22T 9 | Principles Of Tango


Everything in tango is governed by principles. The steps or figures that you see are merely the results of successfully executing these rules. Like many aspects of this beautiful art, the principles of tango also have close parallels in life and relationships, which we continue to explore in this podcast. Join Linda Sutton in another installment of The Anatomy of a Tango series, where she takes an intimate look into what she likes to call “the rules that govern the roles.” In this episode, you will learn that there are specific principles that govern leadership, followership, and the interdependence between the two. Stick around and reflect on how these same principles apply to the world of relationships. 

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The Anatomy Of A Tango: The Rules That Govern The Roles 

We are continuing in our serial of Anatomy of Tango, focusing on the principles or I like to say, the rules that govern the roles. If you’ve missed the previous episodes of the Anatomy of Tango in the series, you definitely want to go back and check out the previous episode where we are taking an intimate look and deeper dive on the elements that make up the Anatomy of Tango. At the top of the serial, I outlined the six major components or elements that make up The Anatomy of Tango. Those are the leader, the follower, the embrace, the principles or the rules that govern which we’ll focus on here, the environment, and the music. Those elements are the big overarching ideas that when they all come together, it creates a thing that we know as the Tango. 

This is exciting because I had mentioned in a previous episode that the reason that I focus on the principles as opposed to the steps or the figures, which is the combinations of steps that make up an idea, is because the steps and the figures are an outcome or they are a result of successfully executing the principles. If you and your partner are successful in the execution of these principles and you’re consistently executing them, then the result that you will see will be the steps, the figures, and if you were doing performances, the choreography. Those are a result. The thing that makes it happen is the rules that govern what needs to happen. When that’s done successfully, the steps are what you see as a result.  

Communicate with your partner, not only to understand their perspective but also to get a more refined level of mastery of your experience. Click To Tweet

At the top of these episodes, I like to get into the pure definition. The pure definition of the terms often gave us a real insight and revelation into what we should be doing. It gives us the full context of what’s going on. Some people may be thinking principle as it relates to the leader of a school or school system. Someone else might think of principle as the founding party of a business. Here, we’re using the principle in a different context and as a fundamental truth or rule that governs behavior or what you do. That is what we’re looking at in terms of principle and what we’re talking about here. The two roles that are in the Anatomy of Tango are the leader and the follower. The reason that I’m doing a little bit of a review because we did cover a number of the roles and responsibilities of each of the corresponding roles. If you missed that, you definitely want to go back and look at the episode where we discussed in great deal about what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a follower in the Tango. We talk about the roles and the responsibilities of those two roles in the couple. That should give you those details.  

The principles are the next level that gives a context on how to embrace works. You have the leader and you have the follower. What brings them together is the embrace. The embrace is the fundamental structuring unit of the couple because it’s what connects them. Once they become connected or committed to being in partnership with one another, then the principles are the things that are in play that make that system work. The coming together of the two individuals in the embrace creates the partnership and the couple, and then the principles govern how that couple is going to function together as a unit. Remember, there is no leader without a follower. Both roles in the dance are comparable and complementary. They are opposite and complementary. They are equal in value in the couple. One cannot exist without the other. There is not a hierarchy in the dance. They are opposite with one another as Ms. Gallagher taught us in terms of what those terms mean. They are equal in value and complementary.  

This was beautiful because when we talk about principles, there are a lot of things that are at play here when the couple is working together in this partnership. I remember one particular opportunity and time when I was working with a gentleman that I was a professional partner. We were performing and teaching together. We were having a big debate and discussion during our own training sessions, rehearsals, and in preparation for teaching workshops, seminars or camps. We would discuss different elements and how we were going to best translate and teach those elements, or discover new ways of exploring those elements to bring to our students.  

On this particular occasion, we were talking about elements as it relates to balance and axis of the woman or the follower. We were having a little bit of nuance going back and forth about the particular set of concepts around that. I remember saying to him in a very offhanded manner that I understood why he had the perspective about that particular element around following, but there was a big piece of his experience that was missing. He didn’t take that well at first. I didn’t necessarily mean it in a negative way. I was just sharing with him my perspective. He was like, “What do you mean by that?” I was like, “When you add the element of wearing high heels to the dynamic of balance of a woman’s axis, the whole dynamic changes depending on her heel height. Her heel height comes into play when it comes to issues of balance and axis depending on her level of comfort of proficiency, not just in walking but in dancing. She may be comfortable walking in a certain heel height, but she may not be as comfortable in her balance in dancing.” 

