Follow the leader

5 Jul

manMap takes on the tangoAs a single woman who’s lived alone for nearly four years, I’ve learnt to become independent. In so many ways, I love my having my own space. I can come and go without disturbing anyone, I don’t have to fit in with other people’s domestic routines and I don’t feel like I’m neglecting anyone if I park myself behind my computer and tap away at the keyboard for hours.

The habit of being independent can be really hard to step away from though, and I often forget that it’s ok to relax and let someone else take charge. I’ve conditioned myself to be my own leader, so stepping into the role of follower means completely re-programming my reflexes.

Last week a tango-loving wing-man invited me to join him at a practica, a practice session where tangophiles gather to dance and socialise. He thought I’d be up to the challenge since I’d done basic ballroom dancing at school. Having heard judges from So you think you can dance say that people study the tango for years before they’re deemed half-decent, my first thought was to suggest going to the pub instead. But in the spirit of trying new things I decided I’d be brave, reunite my feet with my high-heels (it’s been flats since the “sewing needle incident”) and accept the invitation.

On Saturday afternoon, we arrived at the Bondi Pavilion for my first taste of the tango. It took me about five minutes to realise I had a few additional challenges besides not knowing the steps:

  1. I’m not used to being led. I went to a single-sex school and was never particularly talented at sport. When we started ballroom dancing, my friend and I decided that instead of swapping roles each week it’d be best if we just stuck to one for the whole term, so we didn’t have to learn both. As a result, I actually got a decent mark in sport but ended up learning only the man’s steps. Not helpful when you need to relinquish control and have faith that your partner will steer you safely across the floor.
  2. I have a fear of injuring people, which stems from the fact that I’m not designed for rough games (hence the eternally bad marks in sport). I spent a good chunk of time panicking that my heel would end up in wing-man’s shin. Not beneficial when exploring new territory or taking risks.
  3. I struggle with situations when I don’t know what’s coming next. Wing-man explained that Mr Tango was in charge of choreography and Ms Tango followed his signals so she’d know what to do. He could change his mind, mix it up or keep her guessing and it was her job to read his body language and follow suit. For someone who’s very structured and used to being her own choreographer in life, I found it difficult to switch off my brain and wait until I was told what to do. Not conducive to spontaneity.

The philosophy behind the tango is outdated, but I realised there’s a lot I can learn from it. Sometimes it’s nice to relinquish habitual responsibility and let a man take charge. I’m all for even footing, but knowing that a man’s there to guide you safely through life’s challenges, or even just be with you at every step, definitely has its appeal.

I didn’t meet scores of single men with good posture and exotic accents, but the experience was great fun and the regulars were friendly and welcoming. It’s the sort of scene that could really expand your social life if you committed to it. For those of you looking something more low-key, I hear the modern jive scene is a great place to meet single guys.

A big thanks to my wing-man for sharing your love of the tango with me and for your patience. I hope your toes didn’t end up too bruised!


4 Responses to “Follow the leader”

  1. ceade July 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    Hi Lucie,

    I was dying to hear your experience of the Tango. It has been on my ‘To Do’ list for years. It’s funny though, this evening before your post came through I was busy researching Tango classes. I figured I’ve got to do something fun outside of work. I seem to work a heck of a lot.

    When I read your post, I nodded in solidarity of independent sisterhood. Throughout my life, I’ve been in a relationship with myself more than anyone else. At first, it was foreign but as the years have progressed and the men I have let myself become involved with (usually at the encouragement of well-meaning friends who want everyone to experience the bliss they have with their nearest and dearest) where not the Prince Charmings that I was misled to believe, I have come to value my own company far more. I’m not perfect but I believe I have qualities that the vast majority of men reject and/or take advantage of. It seems to me and the older I get, that everything is a game in human life. I can’t be bothered with it all – life’s too short.

    I, too, find it difficult to be led, which also makes it difficult sometimes (especially at work). Most of the men I have dated have fallen short in some way – not their fault, probably mine. I have found I have little tolerance for someone trying to tell me what to do when that same person, if it is a man, hasn’t achieved as much as I have. Why would I follow someone who can’t lead?

    I now love the freedom of not having to pretend to be less than I am for the sake of a man’s hurt pride and ego. To hell with it, I say. As a human being, we all have egos and pride. Mine comes first.

    Having said this, though, we can always learn something more about ourselves through others.

    • Lucie Stevens July 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

      Hi Ceade,

      You should definitely try out the tango scene. I really enjoyed myself. I’ve heard of a few of groups that meet in the evenings and have a tango party with a few drinks and food. Sounds like a great way to spend some time, socialise and learn something new. The pressure’s on the guy so the ladies get it easy. The best part is you dance nice and close to your partner so he can’t tell if your feet are doing the wrong thing!

      I often worry that my independence will have a negative impact on my relationships. I hope at the end of the day that my man will see it as an asset. I can’t see myself being needy or clingy and I’ll understand if he needs time and headspace to pursue his dreams. Hopefully I’ll find someone who’s happy to be by my side when life is good, lead me when I can’t find my way and be led by me when he loses his. That way, between the two of us, we’ll make it safely to wherever we’re going.

      • James July 11, 2010 at 12:11 am #

        True, tango comes from a patriarchal background, but I think the tangueros do a good job of keeping those attitudes on the dance floor, and without exception I’ve found them to be nice guys. I think it’s more synergy than domination: the man is always trying to work out what the woman wants from the dance, and he leads her into that: an endless hall-of-mirrors of give and take.

        I should highlight the positive traditional values (which you will see when I take you out to a milonga some time!): the unimportance of age, politeness, romance, gracefulness, and giving everyone a chance.

        No need to be humble, Lucie: you didn’t kick me once, and you danced as if you’d been doing it for ages!

  2. Lucie Stevens July 11, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    All good reasons for girls to give it a try James – thank you for your comments and looking foward to a milonga next time you’re on Oz.

    PS. You sure you weren’t wearing shin-pads? : )

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