Tag Archives: Traditions

Suggestion #163

Men:  After going to the bathroom and touching your penises, please wash your hands!?

Jorge has bore witness to many bathroom atrocities, however, he is happy to report that most of these atrocities have happened outside of North America (hallelujah)!  Believe it or not, Buenos Aires has had the most male culprits leaving toilets without sterilizing their hands.  Yes, this is quite humourous coming from the land of Tango “codigos”.

Women Leading

It should come as no surprise to people who read this blog that we do not like it when women lead in Tango.  To preface,  let us say we are feminists.  We believe in equal rights.  We are very open-minded and very liberal. Anyone who has been to our classes can attest to the fact that we don’t appear to have a traditional/stereotypical relationship.  K does the majority of the talking in front of a group.  She is outgoing and loud (and a little crazy).  Jorge, on the other hand, is quiet, calm, and very easy going.  Leaving our personal relationship aside, let us put it this way: If ever there was a woman you would guess would start up leading in the milongas, your first bet would be K.

However, K doesn’t lead in the milongas and here are the main reasons why we don’t like women leading (in general and especially in the milongas):

1) lack of culture and tradition

Tango is a traditional dance that calls upon a man to lead a woman.  It is part of the dance and it is part of the culture. In the same way that neglecting to use the cabeceo or proper floorcraft are a disrespect to the culture, so is a woman leading.

2) lack of “manliness” or male energy

Men are on average bigger and taller than women (Jorge is taller, but not always bigger – and there are plenty of men that are bigger, but not taller :)  Men are more likely to emit a male energy when they dance – women are not as likely to do so.  A woman is more likely to look wimpy and dance in a “feminine” way (not to mention often in heels!?). She is also likely to feel wimpy. As such, “wimpy” men are not very enjoyable to dance with either.

3) lack of reason

Yes, it may be important for female teachers to learn how to lead (although if you teach as a couple, this may be less important). That said, the majority of dancers on the floor are not teachers.  Yes, there are often more women in a milonga (but K has no interest in getting up on the floor to lead those extra women and has no problem dancing less). Yes, K practices leading (and has yet to lead a better follower than Jorge ;).  Although it definitely benefits a man’s dance to learn how to follow, it does not help a woman to follow better. It may indeed give her insight into the minds of and problems faced by leaders, but it will not do much to improve anything in her dance.


Traditionally, Tango is a “man’s” dance, but this does not negate the fact that the woman has an equal role.  The culture and tradition of Argentine Tango can be respected and followed even while it continues to evolve.  For example, we teach our male students how to embrace a woman so that both parties are comfortable.  Perhaps it is safe to say that in days gone by, the man chose his embrace without any input from the woman… and no woman would dare tell him to change his embrace.  Our students are taught that they will eventually find an embrace that is theirs, but they are also taught, for example, that having a left arm that bends at a far steeper angle than 90 degrees in going to put strain on a woman’s right shoulder and her back… and so not to do it.

In conclusion, let us make it clear that we are NOT referring to, nor are we against, couples in a homosexual relationship wanting to learn and dance Tango. We would only suggest that each person in the dance partnership embrace the expectations of whichever role they choose, be it leader or follower.

Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am!

Regardless of the city and customs, it is safe to say that in every Tango community, the man appears in front of the woman for a dance.  Whether it be by cabeceo – where the woman waits at her seat until the man arrives in front of her in order to avoid any mistaken acceptances – or by direct verbal invitation at the woman’s seat, the man has made the trek to the woman’s location.  How nice and brave of him to have done so!

Fred Astaire the gentleman

What ensues may or may not be a delightful dance.  Perhaps both of you cannot wait for the songs to be over.  On the other hand, you may be experiencing a wonderful embrace while moving delightfully to the music.  The last song of the tanda will end, you will thank each other, and then the leader will leave the follower high and dry on the dance floor to find her own way back to her seat.  What?!

