If you have practiced your ass off, like me, to become an acceptable tango leader, you must feel quite confused now. You risked trauma, got your ego seriously hurt a number of times, and, you put your family through a rough patch, frequently staying out all night to go dancing. You endured the nudge-nudge, wink-wink of your colleagues, who were raised to believe that dancing is for girls. You experienced injuries and tango depressions, but, after long years of training and humiliation, you finally received some respect from followers. Then one day, on Facebook, you discover that people think tango leaders are arrogant, unreliable, lazy or just old.
Organisers of big events are complaining on social media about tango leaders. They are not available in the right numbers, don’t register for their events, or not until very late, and leave poor followers hanging on to suffer on waiting lists. Organisers make emotional and public pleas on milonga floors or on Facebook, imploring the insensitive leaders, in the spirit of chivalry, to register and save the damsels in distress. As much as I am sympathetic to the organiser’s plight, I don’t expect their criticisms to change tango leaders’ behaviors, which seem to be caused by a market reality of unbalanced supply and demand, or, quite simply: there are either too few leaders or too many events.
Let’s look at this from the leader’s perspective: maybe to their surprise, they are in demand and their long investment in becoming a tango leader is finally paying off! Why not enjoy it a bit longer? They hear people stating that something should be done to get more leaders in Argentine tango, preferably young attractive ones of course, and they agree vehemently, while secretly thinking of ways to pull the ladder up. They remember how, in puberty, girls would not give them the time of day and enjoy the whole karma of the situation, while it lasts. So, if we are looking for short or long-term solutions for a leader-follower mismatch, we should not be looking at leaders to solve it for us.
Well, should it be tango followers then? Dressing up to be even more attractive? Male leaders would appreciate that of course, but it would most likely only increase competition on the milonga floor, deepening the frustration on the side of followers. What about patiently luring male friends into tango classes, carefully grooming them into leader maturity? I’ve seen it done, but it is a long and risky path. To me this implies that growing the number of male dancers is the responsibility of the organisers, possibly working in unison. I never heard Elon Musk make an emotional appeal on TopGear, or other car programs, begging petrol heads and oil companies to go electric, so his Teslas wil not be idle and lonesome in the factory. What we need, is the tango equivalent of a network of Superchargers.