Sergio Suppa writes from Argentina about the relationship of the partners and basic tango gender attitudes ...
(This article refers only to couples, so I have asked Sergio to expand it to include singles' attitudes.)
Astrid asks: "Is a real man in tango particularly male and macho ? Or is he more sensitive and caring than the general European idea of "real men", or anything promoted in the Marlboro advertisements?"
What are "Real women" and "Real men" in tango?
There is no doubt that a man in tango is male and macho. Tango is a product of popular Argentine Culture, the same as Jazz, Fox-trot or Swing are artistic manifestations of its American counterpart. Tango, in that sense, is a reflection of Argentinean spiritual values; values that are to some extent still prevalent in an attenuated way.
To be macho the Argentinean way is to be self confident, to be certain of where a man stands and where he is going. He is in charge, he is reliable and accepts responsibility. He cares for the well-being, safety and happiness of his woman.
When walking on the side-walks he allows the lady the inner side, the side closer to the wall and away from the street for her protection. He enters the milonga holding her hand in a ceremonious way and allows her to walk in front following the maitre to the table. There he grants her the area behind the table as he sits to the side with his legs exposed. He passes his arm across her shoulders for everybody to know that he is in charge of all her needs.
When dancing, he acts with conviction, poised and certain of his role. He leads.
He talks for some time awaiting to get the feeling of the music. He initiates the embrace allowing her to decide how close she wishes to be. The musics evokes in his mind the moves of the dance, he leads by transferring that feeling to her. He is always in charge, moves through the floor effortlessly, without interfering or disturbing the other couples. Navigates with grace and determination. He makes sure that she is enjoying the moment. He allows time for her artistic expression, is attentive to her spiritual and physical needs.
After the music stops, he holds her in his arms for a few more moments, like the real treasure that she is. Then he walks slowly to the table allowing her to walk in front. He pays for all the expenses, never allowing a lady to pay for anything.
He is happy to be male, she is happy to be female. Both are equal in their relationship. They do not compete - rather co-operate; they walk hand in hand helping and respecting each other. The strength of the woman is in her femininity, something mysterious that the man treasures and respects. His strength is in his masculinity, something different that she also respects.
Yes, some Argentinean men may object to a woman taking a lead role. They may strongly dislike such behavior. Most Argentinean women will as well. Tango then reflects the cultural elements of Argentinean society at the time of its evolution. Even when some of those values are rapidly disappearing, they are still alive and prevalent in the tango world. It is my impression that they are some of the strongest attractions to the modern couples, a place where for an instant the man and the woman can still be masculine and feminine without further consequences.