Patriarchy and Dancing

This article is about queer tango dancing, but it made me think about gender roles more generally in dancing, Why is it traditional for men to lead and women follow? The answer is, of course, the deeply ingrained patriarchal male dominance in our society. Perhaps dance shows and dance studios could make a point to change this up. By all means, keep on dancing, but do we have to propagate machoism as part of it?

3 thoughts on “Patriarchy and Dancing

  1. Caveat: My knowledge of dance is virtually nil.

    Is expressive, leaderless dance possible? I add the adjective “expressive” to create (a potentially meaningless) distinction between extremely prescriptive dances like Line-Dancing or Scottish Reels from dances that allow for innovation during the the dance itself (e.g. the afformentioned Tango), further assuming dances that involve 2+ participants.

    I once tried an experiment in Emergent Behavior dance, were each participant was given an option of 3 unique moves they could do on a beat and the general rule that you can’t do a move that would result in you colliding with another dancer. The concept was loosely inspired by Conway’s Game of Life and resulted in dancers opting to just do one move that they learned wouldn’t ever lead to a collision.

    So when I think of dances like the Tango I can’t imagine a relationship other than Leader/Follower.


    1. Some queer tango dancers switch lead during the dance which further eliminates gender roles. I think some forms of dance require a lead, but I’m not sure all do even in a couples dance. Is there an equivalent to jazz improve where people play off of each other without there necessarily being a lead?


  2. You make an interesting point about switching lead. I wonder if the arbitration of lead could result in different cultural expressions of a particular dance? I am (only jokingly) imagining German Tango dancers switching every 20 steps while American dancers would switch depending on what side of they room they are on ;-).


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