. The great Andrea Uchitel even wrote a book filled with mathematical equations and graphs. It didn’t help me; I remind you of my short attention span.

I tried to make notes, producing stream-of-consciousness poetry, like “Make sidestep let her roll off your chest stop her let her roll back to other side make two sidesteps followed by stop spiral from hips.” A drawer full of notebooks, but when I sometimes throw a glimpse at them, the scribblings seem written by an idiot, separated from reality. I don’t believe in video recording, either. After class, many students whip out their iPhones and record the lesson’s summary, as if they are Japanese travelers in the Keukenhof. You can tell by a certain indifference in their movements, though, that they feel it’s part of the value offered in the class, but outsource their memory to a chip. Only a small percentage will review it afterward, and they all know it.

“Your muscle memory takes priority over your brain. If the moves didn’t sink into your muscles, your brain can’t remember them,” a teacher told me. “Like language. If your tongue can’t pronounce it, it’s hard to remember.” It explained why inexperienced teachers throw ten exercises at you in a one-hour session, while seasoned maestros take one sequence and milk it for ten lessons, focusing on the principle behind it. “Remember, people learn in different ways too: some need to hear it, others need to see or feel it,” he added. “If they can’t remember your lessons, why do you think they book follow-up courses?” “It’s a good question. I guess they don’t remember that they will forget those, too.”

 

When Artificial Intelligence takes over humankind, what will it do with tango? I assumed we were safe until I saw a robot dance teacher. A fine Japanese invention, designed to interact with humans and make them more comfortable around bots. It senses if you are a novice or an experienced dancer and varies freedom in the embrace accordingly. It’s in the early stages of development, but its long-term viability is not in doubt. Moving on wheels currently, under a cylindrical shape, any risk of stepping on toes is completely absent, too.

Nothing’s sacred anymore, I complained to myself, watching the video. I knew there are robots that break-dance, twist, or do tricky ballet moves. Bots that recognize emotions and respond to them, some with freakily realistic expressions on their faces, combined with interesting conversation. How long for robots to be used in couples’ dancing? I imagined followers taking their seats in the milonga and unfolding the bot they just ordered from Amazon. A solid strategy to avoid sitting through tandas.

I discussed the matter with a skeptic who called me crazy. Only a man could come up with such an idea. After all, she reminded me, men have sex with plastic inflatable dolls. “This is not all,” I said. “Soon, people will meet in virtual reality milongas, dancing with a partner they assembled online. They can stay on their couches and go for a spin with Noelia Hurtado, 2015 edition. Followers can pick the head of Pablo Veron and combine it with Zotto’s 1996 body.” As I talked about it, weirdly, the idea appealed to me more. Hang on, I thought, what’s so bad about all this? I would love to dance with Noelia Hurtado, even if she was some virtual avatar.

“For women, tango will always be about the real experience”, my skeptic said. “Putting yourself out there, pushing your boundaries. Being in touch with real people, feel their warmth.” “You are on Facebook, right?”, I said. “Well, yes.” “I’m a family man with a full-time job. Without Facebook and YouTube, tango wouldn’t have been where it is today for me. Let’s keep an open mind about technology and its benefits.” “It begins with a blessing, but it ends with a curse,” she said. “Making life easy, but making it worse.”

“The bot is very patient, repeating instructions a hundred times,” I added. “It will give you the name of each tango and who composed it.” “It won’t feel human, though.” “A matter of time,” I said. “I’ve seen robots doing somersaults.” “It doesn’t even have a crotch, your bot”. “That can be fixed,” I said, continuing my sale. “It explains things only when you ask for it. It doesn’t ignore your cabeceos. You can program it to make sure that it doesn’t make a pass at you during a private lesson.” “Yeah, yeah, I get the idea,” she said, waving at me to stop. “Or, if you prefer otherwise, you can require it makes a pass at you.”

(PS Okay, I admit she didn’t quote Kevin Ayers. It’s just that I’ve been dying to use that quote for some time, and this seemed the moment for it. Cut me some artistic slack.)

 

A traveler returning from Florida reported that taxi dancers in the milonga charge 25 dollars for a tanda over there. I suddenly saw that I could realize the dream of making my passion my work – and make some cool cash in the process. A friend calculated it for me: six milongas per week–she allowed me a day off – at an average of ten tandas per milonga, would yield a sweet 1200 per week. She considered 20 euros an acceptable price for an old guy like me. Hot leaders would obviously make more, but over time, I could cash in on the Last Mohican effect. She questioned the feasibility of the whole idea, though.

