Monday, August 8, 2016

“But You Have Boobs!” •  The Joys of Dancing Argentine Tango

I have noticed that in some slices of American culture, dancing with your gender is not easily accepted, and in some towns it is just NOT Ok.  

As a female lead I most recently heard a follower (a woman) exclaim in amazement at my embrace: “But you have boobs!” I tried to avoid what could have been an awkward moment by commenting “Yes, I do. They have been there for quite some time.” 

I used that awkward moment to talk about the comfort levels of embrace in learning Argentine Tango. There are options to allow everyone to learn to be comfortable being held. So many of us are no longer used to simple human embrace.

In Argentine Tango we may use the Practice Hold (in which dancers connect by embracing at the forearms only),  the Salon Style Hold which is an open embrace that can be as open as is necessary for people to get used to being held, and the Milonguera Style Embrace which is very, very close indeed. 

Sometimes in the course of one song a couple may find they need to use all those different embraces to express the music. This demand for fluidity of movement is not for the timid, but for the joyful (and those who are willing to be open to “failure to perform perfectly”). 

We practice to be better dancers. We workshop not only to learn movement combinations, improve our balance, or techniques, we work to build muscle memory which is vital to this improvisational dance. 

We also come to develop a relationship with the music of Argentine Tango.  In so doing, many of us come to a deeper understanding of ourselves on many levels. 

In the “city” where I hold space weekly for Argentine Tango it is not at all uncommon for there to be one man or sometimes two men in a class of four or six women. 

Sometimes there are only women who come to learn Argentine Tango. No matter. I feel sure if we keep dancing, at some point, men will come to learn as well. 

The glorious good news about this dance is that the gender of your partner is not what is important. The connection with your partner is the vital essence.

In Argentine Tango there is the role of leader, and the role of follower. The language of the dance does not say there are men dancers and women dancers. 

There are many videos you can watch where men dance with men and women with women because those two people have come together to celebrate the dance, the joy, the energetic connection that is part of the movments and steps, the invitations and hesitations that make this one dance so remarkable. 

I realize that for many the idea of dancing with someone of your same sex will be unacceptable. If you are a man who wants to learn Argentine Tango in Jacksonville, Florida, rest assured, you will most likely find many female followers.

If you are a woman and you want to dance Argentine Tango in Jacksonville, Florida, then relax and learn with all of us. Practicing together will make us excellent dancers when we go to milongas. We will be familiar with the way leaders invite us to join them and we will be balanced and centered as we do. 

It may be a road trip to one of the lovely dances an hour or so south of town that will allow us to experience the “three minute romance” that is possible in the arms of a gentleman leader. 

The more we practice, the better partners we will be. Good dancers find that other Argentine Tango dancers will invite us onto the floor. It remains my pleasure to accept the invitation to dance from a leader of either gender. 

(In truth, one of the most amazing dances I have had to date was in the arms of a strong and brilliantly musical lead who took my breath away. She remains an inspiration to this day.) 

Wishing you Tango.