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Proto-Feminism and the Woman's Role in Tango

Many nuevo and tango dancers resort to set-piece choreography and hip-turns etc largely because of a fixation on the "woman's role" and "man's role" rather than the simpler concept of leader and follower.
This is assisted by the arrival of large numbers of ballet and contemporary dancers in tango over the years, all of whom are very good at expressing musicality when solo but are not accustomed to the tango concepts of lead/follow and one body/ four legs.

A popular phrase among well known female teachers and performers is "I believe that the woman's role is 50% of the dance". This is usually translated into the woman leading on occasion, changing weight when she wishes, and suggesting new directions by her movements when she turns. The result is an "after you, after me" approach to dancing where both partners dance slowly while each interprets what the other intends.

I believe this has come about because of a misguided application of feminism in order to progress tango, rather than returning to simple body mechanics.

Many well known and influential teachers are unable to perform their "opposite" role to more than a rudimentary degree, and this limits their ability to progress their dance. Learning both roles rapidly exposes that one is just a mirror of the other, and that the body mechanics of the dance are very very simple.

This allows dancers to progress rapidly and quickly develop an appreciation that musicality is the core of the dance rather than complex tricks and patterns. A side benefit is that those previously complex tricks and patterns quickly become as natural as breathing and become an expression of the music rather than an end in themselves.
Additionally, lead and follow can be exchanged easily and naturally, mid-flight, with no need for interpretation of the partner's intent.

Dancing without constant connection quickly deteriorates into 3-5 step choreography, alias "nudge and guess". The dance is then limited by the follower's ability to guess which particular trick that they need to pull out of their bag of known repertoire. They need to guess sufficiently quickly that they can dance smoothly with their partner, however this interpretation lag places a limit on how quickly the couple can change tempo, or respond to crowded situations.
Consequently many performance couples only dance quickly to choreographies, with obvious breaks in connection.
Worse, it limits the couple to what the follower can guess, rather than what the leader can lead.

Constant connection (open or close-hold) requires only a few key components in order to succeed:
- Stand tall to define your axis and let the legs move naturally
- Chest slightly forward from the ribs upwards in order to give the earliest possible lead to the follower's feet
- Align with your partner's centre, always move towards it and never turn away from it.
- Keep constant shoulder height relative to your partner to avoid bobbing up and down.
- Use some toe pressure to maintain constant connection.
- Build a bridge upwards from the floor, across to your partner and down to the floor again. This defines your axis for your partner and allows the dance to move centimeter by centimeter, not step by step. It's a dance of axis connected to axis, moving as one.

These simple rules result in legs that naturally swing to the best possible step length, and allow leader and follower maximum freedom of expression while still maintaining the shared dance. This is as opposed to a synchronized ballet with two partners.


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