22T 2 NEW | Being A Leader


There is a saying in the world of social dance that goes, “In tango, it’s always the man’s fault.” This succinctly describes what being a leader in tango means. To be a leader means to guide the follower to a certain direction. As a leader, you are a steward of the power that the follower has agreed to give to you. You have to give justice to your follower’s trust. It’s a much harder position to assume than most people understand because taking the lead means taking full responsibility for whatever happens during the duration of the dance. Linda Sutton beautifully illustrates how this principle works in tango and how it can show up in our relationships. Listen in and learn what it truly means to be a leader in and out of the dance floor. 

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The Anatomy of A Tango:  The Responsible Initiator – What It Means To Be A Leader 

We’re going to continue talking about the anatomy of Tango and discussing what it means to be the leader in Tango. At the top of this series of The Anatomy of Tango, we talked a couple of episodes ago about the six elements that make up the anatomy of a Tango and how that corresponds in a relationship between the man and a woman. The brief review is the six elements that make up a Tango or the anatomy of a Tango are the leader, the follower, the embrace, the principles, and the principles are the rules that govern the roles, the environment, or the place where the dance is occurring and the music. It’s the cadence, the rhythm, or the sound that dictates or governs how the couple and all of the couples in this space move or navigate that particular environment.   

We’re going to start talking about what it means to be the leader. What it means to lead in Tango and what it means to be the leader in Tango and how that relates to relationships, and how that shows up in relationships. I know that there are a lot of issues in current Western culture around gender roles and cultural roles around gender. We’re going to set those aside and specifically talk about the dynamic that is required in order to make the dance happen. In discussing that, some of those cultural, social, and gender roles, I believe, will get addressed in some way, shape, form or fashion, as we have this discussion.  

The leader has a different role and a different position in the dance. The role of the leader is usually the man in the dance and it is the masculine energy of the relationship. Previously, we talked about masculine, inner masculine, and feminine energy as yin versus yang. Understanding that yin and yang are equal but complementary or opposite, but interdependent. We talked about how there is no leader if there is no follower. We’re going to talk in greater detail about what it means to be a leader. I would like to step aside, take a moment, and discuss with you my first experiences with leaders in Tango in order to help you have a context right out of the gate on what it means to be a leader or rather what it means not to be a leader.  

What Leadership Isn’t: Yang Energy Defined

Early in my dance career, we’re talking probably not even 4 to 6 weeks into the dance, I had the opportunity to go to my first dance conference. It so happened that one of the first dance conferences, Tango conferences that I ever got to attend, was featuring the star of the movie, The Tango Lesson, who was my inspiration for wanting to learn Tango. I saw the movie, The Tango Lesson that was starring the dancer Pablo Veron and Sally Potter. I saw it, I immediately fell in love with the dance and was like, “I need to learn that danceI need to dance with that man.” I started off on my journey and started taking classes. One of my first conferences was featuring him as an instructor. He was teaching in Atlanta and I was like, “This has got to be destiny that he’s teaching this close.” At that time, I was in North Carolina.  

Several students from my class, we all got ourselves together and traveled to Atlanta to go to this conference. In one of these particular classes, we were dancing with new partners, people that we’d never danced before. After a set of dances, 2 to 3 dances, usually we changed partners. I was relatively new to the dance and we were all dancing with people of different and varying levels. I was learning how to follow and I was working with the leader. At this point in the conference and this point during the workshop and class with a particularly impatient leader, I would say. There was something that he was trying to lead me to do that we were learning in the class and he was trying to lead this particular figure. 

To lead is to guide, not to dominate or control. Click To Tweet

It just wasn’t working out the way that he wanted it to. It wasn’t coming out the way the teacher was trying to get us to do it. For whatever reason, it was falling apart. He started to get very frustrated with the process and he started to bark instructions at me. However, the challenge with me was that what he was telling me to do was not reflecting his lead. What he was leading me to do, I wasn’t feeling what he was saying and what he was leading were two different things. I was trying to make it happen but what he was doing to lead my body from one point to the next was not what he was trying to tell me to do.   

