Sunday, April 1, 2012

Follower: A job without promotion

Ladies have to lead on this one, gents.

Revision of original, published 24 June 2011

La Musica is the True Leader
It is time for this present generation to insist on a philosophically sound way of describing the beauty of tango.   Lead and follow are dead-end terms because men are actually not leaders.  The music is and always has been the true leader which both roles must follow.

We form up like soldiers on the dance floor ready to march around in circles when the leader (the music) tells us to.  We go fast or slow because the leader tells us to.  And the true leader is a woman:  
La Música.

Let's think philosophically for the next generation of dancers!  Leadership is a military analogy applied especially to ballroom dance.  Yet followership is not a military ideal.   Please trust me on this; I have over 20 years in the military.  Leadership is central to the warrior ethos. If a soldier is in a following position, it is only with the idea of learning to lead, learning what a true leader is.  Ever see a promotion ceremony at a milonga:  "Now she's a leader, first class"?  No.  Women do not need men leading them, and there is no need of promoting "followers" because they are not in reality followers.  They are women doing magical and wonderful things.  Intelligent things.  Creative things.  They are women. 

Females in the military have it better off in the military than many female tango dancers.  They get promoted!

Females in the corporate world have it better off than many tangueras.  They get promoted and challenged with more and more responsibility.

In the real world, intelligent, talented women don't like being followers under the same definitions of "follower" within tango -- people without the chance of promotion. This is especially true in roles that would stop them from ever having a chance to become a leader. Most people, I imagine, would not like being in a position without hope of promotion.  Tango, one would think, should be the worst dance in the world for intelligent, talented women.  Women do not want to be perennial privates in the Army or mail room clerks forever.

Notice, I have said above that the military and the corporate world are better for women than tango is for many tangueras.  Not for all.  Some women know instinctively know how terribly deficient the word "follower" is for their role in the most magical dance of all partner dances.  In my opinion, the true role of a so-called follower gives her 50% of the responsibility in this dance of what I call, the "Duet of Introversion" -- a dance of being fully aware of each other through the music.

So why haven't women spoken up about this problematic military analogy, called "follower"?  My theory is that women put on their tango shoes and feel the magic.  They shrug their shoulders and say, "Let's make tango, not war."  Or they just say "so what?" or they say "stop talking and let's dance."  The power of tango shoes.
Unfortunately, words are more powerful than we would like to believe, and followership can imply a subservient, mindless obedience, as it is expressed by many  tango instructors.

I cannot denied that there are reasons to preserve the lead/follow analogy.  But at best it still will remain a philosophically and pedagogically problematic term for something so beautiful as the
rol femenino (the feminine role).  How interesting it is how the term rol femenino causes concern because of males who do a great job in the role!  If you are going to be sensitive, start with the most offensive, inappropriate term and work your way to the least offensive. The rol femenino is not an issue with most women in Latin America, according to some very informed sources (Latinas).  They tend to like being women and in their role.  They like coming to the milonga dressed up and melting in a man's arms as a woman.

Why do we keep using this word, "follower," but then attack a traditional term that has been with tango from the start?   Why challenge the tradition of tango for a term that is newer and questionable in its implications?  Imagine using a any rude, rank, and meaningless derogatory word and then trying to tell people its good side and philosophical uses!   Why is it that so many English-speaking dancers have decided to use this term to describe the nearly indescribable role you have in dancing tango?  Of all words, why the "f-word" -- "follower"?
So what is the solution?  It is primal.  Easy.  You don't need a book.

Sex is the solution
Start using the words feminine role or simply "lady," "gal," or "woman."  "Lead-and-follow" has neutered tango.  That is something you might do to a cat, but please not tango!  The masculine role and feminine role are roles of the sexes.  Let's not take human sexuality out of tango!  Should we really desexualize the roles of tango?  God save us all!  What would the old milonguero ghosts say?  Surely this must be a sign of the world truly coming to an end!
The masculine and feminine roles are magical and mysterious.  Yin and Yang.  One is not powerful and the other not.  One is not creative and the other not.  Sharna, a local Washington DC, instructor calls the feminine role "the keeper of possibilities." 

Okay, all you "keepers of possibilities," can you lead the way here.  The lead in this issue cannot be a man!   I am getting tired of hearing you line up and call yourselves "followers" with only a slight cringe on your faces.

But perhaps I should just surrender in your arms.  You will take me out for a spin, and I will do things I never have done before.  I will sense how you hear the music and the music will sound all new for me.  At the end, you will tell me I'm a great leader. Because I have surrendered fully to you, I will politely agree, knowing that it was you who brought me there.  It was you who truly led me there.  Now, we both can be wrong together.  No!  It was us with the music who led us to that magical place.  This happens for me at every milonga for me:  The magic of la musica leading a woman in her role and me in mine to a wonderful place called "tango."

I just put on my tango shoes just now.  The power of tango shoes fills me.  I surrender.  You win.  Let's make tango, not war!  I will let you lead, and I will call you whatever you want, even if it is "follower."

More on this subject: "The End of Leading is Near"    


1 comment:

  1. I like it, excellent!
    I hate the substitution of "lead and follow" for "man and woman" in tango. It's ridiculous sounding for one thing. I like your suggestion of using "role." In our classes that's what we do--Ruben will say while teaching someone to lead, "now you lady, then I lady." And as you point out, if we take the sex out of tango, we're done for.


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