Monday, March 19, 2007

Q & A with Planchadora

Since the post I made expressing frustration with public reaction to my leading, things have calmed somewhat. I am still working my hardest to learn, incorporating a few new steps at a time with the old staples, working on my intent and my posture and the comfort of my embrace.

I still do not ask women to dance unless they have make it clear they want to dance with me. And by "make it clear," I don't mean eye contact. I mean they come up and ask, "Can we have a dance later?"

This weekend I went to a milonga, and after a tanda of leading I walked the woman back to her seat. A porteno nearby asked me how long I had been dancing, and I told him I had been leading for two months or so, and started to say something self-deprecating, but stopped when I saw his expression and asked why.

"Because you understand tango," he said. "You really understand."

I tell you this story partly because it's the best tango complement I'm ever going to get, and partly because I'm about to rip into a porteno, and I want to make it clear the general level of respect I have for Bs As-born tango dancers.

SO! In response to my O RLY? post, Dandy, from Buenos Aires, writes:

I am writing from Buenos Aires.
I have a question . What is this abaout leaders and followers?
In the tango dance you have hombres (man) y mujeres (women).
Nothing can change that,is the essence of tango.

My favorite thing about this letter is that it assumes I cannot identify the words "hombres" and "mujeres", and yet understand the article "y".

This is my answer:

Hi Dandy,

Actually, my advice was split into two parts - advice for leaders and advice for followers - based on things I have observed at the milongas in my city. The advice does not relate to gender, but rather to the roles of the dance.

Traditional tango is a man and a woman, obvio. However, the essence of tango to me is two people moving together, attemping to express the sentimientos of tango. The genders of those two people doesn't matter to me.

In Buenos Aires I am sure every man is a tango god, and you especially I am sure, since you have taken the time to write me and correct me. However, where I live, in a milonga full of hombres mierdas, many women are happy to dance with good women leaders.

You are free to have your own opinion on this, but I am a woman who leads and follows, and I see no reason why I should be forbidden to lead just because I am a woman. Anyone who is musical, who can give intent, who can take care of the follower in their arms and navigate the dance floor well, can lead. You may not agree, but I know plenty of followers who do.


Caroline said...

Hi Plancha,

not playing sides here but I do understand what Dandy was saying - what he meant was that tango is not about followers and leaders but a dance between a man and a woman. That the spirit of tango is the chemistry that arises between the man and the woman. It does sound rather macho and old-fashioned but I do understand what he meant. As for you being a leader, you're free to do as you wish, there's cetainly more freedom to push the boundaries of tango which is still relatively new in North America as opposed to the tango culture that's over a hundred years old in Argentina and thus well established in tradition that was borne from another time.

La Planchadora said...

Hi Caroline,

I absolutely understand his (and your) point regarding the connection - and in a place like Bs As when 90% of the men can dance, I might be more than happy just to follow.

However, where I am, 90% of the leaders are shovelers who drag you around the floor and go for six ganchos in a row. I'm not about to follow that. So my options are to sit, or to lead. I lead.

My beef with Dandy was that he questioned my right to lead and my authenticity as a tango dancer because I'm a woman. I put in more work than most of the leaders in my tango community; I have every right to lead. And the only questionable tango is that which is danced without regard to musiciality, the embrace, or floorcraft; Dandy should be questioning terrible leaders, not female leaders.

Caroline said...

"Dandy should be questioning terrible leaders, not female leaders."


La Tanguera said...

Hi Planchadora,

I'm there with you. We, follows, should learn how to lead. This will not only make us better dancers, but should come in handy when in the land of the hombres mierda. Well said! :)

PS After a few years of following, I'm taking it upon myself to really learn how to lead! Let's go for it!

Danzarin said...

Planch, I agree with you. Especially because I think it is really important to understand both sides of the dance. Isn't it true that men used to (and still do) dance with each other until they became good enough??? What kind of tango is that where men follow, then, if tango is just between a man and a woman? Plus, learning the technique of other side is unlikely to hurt adn very likely to improve your dancing as a follower as well.
I do understand and enjoy very much the man and woman connection, but, at the end, I will take a good connection witha woman than a bad one with a man.

La Planchadora said...

Danzarin, I wondered that too, but my guess is that Dandy would have much less problem with this, since the dancers are men. While he doesn't like the same-sex couple, it's my leading specifically he questions. If presented with a male follower, he might be more inclined not to question him.

Anonymous said...

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velovole said...

hi planchadora,

i am a female follower. last week, in a basic-level class, i danced with a woman leader (who is an intermediate-level follower), and it was beautiful! out of all the male leaders i have ever danced with (note: ever danced with!) in class, this woman had the most elegant lead i have ever felt.

maybe it's because she had so much experience following, that she understood what the lead should be like. i've always heard it said that great followers always make the best leaders. now, when i go to practicas and milongas, i always scan the floor to see if any women are leading! and ask them to dance with me.

i, too, live in a city where 90% of the men are total boors on the dancefloor. maybe it's because they didn't grow up watching social dance and don't know how to interact on a dancefloor, or maybe because they're just jerks or weirdos, i don't know.

please keep up with learning to lead! we are in dire need of better leaders. :) and i will take other women's examples, and learn to lead as well.