“Would you allow taxi dancers in your milonga?”, she asked, challenging me. “I most certainly would,” I told her, still thinking about my 1200 per week. “Why not? Taxi dancers have been around in tango forever. Except, in the early days, it was women who charged by the song.” “Prostitutes, you mean.” “I wasn’t there and I’m not judging anyone.  I understand they were often teaching their clients to dance.” “I think it’s called a private lesson today and lasts an hour,” she said. “That’s my point. What’s the difference? Taxi dancing is a viable business model in Buenos Aires nowadays. There are websites advertising their services.” I wasn’t ready to let a future loaded with quick cash slip away that easily.

“Can’t imagine something like that blowing over to the Netherlands,” she said, digging in. “Taxi dancers even enter the Mundial with clients, for up to five thousand dollars,” I said.” They’re taking taxi dancing to a whole new level. As organizers, we must know such developments.” “I don’t think there will be demand here,” she insisted. “Events are role balanced now. Women don’t like the idea of paid escorts. Many won’t be able to afford it, either.” “A woman returning from Stockholm told me sixty percent of followers in Sweden are double rolers now. In Edinburgh, close to ninety percent, apparently. It points to a latent demand, still to be tapped. When you see a tail, there is a dog.”

“Believe me, taxi dancers will never solve a leader-follower mismatch,” she said. “Really, which solution do you see that someone hasn’t tried before?” I asked testily. “And don’t give me free entry or free drinks for leaders. No “male-only” get-togethers before the milonga, either. All those ideas are being tried today already. A clean commercial taxi dancing approach might work brilliantly. It’s a win-win proposition! Competition might improve the dance level, too.” She shook her head, pressing her lips. “I still think followers would much rather start leading,” she said.

“Maybe we should develop the local market first, you know, educate them. Like self-checkout in the supermarket. Let them get used to the concept.” “Yes,” she said. “You could dance with women and subtly mention at the end of the tanda that this one was for free.” “Good thinking. Or give her some voucher.” “Maybe milongas will offer you free entry or free drinks,” she added. “Any leader with a heartbeat should be able to get that. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always fly to Miami, dominate the market for geriatric American widows.” “It’s hot and humid in Florida,” I said, watching a dream evaporate in hot air.

In interviews for Humans of Tango, I pretty much always ask about the roles. And I’m always amazed by how simultaneously unique and universal people’s perspectives are. Behold, 5 favorite quotes:

“When you are tuning with the other person you are listening all the time even if you are leading, because if you don’t listen to the other person, your lead won’t be effective…So the leader is a follower and at the same time the follower…is leading too, because without the energy of the follower, without that response, without that personality and that energy, you know, the leader can’t do anything either. It’s like, this is something that you create together – it’s a co-creation when you’re dancing.”  ~ Felipe Martinez

“I think I see it as the yin and the yang. There is a masculine energy and there is a feminine energy, but I don’t think that one is necessarily passive and the other one is active, or one is strong and the other is weak. There is that giving and there is that receiving – there is that cycle of energy.” ~ Phi Lee Lam

Some queer people still feel that if you’re queer you have to do everything – no! Not for me…”  ~ Augusto Balizano (on whether queer tango dancers should dance both roles)

“…you know, leading is a lot of pressure. You need to create the story. You need to take care of the environment, the safety, navigation, all of that. It’s a lonely, scary thing to do sometimes, no? And follower don’t think that. Follower thinks, a lot of the time, ‘oh, they’re doing their thing, I need to follow their thing, I cannot make a mistake,’ like they’re taking a test or something. And it’s like, no, it’s not about that at all. Regardless, even if you’re a beginner. You, without you, they cannot dance. … Like, it’s hundred and hundred together.” ~Ayano Yoneda

In order for the dance to evolve and for the role of the follower to feel empowered, the key, for me, is the music, and not the music you’ve heard a hundred billion times in the milonga – music that is happening now, music that is complex, music that was written not for dancing.” ~Heyni Solera

I’d love to hear your experiences and insights on the roles in the comments. And if you appreciate some good tango-related philosophical waxing, listen to “Humans of Tango” wherever you get your podcasts!