He was telling me one thing but the way that he was leading me and my body was getting a completely different outcome. I was very frustrated and I was trying to explain to him, I was like, “I understand that this is what you want but this is not what I’m experiencing. This is not what’s happening in my body.” At one point, I started to get terrified because I was frustrated too, trying to figure out like, “What can I do? What am I doing wrong? How do I get this thing to work? Here I am increasing in tension, terror, fear, and frustration and here he is increasing in frustration and anger. Does this sound familiar? What he does is he grabs me by the arm and he drags me across the room to the instructor.   

He shoves me towards the instructor and says, “Fix her. She’s not doing what I want.” By this time, getting thrown to and tossed towards the instructor in the middle of class, some of my classmates were paying attention and I was mortified. I was like, “Not only am I doing poorly in my class as a new dancer but now he’s thrown me to the teacher. He is like, ‘Fix this woman. What’s wrong with her? She’s broken.’” The instructor, who was Pablo Veron, comes over to me and he can tell my entire body is completely tense. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m sure he can see the fear, the frustration, and the mortification in my eyes as he approaches me like, “I’m going to get it even wrong now. Not only am I getting it wrong, but now I’m going to get it wrong with the teacher and the teacher who was the dancer I most admire in this dance. The heavens are not shining on me favorably.” It was what I was thinking.  

What he does is he starts to invite me into the embrace. I approach him very timidly and with a great deal of tension. He says softly, “Calm down. Just relax.” He said something to that effect like, “Let’s see what’s going on.” I calmed down enough to get into the embrace, accept his invitation to dance and enter into his embrace. The first couple of steps, he just kept giving this soft encouragement going, “No. Calm down.” Finally, after a few moments, I started to relax a little bit because I felt reassured by his soothing voice that it was okay and that I could relax. He says, “Let’s see what’s going on here,” and he proceeds to start to lead the figure that he has been teaching in the class.  

After the successful execution of that, I was falling all over and stumbling, and he was still leading. He starts to merely dance around the room. I realized very quickly that what we were doing on the floor was number one, not anything that he had taught yet and nothing that I had learned yet in my few 4 to 6 weeks or so of taking classes, but I was following. He was leading all of these new ideas that I have never been exposed to. I was in step with him, in sync with him going on around the floor and he danced the rest of the song. By the time we finished dancing the song, the rest of the class had stopped and was watching the two of us dance. After the songhe walks me over to my partner, the gentleman that I have been dancing with previously, and he said, “Here she is. She’s fixed.” The look on my partner’s face at that time, his jaw was dropped and then, he took me by the hand. As the instructor proceeded to teach the next idea, his complete tone had changed. He started asking more questions and feedback on what he was doing. 

I share this experience for a number of reasons. It is so that you can get a sense of two different approaches, two different ways, two different ideas, two different understandings of what it means to lead. Not only from the experience of the gentleman who is leading but also through the lens of the person who is following. Keep that picture in the back of your mind as you think about these two different approaches to leading, two different leaders, and make a decision. Number one, what type of leader are you currently and what kind of leader would you like to be? The choice is yours. Once again, I want to restate, the leader is the man in the dance. I know once again, we have the gender role situation, but the leader is the man in the dance. It is masculine energy.  

The masculine energy, as we discussed previously in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, is equivalent to the yang. You have yin and yang. The masculine energy is responsible for initiation. It is the initiating energy of the dance. It is the one that sets the dance in motion, usually in the form of the invitation, giving the woman the invitation. Yang is also responsible for providing the impulse and the energy that propels the couple forward. The yang energy is more than just about setting himself in motion, but now he has to provide enough energy to propel both himself and his partner in motion. There’s an exponential nature of the energy that he has to provide in order to not only move himself but move his partner through space and time. Once he has started this impulse and energy, then the yang energy is also responsible for processing information that it receives from the environment. That includes the environment as well as the partner or the yin energy and then making any adjustments or corrections that are necessary based on the feedback from the environment. This is what the yang does.  

