Tango is macho?

Recent conversations prompted my search on this topic. The following is a translation of an article by a blogger in Europe.


In the milonga you listen to comments from people close to you that sometimes make you happy, others make you sad, others leave you puzzled, some annoy you, and others just do not understand them, let alone in a society like the one we live in today.

It was early and the milongueros were arriving little by little, greeting others, occupying tables, changing shoes, and preparing for the night. Then a young girl, whom I’ve known for a long time, arrived. After greeting one another, we decided to catch up, but as usual, we ended up talking about tango, the milonguero codes, hugs, what we like and didn’t like about them.

She told me that she likes a firm close embrace and that she does not care for those in which she can barely move, since it is the man who marks and the woman who follows, and that, after all, tango is a macho dance. I also like the close and firm embrace, but I also like that you can breathe in it and be flexible, and what I definitely do not like is for the man to ignore me and do not bother to “listen” to me when I dance.

I was surprised by her explanation that tango is a macho dance. In my opinion, no dance is and, even less, tango. He is the milonguero – and for nothing they all are , who is sexist, whether they dance tango or not. What is certain is that if he is macho, it is convenient to say that tango is also, so as to excuse his behavior with the milongueras and in the milonga.

Some also say that the cabeceo is sexist. Again I think that is a tremendous nonsense. Maybe the one that nods is, but the eye contact itself is not. In the eye contact, it is the woman who looks at the milonguero with whom she wants to dance. Then it is they who perceive her glance, if they share the desire to dance with her, extend their invitation in the form of head movement; and finally it is she who confirms it or not. The nodding exchange is a totally bilateral non-verbal agreement.

I firmly believe that tango is a channel of communication between two people who embrace each other. What makes this communication bilateral is mutual respect and listening on both sides to the other person, in which there is a proposal and an acceptance or not of the movement. It is a free tango, nothing macho if the person proposing the movement isn’t, one who respects and has equal consideration for the other person. However, what makes this communication one-sided is a milonguero who imposes his will, who does not count on her except to follow him and do what he commands. This last case is the clear example of a macho milonguero, who surely in the privacy of his house is exactly the same: authoritarian, with an immense ego and a very accented pride.

And what does machismo have to do with tango? The same as fashion, cinema, relationships between people, labor relations,  family, and many other aspects of life itself.  Tango is just one more element in time and space, in which women have been treated and considered in a certain way throughout history.




3 Responses to “Tango is macho?”

  1. Tango Tails Says:

    Very nice article, and I agree with you. Thanks for your “likes” concerning the embrace. I love reading articles and learning more in this area. I always want to embrace a lady, with a lovely embrace. I don’t think anyone likes to be “cluthched” on-to in a restrictive way. As a man, my greatest desire is to listen to the person that I am dancing with, and I trying my best to give lots of opportunities for my partner’s creativity. I’m open and still have lots to learn in this life adventure. I much prefer to give a friendly warm cabeceo from my table than to get up and walk the perimeter of the milonga. Personally, I feel very vulnerable when presenting my cabeceo, and I do so with great respect. Here in Southern Italy, most of the ladies are not looking for a cabeceo, though. . .

  2. jantango Says:

    I’ve been waiting for comments on the post, since the views expressed are those of a woman in Europe who doesn’t feel that tango is machista. When you remove tango from its source, it’s another dance. The milongueros in the milongas of Buenos Aires are the last bastion of machismo. And the milongueras like it that way. I’ve been in Buenos Aires for 18 years, so I accept the codes and customs which are an integral part of tango. You can’t separate them.

    I began my tango class with two female friends asking the question, Is tango machista? The Argentina replied an emphatic yes! She had a sampling several years ago of the milongas and knows how things are. The American has less experience in the milongas, and listens attentively in our conversations about how things are in the milongas.

    A machista takes a woman into his possession like he owns her. I know that foreign women aren’t ready for this, yet so many return year after year to Buenos Aires to dance with their favorites. They aren’t held the same way at home.

    I find it hard to believe that the cabeceo isn’t standard practice in more cities around the world, but that’s what I’ve heard recently from world travelers who never use it anywhere and had to learn it this week in Buenos Aires.

  3. Tango Tails Says:

    I like your comment “like he owns her”. It gives me more of an idea of this embrace of the porteños or true milongueros. Last month, 1st time happening to me in Italy, I actually had an older lady tell me not to hold her in a close embrace after the 1st song of the tanda. I wondered why she didn’t properly let me know this when I properly entered the embrace with her? Anyway, I won’t be asking her to dance again. She was not a good dancer, either.

    Just a little about myself, as a brief introduction. I learned about you from the podcast, “Tango Angeles” with Ronaldo. Behind the power curb, beginning Argentine Tango around the age of 55, I’m now in my 4th year of this adventure. I’m trying to learn from as many sources possible, and trying to learn as much as possible. I am taking two private lessons a week with two separate instructors at different locations, and both of them are Argentine from Buenos Aires. One of them is a man and the other is a woman. Both have very interesting stories about how they arrived here in Italy form Argentina. I believe that there is hope for me, as the man is teaching me both parts – with me learning the ladies part as in the old days. My emphasis is on the walk and concepts – not steps. It is nice to get both parts of this feeling in leading and following. The lady is doing the same with me. If I may say, I’m trying to make my embrace an act of love, as she is becoming part of my body – as one. Like Ronaldo says in “Tango Angeles” love in the length of a song.

    I’m embracing the cabeceo too. I will compromise with a “strolling cabeceo” if a room is too dark, large or poorly designed for a milonga. But, my days of approaching a table to ask are getting few and far between – only to greet people that I know to say hello and welcome them into our milonga.

    Last year was my 1st time in Buenos Aires with my wife. I enjoyed the milonga experience much more than in Italy. I did discover that most of the ladies that I danced with were tourists, like me. Thanks for your blog. It has reached me from across the world. . .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s