Tag Archives: queer

Queer tango milonga

Same sex couple dancing tango

Gay Tango in San Telmo

The Tango Queer milonga in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires gave me food for thought, and I enjoyed my dances there. The composition of the dancing couples seemed to include every combination of gay, straight, male, female, lead, follow, young and old. I saw seemingly committed same-sex couples that appeared to have defined roles whenever they were dancing together, but when asked or asking to dance outside their couple, they danced both roles.

Here the traditional Argentine cabeceo — asking from a distance with a head nod — didn’t seem to be observed. So I went right up to the person who looked to me to be the best lead dancer, and coincidentally and helpfully, the tallest dancer in the room, and was pleased when he accepted my invitation without hesitation. It was my hope to find good leaders (regardless of sex) who could teach me something about the dance and musicality by feeling it from the other side.

Tangos are danced in tandas or sets of three songs for vals and milonga rhythms and four songs for tangos. We followed the formula that seemed to prevail throughout the room, where the person asking for the dance leads on the first song, then they alternate the lead with each song.

The thing that made the biggest impression on me was that everyone danced both lead and follow. Some of the dancers in nontraditional-according-to-sex roles were exceedingly good.

The experience gave strong support to my thesis that: a) Anybody, regardless of sex, should be free to pursue whatever roles they desire — of course! And b) Everyone can benefit, not only in understanding of their primary role choice, but also in understanding of others, by learning and dancing both roles.

Tango queer

Andrea leading David

Andrea leads David at the Argentine Tango USA 2013 Festival & USA Championship

Mi nuera (daughter-in-law) Andrea prefers to lead, and for the opportunity to dance with her it suits me just fine to follow. Indeed, I enjoy following occasionally as an interesting counterpoint to the role of leading.

By personality and traditional gender role, I dance as a leader and find it challenging and rewarding (notwithstanding occasional bouts of doubt about rising to the level of what I’d like to see in my dancing). But I also enjoy the role of following to experience the dance and the compañero in a different way. It means that I can observe the music and my partner in a more relaxed manner with fewer responsibilities. It even helps my leading to observe as a follower what feels good or not.

When I first came to Argentine tango (I’d not experienced this phenomenon in my earlier dance history), I developed the chauvinistic attitude of what does the follower get out of it? Nearly all the attention seems to be paid to the leader, and to listen to some teachers you’d think the leader controls everything the follower does down to the nth degree. But when you see gifted dancing by followers such as Daniela Arcuri and Noelia Hurtado you realize how naive it is to not appreciate how much the follower independently contributes to the dance, and how they support and make their leader look good.

But I don’t get many opportunities to follow. Teachers use it as a way to show what the lead should feel like. In classes where there are too few followers, I’ll follow, but that’s not really the same experience as a dance at a milonga. There are a handful of women I know in Austin who sometimes or full time lead, and only one who sometimes leads men (and more often follows beautifully).

When I mentioned as a comment to the Facebook blog of Terpsichoral Tangoaddict about the utility and interesting experience of following, they suggested going to queer milongas. So when I saw a Tango Queer Buenos Aires blog in the latest issue of the Tango Weekly email newspaper I went to check it out.

Tango Queer logo with female couple

Tango Queer Buenos Aires blog

Their What is Tango Queer? page made an impression for its common sense, broad coverage, and deeply thought out expression of ideals. No simplistic guys-dance-with-guys and gals-dance-with-gals and sexual shenanigans. Not only does it go beyond role stereotypes and advocate role versatility — something I, too, have been advocating, but it also covers origins use of the word queer, queer as a symbol, tango as a symbol, communications, women in society, tango in society, and artistic expression.

Felices caminar!
–David