For example, if you had yang energy in nature, it is constantly paying attention to what’s going on in the environment and then making any adjustments if it’s necessary. If there are changes in temperature, the yang energy makes adjustments. If there’s a change in whether or not there’s the appearance of a predator or prey, then the yang makes adjustments. That is how yang exists in nature. Finally, yang is responsible for providing direction. Not only does it provide impulse and energy that moves through space and time but it moves through space and time along a specific course or a specific direction or along a specific way, usually with a goal or destination in mind. There’s a deliberate path that the leader or the yang energy is taking its energy on. It’s not taking its energy everywhere. Yang energy has a pathway that is directing his energy along. These elements of yin and yang, understanding that about yang will help you understand the nature of a leader of Tango 

22T 2 NEW | Being A Leader

Being A Leader: The masculine energy is responsible for initiation. It is sets the dance in motion in the form of an invitation.


The leader is the one in the position that is facing traffic. The leader is in the position that’s moving in the flow of traffic. If you were driving down the highway and you’re in the flow of traffic and you’re going with the flow of traffic, then that means you’re in the position of the leader. If you are going against the flow of traffic and you’re facing against the flow of traffic, then that is the position of the follower. The leader is facing in the direction of traffic. The leader can see everything in the direction of where you’re going and everything that is in front of you. The leader cannot see what is going on behind him unless he changes position, but his natural position is facing in the flow of traffic. I wanted to take a moment and think about leading from literally the term itself, the definition, because inherent in the term of leader helps you also understand the principles that govern what it means to lead.   

In Webster’s dictionary, to lead is to guide someone along a way. There’s an element. To lead is to guide someone or something along a way or path. In the dance world, it means to guide a partner through the steps of a dance. It also means to initiate. It means to set the example or serve as an example for, and it is in the term lead. We also get the term leadership. Leadership means the act of providing guidance and direction. This is what it means to lead just in a dictionary, what leadership means in a dictionary. Those principles that are in that definition are a part of the role of what it means to be a leader in the dance.  

The role of the leader in the dance and the relationship or the interaction of the relationship is to guide their partner along a way or a pathway. What the definition of leadership means, it does not mean to dominate your follower or followers. It does not mean to control your followers or followers. It does not mean to oppress your followers or followers. It doesn’t mean to control them, subjugate them. It doesn’t mean any of that. To lead simply means to guide them in a specific direction. Usually, that direction is agreed upon or it’s charted. That’s what it means to lead.  

What Leadership Is: The Premise

I know sometimes when people get frustrated by gender roles, as it relates to this, it’s because there’s often misunderstanding of what it means to be the leader in the relationship, is to provide guidance and direction. It’s not to control. It’s not to oppress, it’s not to dominate. It’s not about having power over, it’s about something else. That’s what it means to be a leader. One of my favorite terms in the culture of Tango is when I first started traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The type of Tango that I specialize in is Argentine Tango. One of the meccas or the world capitals for Argentine Tango in Argentina and the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, which is the capital of Tango in the world. When I traveled there and I first started taking my first masters classes in Tango in Buenos Aires, the master instructors, the male would say clearly to the other men, the other leaders of the dance a very simple principle that they wanted them to use to govern themselves in the learning and the environment. They would say, “In Tango, it’s always the man’s fault.” To me, it was so surprising to hear master teachers in dance that were men saying that to other men.  

