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Men tangoing with men. Why?

posted Mar 24, 2014, 4:56 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated May 15, 2017, 5:49 PM ]
men dancing with men tango argentina
Have been writing a bit about same sex and reverse role dancing lately so was delighted to come across this photo. It was taken in 1904 on the riverside in Buenos Aires. It was common in the early days of tango for men to practice with each other.

Christine Denniston in History of Tango provides here a background to the phenomenon of men tangoing with other men in the early days of tango's history...

"Not only did the majority of the immigrants not get rich, and so never go home, but they also had very little chance of creating a family for themselves in Argentina. There were simply not enough women for all the men who might have wanted to settle down and have children to be able to do so.

There were really only two practical ways for a man to get close to a woman under these circumstances. One was to visit a prostitute and the other was to dance. With so much competition from other men on the dance floor, if a man wanted a woman to dance with him, it was necessary for him to be a good dancer, and being a good dancer only meant one thing. It didn't matter if he knew lots of fancy steps, or if the other men thought he was a good dancer. The only thing that mattered was that the woman in his arms had a good time when she danced with him - because with so many other men to choose from, if she didn't enjoy dancing with him she wouldn't do it again, and neither would her friends.

This meant that it was necessary for the men to practice together in order to be good enough to dance with the women."

I wish we had more of this these days, i.e, men practicing with men as it is a very effective way for men to improve their tango skills. I previously ran workshops and courses for men to learn the lead and follow role and to practice with each other. 

These classes were less popular with men than classes which included women, for the obvious reason that men in Australia generally do not feel comfortable with close physical contact with other men (unless they are playing footie!) This is particularly true with the older generation of Aussie male. Further, part of the attraction of tango classes is that it gives men an opportunity for social and physical contact with women.

It is interesting to note that some of the men who persevered with these 'male only' classes are now some of our community's best social dancers. I believe that for men to become really great leaders they need to understand and experience the follower role, and that the best way to do this is by practicing with other men and reversing roles.

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