Follow (Interpret) The Leader
by Nancy Green
When I first began to learn the Argentine tango, a few of my girlfriends bristled at the idea of giving up the lead and of having to take direction from men. And worst of all, of having to wait to be asked to dance. “Nancy, how can you do it?”
I listened to stories of couples that decided to learn a social dance right before they got married. About how he wanted to lead and she wouldn’t let him. About weddings almost being called off.
I have one good friend who decided to take up tap because she didn’t have to depend on a man to learn the dance.
And I must admit after my very first tango class I left thinking that the dance sets women back decades. He initiates, he decides which steps and when and he determines the pace. I am to obey, going backwards, in heels.
Though it only took the second class for me to understand that my role is as important as his. For without me, there is no dance.
And while it may appear as if I’ve canceled my membership to NOW, I do have a lot of say as to how this dance is danced.
I am the one that determines the closeness (or not) of the embrace. I am the one that interprets (as opposed to follows) his steps. If I do not feel his lead, I simply don’t take it. And when asked to dance and choose not to, I always have the option to say, “No thank you.“
Oh, and have I told you that tango law states that if a step is missed, it is always the lead’s fault? Liberating.
And so in giving up the lead, I’ve come to enjoy and to expect men to…well…lead.
I danced with a man at the Union Square milonga who was so timid and limp in his affect that I’m not even sure a dance had taken place. Though I knew something must have happened, for when the music stopped, we were at the other end of the pavilion. I had to stop myself from saying: “So lead already.”
I want to clarify that I am not talking about physical strength here. While I do appreciate the beauty and thrill of being in the arms of a strong man, it is his intention that gets me to take the first step.
He starts the conversation with the invitation of the embrace. And no matter how simple the steps are, he is able to communicate movement clearly. I answer by interpreting his movement so that we may remain in motion.
And that is our shared goal.
Copyright © 2012 Nancy Green