It was always fascinating to watch men from all around the world of different cultures respond to that directive. Whenever I would travel to Buenos Aires, you would have these men from all around the world from different cultures responding to that directive in very different ways. My favorite was to watch and see how American men would handle that directive. American men would always handle that directive in a different way from men from other cultures, such as African cultures or Asian cultures. It was completely different reactions. I would often see pushback from American men at the word “fault.” The response of the master instructors was simply, and I’m restating a little bit, “The man is the one who initiates the dance. If the man doesn’t initiate the dance, then there is no dance that occurs. He’s the one who initiates it then he is responsible for what he has initiated. If he is responsible for what he has initiated, then if something goes wrong by virtue of the fact that he initiated it, it’s his fault. It’s his responsibility. 

Leading The Dance: The Man’s Responsibilities

It was always fascinating because, in the dance, one of the principles is technically the embodiment of that. Whether you use the word fault or responsibility, because the man is the one who sets the energy in motion, he sets the action in motion. He is also responsible for the consequence of what comes out of that, the action and reaction. If he sets the action in motion, he is responsible for the reaction. He’s sending the energy through the woman in order to get that reaction, but the reaction still is a result and a consequence of his action. That is one of the prime directives of what it means to be a leader. With being a leader and with leadership comes responsibility. Once that is understood, then the roles and responsibilities of what it means to be a leader in this dance make sense.  

When I say leader in leadership, there’s another thing that I want to clarify about leadership. One of the things that you often see in Tango between the leader and follower, when there’s not an understanding of what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a follower, often is a power struggle. The power struggle results from this misunderstanding of leading as having power over or being in the position of power. If the belief or the understanding or misunderstanding is that to be a leader means to have the power or to have a position of power, or to be in the position of power, then it is going to often see some resistance against that lack of proper understanding or that misunderstanding. There are several things that have to exist in order for leadership to occur. In Tango and the world, there is no leader without a follower. A leader serves as someone who guides or provides guidance to another purpose, place or thing. If there is no leader, if there is no follower who iwilling to be in agreement with the leader’s role in position, then there is no leader.  

The elements that must exist in the arrangement or the relationship between leader and follower are the following. There must be agreement. There must be an assignment or reassignment. There must be alignment. There must be accountability and the final thing, which is the ultimate responsibility. I’m going to go through each one of those so that you can understand. I’m sure as I go through these, you’re going to start to hear our relationship to and correlation with elements of a relationship. I’ve already said that there can be no leader without a follower.  

In tango, it’s always the man’s fault. Click To Tweet

The first element that has to be in place for leadership in agreement. In order for you to be a leader, there has to be a follower who is going to be in agreement with following your guidance or your leadership. There has to be an agreement between a leader and the followers. There has to be a follower or followers who agree to be led, and not only being led but being led by you. There are some things that have to go along with that to have a shared vision, trust, confidence, but there has to be an agreement there first and foremost. No follower, no leader. End of the story.   

Another thing that has to be in place for leadership to exist as it relates between the leader and the follower is the assignment. When it comes to power when a follower agrees to your leadership. Leadership is an aggregation of power. Meaning the follower is giving up or assigning their ability to propel themselves through space and time to you because they agree to the shared vision. I liken it to two people walking beside each other. If a man and a woman are walking beside each other, then the man is doing his own thing and the woman is doing her own thing. No one’s being led. No one’s following. Each one is responsible for propelling themselves.  

However, when the man asks the woman to follow, then he is asking her to agree to let him be responsible for propelling her. She has to assign her ability to propel herself that power to him. It’s also like in real estate, where you sign the contract and you say, “And/or assigns” meaning, I’m allowing for the authority to transfer all of this agreement to another person. All of these authorities, all of this power, I’m willing to agree to transferring that to this other party for a specified period of time.  

Number three, the element that has to be between a leader and follower and Tango is alignment. They not only have to be aligned physically. They’re dancing chest to chest and facing each other. There has to be a physical alignment of their bodies in order to make that happen. Also, an alignment of vision or outcome, meaning a person who follows is agreeing to follow you because there’s something about you that they share, whether a vision or an outcome or even if it’s just entertainment. There’s something they want that they agree that you and/or you in concert with one another can accomplish. They’re willing as long as you are in alignment with that, and they’re in alignment with what you’re saying or doing, then you have leadership and then you have a follower that’s willing.  

