Tango and Relationships

When I teach Tango, I often draw parallels to life… relationships in particular. Many have been influenced by these paradigms and have requested that I write about them. So, today, I will start what could be quite an involved series of “Weekly Write Ups” all about Relationships and Tango.

Your life is made up of relationships. You have a relationship with your lover, your mother, your son and your father. You have a relationship with your boss, your employee, the shop attendant, the traffic officer giving you a fine, your friends… and your enemies. You have a relationship with your pet, your car, your house and your computer. Your life is full of relationships.

So here is where I begin to draw the parallels. A Tango is a relationship between a Man and a Woman… a relative male and a relative female. Now, when that relationship is working well, it is a beautiful and passionate dance. But when it’s not working well… it’s more like a WWF world title bout.

We all dance as much as we can and we all take lessons to become really good at Tango, because we want it to be a beautiful and passionate dance for ourselves and our partners - not a fight. And, yes, we get it right. We learn our roles, we take responsibility for our parts in the Dance, and we Tango passionately. We make this relationship work!

Imagine if we could apply this knowledge and skill, on how to make this relationship work, to getting all our other relationships to be more like a dance and less like a fight… wouldn’t we all be living more beautiful and passionate lives?

So how do we make this Tango relationship work?

Firstly we acknowledge our roles in the Dance. We acknowledge that the Man leads and the Woman follows. In any relationship there is a lead and a follow. The relative male leads and the relative female follows… only then can there be a Tango. If both try to lead, then it is a wrestling match. If both try to follow… nothing happens at all.

Now, in our relationships, if we can learn to recognise who is leading and who is following, and if we can accept and take responsibility for our roles, then we can dance with each other… well!

But here is where I usually hit resistance - of the brick wall kind. I hear all the ladies out there beginning to put two and two together and come up with: “If the man leads in a relationship and I follow, then it means that with, my husband or my boyfriend… he is always in charge!!! I always have to follow him and do what he wants... hell no! I refuse… no man is gonna sit on my head for the rest of my life just ‘cause Bert the Tango teacher says that the Man leads and I must follow! NO WAY!!!”

And I hear all the guys going “Yeah!!! Tell her, Bert. Tell her I’m the boss. Tell her to give my trousers back!!!”

It is for this reason that I use the terms “relative male” and “relative female”.

In the Tango the relationship is set up naturally… and we all accept that the Male leads and the Female follows… and so because I’m a man I lead… and because she’s a woman she follows – no argument!. Ever wondered why we refer to cars, boats, ships, yachts, planes and motor-bikes as “she”…? “She runs like a dream!”; “She sails in the morning!” They are all relative females and go nowhere unless being driven, steered, ridden – basically “lead” by a relative male.

But other relationships are not that easily defined. In the relationship between a mother and a son… the mother is the relative male… the son is the relative female. In a company the employer is the relative male and the employee’s are relative females… and the employer could be a woman. Although these are good examples of relative roles… they kinda give the wrong impression of what a relationship is like since they imply that the relative male dominates the relative female. And it’s true in these situations. If the son doesn’t do what the mother says he will be punished… so in a way she dominates him and does not lead him.

Leadership is not Dominance! The man doesn’t dominate the woman in a Tango… they work together to form a unit… a dancing couple.

To lead means “to go before”… the leader leads the way. In the tango, the leader initiates a move… the follower executes the move… that is the co-operation between the male and the female. This is what produces a dance and not a fight – I like to call it “intelligent co-operation”

In any situation, the one who initiates an idea, a plan, a mood or an action automatically becomes the leader. And if the relative females feel comfortable with what has been initiated they will follow.

So, now, I come back to our Ladies and Gents who where crying out a couple of paragraphs ago. In your relationship… you are dancing together… if you can recognise who initiates the plan, idea, action or mood at any particular time, you can recognise and acknowledge who is leading and who is following… and work from there.

If you decide to throw a dinner party… you become the lead… and if he likes the idea, he will follow this lead and dance with you. He will help you prepare for and enjoy the evening. Your team at work is brain-storming a problem… and you come up with the solution… automatically you become the relative male and the team , your relative female, follows your plans to implement the solution. Have you noticed, though, that when the plans go wrong everybody then turns to you and says: “It’s your fault… it was your ‘brilliant’ idea in the first place!” Yes, the relative male is always responsible for his lead and therefore for his females. When the kid next door smashes your window with his soccer ball… you go to his parents. When you get bad service at the restaurant you call the manager.

It’s the same for any relationship you have… recognise who is the relative male and who the relative female is… and from there, using your skills as a dancer, you can start to dance well with your partner instead of fighting.

The next thing to understand is: “What is the role of the relative male in a relationship? And what is the role of the relative female…?”

Next week I will attempt to unravel and explain these roles as I understand them in the Tango… and see how our skills as dancers can be applied to the relationships in our lives.