How has the simple tradition of  walking a woman back to her seat after a dance – which exists in many countries around the world – not made its way into North American Tango culture?  Although we assume it did exist in the past with other dances, it no longer exists in our ultra modern society (sarcasm).  Being from Finland, Jorge has never known to do any differently until we began Tango in Canada.  Besides observing how men leave their partner from any place on the dance floor, Jorge has actually had difficulty bringing women back to their seats.  Some women are so used to the complete lack of gentlemanly courtesy that they are virtually running off the dance floor after the tanda, leaving Jorge to follow in their wake.  The expression “Wham bam thank you ma’am” feels very appropriate here.

Men, after sharing your body, mind, and spirit with your Tango partner, have the decency to walk women back to their seats.  If you haven’t already been practicing this concept or it doesn’t exist in your community, now is the time to start!

Women, after sharing your body, mind, and spirit with your Tango partner, have the decency to allow men to walk you back to your seats.

Old School… “May I Have This Dance?”

After spending 8 months in Buenos Aires and experiencing the intelligently invented “cabeceo“, returning to Toronto’s way of requesting dances was quite difficult… to say the least.  One lovely milonga here in TO is encouraging it’s attendees to use the “cabeceo”.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that our community will “accept this dance” and be transformed.

Without the “cabeceo”, the somewhat accepted norm is that men ask women to dance.  Not surprisingly, as a feminist, K never hesitated to ask men to dance in the past (this was before the term “cabeceo” had entered the vocabulary of the Toronto Tango community).  We are not in the 1950′s.  These are modern times and IF a community does not want to fully incorporate all the codes and traditions of Argentine Tango, then we do believe that both men and women should be asking for dances.  That said, men have a harder job in the dance (with leading and floorcraft).  For that reason, we are tempted to say women shouldn’t ask men to dance.  Either way, women and men must both learn how to say “no” AND how to be ready for and accept rejection.

We both have difficulties saying no.  The ability to say “no” truly says a lot about one’s personality.  K needs to mentally prepare herself to do so.  After surveying the dance floor and its dancers, and making personal I-will-NOT-dance-with-him notes in her head, she is more prepared to say no if any of those men approach her.  K is the list-maker… the organizer.

Meanwhile Jorge keeps repeating to himself and to K that he will NOT dance with such-and-such a dancer, but when that dancer comes and asks him, “yes” is out of his mouth with barely a hesitation.  Jorge is a people-pleaser (something he hates about himself) and has difficulties dealing with conflict.

What an absolutely ridiculous situation to deal with when the “cabeceo” exists.  However there have been comments in our community that the “cabeceo” is archaic.  Sorry… what?!  Archaic is the idea that women are supposed to sit in a milonga looking pretty while they wait for a man to come and ask them to dance!  That or they can stalk men, corner them, and practically force them into a dance (unfortunately, that tends to be the extreme that women who do the asking choose).

The point is, IF individuals or communities do not want to use the “cabeceo”, and women and men are asking one another for dances, remember this one simple rule: Never NEVER stalk your potential dance partner.  Both of us have been the victim of this.  K’s stalker sat only a few seats away and attempted to “cabeceo” her.  Instead of understanding that she did not want to dance with him when she ignored him, the stalker continued to sit and stare through 2 tandas and only stopped for the third tanda when she got up to dance with Jorge.  However, upon her return, stalker decided that since the “cabeceo” didn’t work (that girl must be stupid or blind!?), he would just go straight up to K and ask for a dance!?  K politely declined, but was left to wonder if it was the stalker that was stupid or blind.

Jorge dealt with a similar situation when a female dancer, rather than coming directly up to him to ask for a dance, sat down a couple chairs away (twice) to “cabeceo” him.  Obviously there is a huge misunderstanding of how the “cabeceo” is used if the situation is still causing discomfort and awkwardness for one or both parties.

This may be Toronto, but we are dancing Argentine Tango.  There is enough difficulty in our Tango community embracing our partners and so the least we could do is embrace the culture of Tango.