Accountability, once again, because the leader or the man is responsible for the action. They are also responsible for the reaction. Once they set the action, they are responsible for the consequence of those actions. Therefore, as a result of getting that feedback, they can make whatever adjustments they need to make, whatever corrections and the like. That is the dynamic between leaders and followers that should help understand at a greater and deeper level the core tenets and character traits that govern a leader in this dance, as well as off the dance floor.  

I want to get into the roles and responsibilities of what it means to be a leader as it relates specifically and clearly in Tango. There is a number, but there are a few that I want to focus on. I want to give you a brief overview of those roles and responsibilities because those roles and responsibilities, as they show up on the dance floor, are often issues that you see show up off the dance floor as men and women interact with one another in relationship. In the dance of Tango, the man’s number one role and goal is to protect the lady. Whatever else goes on and happens is secondary. Once he invites her to the dance, he is taking the responsibility for her safety and wellbeing, because normally she would be responsible for that herself. She could handle her own body. She could look around. She could see what’s going on her own. When she agrees to come into the embrace and therefore not propel herself, she is trusting that he is going to take as much care for her wellbeing if she was moving or walking or dancing or whatever by herself. 

The man, his number one goal is to protect her, the lady, from himself and number two from the environment. How does the gentleman protect the lady from himself? In order to keep her safe physically, as well as mentally and emotionally in relationships, he has to make sure physically that he does not step on her toes. His technique must be such that he doesn’t step on her toes. He doesn’t injure her. He is conscious of the fact that she is walking backward in high heels oftentimes. That’s a different dynamic. He is moving with a deliberate nature that takes these things into account. He wants to make sure that he keeps her safe by not injuring her or stepping on toes or him hurting her. His number one responsibility in her safety is to make sure that he does not hurt her himself before they even start moving.  

The second thing is once they’ve agreed and they start moving through space and time safely, is he must ensure that he keeps her safe against the external elements. The other couples on the dance floor who are moving their legs, feet, or shoes, any objects that might be on or near the dance floor, such as people sitting in a chair leg, or somebody may have left her bag on the floor or anything like that. He wants to ensure that as he’s guiding the lady through space and time that he is conscious and aware of where he’s taking her and ensuring that she remains safe based on being conscious of how and where he’s guiding her. He needs to protect her and keep her safe from the environment. I remember having had a time where I had someone and the gentleman was leading and he wasn’t paying attention to a woman’s heels. This is one of the few times I’ve ever got injured in the dance. The woman’s high heel caught underneath one of my ribs. The gentleman that we were dancing near let the woman into a boleo and it was a high boleo. Her heel came up and her heel literally caught underneath my rib and so I got injured.  

The key is I was not upset with the other couple. I was upset with the gentleman who was leading me because to me, he was responsible for making sure that I didn’t run into another couple. That means he wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t focused, or he didn’t give enough distance. He led me into a space that was close enough to get injured. That’s one example of what I mean when I say you’re responsible for not only keeping her safe from you, meaning not step on her toes, not turning over her ankle, not leading her to do something that’s going to get her injured, but also keeping her safe in the environment.   

Number one rule, if anything else that you’re doing will jeopardize that role and responsibility, then abandon ship. What do I mean? Let’s say that there is a figure or an idea or a new step that you want to try, but you’re not confident enough or proficient enough to do that dance, move on a crowded floor and keep her safe at the same time. Your responsibility is to leave that dance step off the dance floor and keep her safe. Do something simpler and safer until you have the proficiency to be able to do it on the floor safely. Not only keeping her safe but also being sure that you don’t injure any other woman that’s out there.  

Gentlemen, understand this. If you are dancing with the lady and she gets hurt, her trust in you is going to diminish greatly. It will not matter that it was an outside party that injured her. It will not matter if someone backs up and steps on her heel by example. Her lack of trust is going to be directed towards you because you in initiating are saying, “I am taking on the responsibility for keeping you safe and guarding your wellbeing.” She’s not going to trust your lead if she gets injured. If you injure her or you allow the environment to injure her, then her trust in you is going to be greatly diminished, if not broken altogether. You need to be aware of that. In this dance, there is no reassignment of blame. That’s why in Buenos Aires, the men tell other men, “It is your fault.”  

I want to come back to that. One of the most exciting and incredible things that I’ve seen in the dance of Tango, because the men in Buenos Aires have that posture, they are very protective when it comes to watching other men on the floor. They understand as a whole that they’ve worked hard to get the trust and gain the trust of the respective ladies that they are dancing with. I remember being in one example, one situation, and one milonga in Buenos Aires, where there was one particular gentleman who was dancing and he was being flashy. He was doing a lot. He was doing a lot of extra things, but also, he was bumping into a lot of the couples on the floor. I got to watch this because he was bumping other couples on the floor and I could see the response on the men’s faces as they experienced that. As they bumped into the couple, it would jar the woman out of her magic spell of being enthralled with her leader, and she would get tense.   

22T 2 NEW | Being A Leader

Being A Leader: Because the man is one who sets the energy motion, he is also responsible for the reaction.


I saw that in a very unspoken manner that the men that were dancing there literally started to dance in a way that blocks this man to the outside of the floor. By the way, they were dancing as a whole on the dance floor and pushed him and his partner off the floor. It was amazing to watch. They started to dance in a way that made it difficult for him to move to the point where it winds up pushing him off the floor. He could not navigate the way he wanted to. He got navigated or guided to the outer edge of the floor to the point where they danced in the way that keeps him from coming back onto the floor. It was extraordinary. It was pronounced. Even the men understand the importance of making sure that they keep each other safe because they, as a whole, understand how hard they’ve worked to gain the trust of their follower or the woman. 

The second major role and responsibility for the man is to provide a safe space for her in your arms and in the embrace. One of the ways that you provide safety is when you take the woman into your arms in the embraceThe woman would be here and then the gentleman would bring his left arm up to receive her hand. He would bring his right arm around her body and that space that he brings around her back, she fits inside of his arms. That becomes her safe place. She’s not able to dance outside of that arm. Most of her body is within his embrace, within his arms. The legs are led outside of the embrace, obviously, but the woman is there. By the man having a clear embrace, then that provides a safe environment and boundaries for her to rest in. It’s important for him to provide that. Not only is it important for him to provide that safe space for her in his embrace physically but also, he must do that energetically.  

What do I mean when I say energetically? When she gets inside of your embrace, she’s going to be feeling whether or not it’s safe. Meaning, are you going to respect her boundaries? Are you going to respect her wellbeing? Is she going to be feeling like you are potentially going to try to take advantage, do something inappropriate, assault, or make her feel uncomfortable in any way? She’s going to be trying to read your energy. You want to make sure that within your embrace, it says to her that, You are safe in here. No, I’m not going to do anything inappropriate. No, I’m not going to do anything that’s going to make you feel uncomfortable in my arms. I’m just going to provide a safe space for you to feel comfortable residing here.  

Number three, one of the roles of the man is once you kept her safe, once you’ve provided a safe space for her, then it’s to provide a pleasurable experience for her. You want to provide a pleasurable experience for her. You want to delight her. You want to have a conversation with her. Why am I very clear about you wanting to delight her? Sometimes when people get exposed to Tango, they’ve seen the show and they’ve seen the breathtaking dance that the couple presented on a stage. However, in a social environment, the things that you can do on a stage when there are only two people on the stage, you can’t do on the dance floor. The dance floor is more intimate. Social dancing is a more intimate interpersonal experience.  

What is done on the stage is for the crowd to see, to wow them, and to be spellbinding to the crowd. People pay for tickets to see the show. The dancers performing on the stage and those figures, those ideas, those dance moves have to be big enough for everybody in the theater to see, and it’s supposed to wow them. It’s about the show. It’s about the audience. However, in a social environment, the dance is not about wowing an audience. It’s not about doing things for show. It’s not about doing something so big that everyone in the room can see it. That’s reserved for stage Tango. Social dance is about you and your partner. It’s about your partner being comfortable and enjoying it.   

I just caution you because as a leader, you’re not dancing and doing dance moves to impress and show off to everybody in the room. You are dancing to ensure that the person that you have asked to dance to be in your arms for anywhere from to 12 minutes at least, has an experience that is pleasurable for them. Sometimes it’s not always about the fancy moves. Sometimes this is just about being considerate, keeping them safe, enjoying them, and being in a conversation with your partner. You value her followership. You take hold in high regard the fact that she has willingly agreed to surrender to your lead during this period of time. You hold that in high regard. You provide pleasure in exchange for that. Those are some of the three highlevel roles and responsibilities.   

I like to draw a connection between these roles and responsibilities and the idea that Steve Harvey, a famous comedian, presented to in his famous book, AcLike a Lady, Think Like a Man. I don’t agree with that basic philosophy. In his book, he talks about the three roles of a man in a relationship. He says that the three roles of a man in a relationship are to protect, provide and profess. Even though I don’t agree with all of the tenets in his book and getting women to think like men, I do agree that there are some parallels in that fundamental, underlying understanding of what it means to be a leader in Tango, which is to protect, provide and profess.  

The leader is responsible to make corrections and adjustments to get the couple back on track. Click To Tweet

To profess, what do I mean? Professing meaning profess your love, profess your desire, profess your admiration of your partner. You’ve done that the minute you ask her to dance. The minute you ask her to dance and bring her onto the dance floor, everybody can see that you are expressing a desire to dance with her and not only dance with her but dance as close, physically close as Tango. Tango is very different from salsa and other dance forms where there’s a channel dancing. You can dance together, you can dance apart. In Tango, you are really in each other’s arms. You are, as they say, all up in each other’s area. All on each other’s body, potentially chest to chest, breast to breast. You all have been there in the Tango.  

When you take her on the dance floor, everybody can see that you have some interest in being close or in close proximity with this young lady that you’ve taken onto the floor. You have gotten her to get you to lead her. Since she has agreed to that, then you are there to protect her, to keep her safe now that she’s made that agreement. Not only protect her in terms of keeping her safe but also there’s an element of provision. What do I mean by provision? When she agrees to your lead, there are some unwritten and written rules that govern that. We talked about the principles that govern, that agreement, covenant, commitment. What it is you’re doing is that you’re providing the consistency that comes with those commitments. Not only like in traditional relationships, provision may be providing financial support, but it’s also providing support and stability. Usually, people think of it in terms of provision, providing financial support and stability, providing emotional support and stability in terms of providing.  

ITango, it’s the same way, except you’re providing support and stability with your physical body. By being consistent in your lead, by being consistent in your posture, she can depend on using your body for sometimes physical support because she’s leaning against you and your lead is stable enough that she can depend on that. That’s how you’re providing for her in the dance. It may not be in the form of financial stability, provision and support, but you are providing her physical support and stability, and even emotional support and stability in the Tango. Once she gives you that trust, the way that you maintain and build that trust is by being consistent in providing her stability and support. What you are going to do as a leader is set up the embrace. You’re going to set up boundaries. You’re going to maintain those boundaries. You are going to do what I call the lead and then follow your lead, which means that dance is a conversation.   

Remember that yang provides the energy and impulse, and then listens for feedback from the environment so that he can make adjustments or corrections. In nature, that’s what yang does and in Tango, that is also what yang or the man does. He leads the step. He provides the energy for the step to be executed. As the woman is executing the step, then that is his feedback. If things are working out the way that he expected or anticipated or that was what he intended, then he can lead the next thing. However, if what he is leading is not what’s coming out, then he has to make corrections and adjustments so that whatever he wants will come out or understands that his lead or his conversation is not yet clear enough for someone else to understand. He has to go back to the drawing board or he has to restate his communication until there’s mutual understanding.   

22T 2 NEW | Being A Leader

Being A Leader: There is no reassignment of blame in tango.


Let’s go back through that again because I don’t want you to miss any parts of that. As the leader, you communicate. You lead an idea. You lead a step. The way the woman responds to that is your feedback. That what you led, what you intended, what you initiate is what she understood because that’s what you got. You led something and what she did is what you led. You’re on the same page. You’re in sync. You’re in step. You can go on the next thing. However, if what you lead, what you get is not that then it’s on the leader to make the corrections and the adjustments. To either communicate it in a different way so that she understands or let that idea go because you are not clear enough within yourself to be able to communicate that idea clearly. Either there has to be a restating and she just is not getting what you’re saying. It might be like talking to someone in a foreign language and you say it one way and then they get it, or you say it in that language and they just don’t get it. You go onto another idea or you say it in another way. Equally in the dance, there is the responsibility on the leader for doing that.  

When there is miscommunication as far as the dance is concerned, in Tango, it is on the leader to make the corrections and the adjustments to get the couple back on track because his role and responsibility is to guide or provide guidance to someone along a certain path. Since he’s responsible for providing guidance and direction, if something is off then it’s on him to correct it so that he can continue to guide and provide direction. The final thing that I will state around leadership and around that particular element is in terms of responsibility is if at any point in time, the connection between the two is broken, then it is up to the leader to stop and reestablish the connection so they can begin again.  

If you were dancing and you got off. You’re dancing and then all of a sudden you went left and she went right. That means the connection is off. You guys are broken, you’re going in two different directions. If you’re the leader, then it is up to you to get the both of you back. You stop. You get yourselves back. You re-establish the connection, you reestablish the embrace. You reestablish all of the principles that set you back up, and then you start again. In order to continue to be in that leadership role, you have to be one of being able to take feedback, make adjustments and corrections in order for you all to be in step with one another.   

22T 2 NEW | Being A Leader

Being A Leader: Being a leader in tango includes an element of provision. It requires you to provide support and stability with your physical body.


I’ve given you a lot as it relates to what it means to be a leader. I think now that you have this overarching view of what it means to be a leader in a dance, you can start to think through a lot of the social, cultural gender roles that we have in relationships and where there is congruency or incongruency as it relates to it, where things set up or where they break down. Some of these things for me immediately, I start to hear relationships as we start to go through these roles and responsibilities. Gentlemen, for you to be leaders in this dance, as well as leaders in your respective relationships, hopefully, you can take these roles and responsibilities, think through them, and start to ask yourself of this particular principle, “How can I apply it on the dance floor when moving physically with my partner or the partner in my life or others in my life? How can I use the same principle and apply it off the dance floor in my interactions?” 

For example, if I’m responsible for guiding and leading my spouse, how can I do that in a way where they don’t feel as if I am having power over them? If there is a power struggle in your relationship, is it because you believe that a leader is the one who is in the position of power, or do you have to rethink and say, “No, actually my role is to give my relationship a vision that my follower can agree to and then my follower will trust that I will lead and guide us along a pathway towards them? We’re going to have all of these bullet points that you can go back and review on the blog posts for this particular episode on www.The22TangoShow.com. If you have any thoughts, feedback, or questions on what it means to be a leader on and off the dance floor here for the show, find me on one of the social media platforms on www.The22TangoShow.com or The 22Tango Show on social media. We can start this dialogue and this conversation of the dance of relationships with you. As we say here on the show, it not only takes two to Tango but absolutely it takes you to Tango.   

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