We were going back and forth about that. He was a proficient follower and a leader as I amHe scoffed at that a little bit. I was like, “You don’t know what it means to wear heels. You’re always going to be missing that perspective or experience.” He was like, “Don’t ever tell anybody I’ll do that. It can’t be that different.” I shook my head. I had some old heels that I was about to discard. I was like, “Put them off for a minute so that you can get the experience of what happens when you shift your heel height and your axis.” He did put them on for a brief moment. I tried to leave him. Not even a full song after that, he was like, “I totally get what you’re saying. That is an experience in a realm on its own.” He had an all hail to the queen moment. He was like, “I will defer to you when it comes to those nuances.” 

It was beautiful because he had a new respect for my experience inside the dance that he didn’t have before. He had made assumptions about what that experience was like because he didn’t have experience in following. What appears to him to be a small distinction in terms of the fact that even though he was a male follower and didn’t wear heels, that it wasn’t a big deal. It was actually significant when you start talking about ideas of adding momentum and dynamic to the dance. Whenever we would go into sessions, he might be coaching some ladies. He’d always come back to me and say, “Is there anything I’m missing? Is there anything that I’m overlooking? Is there anything that I’m not catching? Is there anything that’s not in my awareness? Is there anything that I don’t know as it relates to these particular set of issues and in coaching followers?”  

22T 9 | Principles Of Tango

Principles Of Tango: The embrace is the fundamental structuring unit of the couple because it’s what connects them.


It was beautiful because he would seek additional information, perspective, and even more insight as a leader, even though we were both professionals at that time, some of the nuances, the refined and fined elements. He began to seek more details as it relates to that. We even began to play with how our dance’s dynamic would change as I changed heel height, for example, because I was used to wearing it by the time. I trained myself up to wear pointed heels. I want to underscore the idea of understanding that both sides of the dance are equal in value. Have respect and regard for the opposing role even though you may have some assumptions about this level of ease or difficulty from your perspective, even if you believe that your assumptions are correct. Iyou open yourself up and become available to the fact that there might be things about the other side of the dance that are equally valuable, challenging, and having as much insight as to your side of the dancing. You can seek to communicate with your partner. It’s not only to understand their perspective or their side, but also use that information to get a new, deeper, and more refined perspective and level of mastery of your own experience.  

It happened in our dance. I want you to think about that in your relationship. You see this in partnerships. Every once in a while, you might see a show, like a lifetime show where a gentlemen may be working outside of the home and has a frustrating day, week, month or year. His wife might be a stay-at-home mom. There’s this tugofwar when he comes home one day. He doesn’t have an appreciation of the fact that she’s at home. He was like, “I’m at work all day out here making money and putting the roof over our head. All you do is sit at home all day.” I’m sure if you haven’t seen one of those examples of breakdown in communication, take yourself right on over to YouTube.  

I’m sure if you do a search of that, you will see a little video of that dramatization. There’s some example where they trade places. The gentleman gets an opportunity to take over and be the mom or wife for the day and realizes that her job is not as easy as he thought it was. In fact, he realizes that it’s harder than he ever realized. Equally, the partner may have an experience or understanding of their partner’s role. They may think, “All you do is go to meetings and sit at your desk all day.” They might not realize that there are these other dynamics of supervision, coaching, and things that your partner might be doing. You might have more appreciation for it once you had an experienced understanding of how challenging or taxing that work was.  

The Unit: What Interdependence Means

I use these two stories to set the stage because each principle has two corresponding elements that must work together in concert with one another. As I lay out the principles, I’m going to lay out the terms of leader and follower. You will see quickly that they correspond to one another and they’re complementary in nature. This principle on the leader side has a corresponding element and component on the follower side. It’s one principle but there are two components, and each party is responsible for component of that principle that mirrors the other. Coming back to the top of it, we talked about the leader, the follower, and the embrace. We understand that when the two come together, they are now a unit. The two become one. This is the place in Tango, in a relationship, or marriage where two become one. This is where you see the physical manifestation of that idea, saying, proverb and thought.  

You have a leader or the follower. Once they come into the embrace and agreed to become partners and a couple, they become one unit or one system that has to work together. They work as parts of that whole in concert with one another so that the whole can move and operate through space and time. It is an element of two becoming one. There is a move. Once there is an agreement to come into partnership with your partner, the first overarching idea is that you are no longer in the space of independence. As you move from individual to couple in partnership, you move from a state of independence to a state of interdependence. Those two things are diametrically opposed. I know that’s going to be unpopular in this day and age where people say, “You’re two individuals in a couple. You maintain your own separate identities and that whole thing.” 

I understand that there is value in maintaining things that are important to you. You have to understand that once you cross over that threshold in that agreement of partnership, independence gives way to interdependence. The reason why is for that unit to work, there is another set of principles that take over, that become your governing principlesAs an independent person, you have one set of governing principles. Those governing principles no longer exist when you are in partnership or a part of a system because you are now a part of things that must work together in order to make that larger entity work. The overarching theme is you moved from independence to interdependence.  

As you move into a partnership, you step out of a state of independence and move towards a state of interdependence. Click To Tweet

All of the principles that govern how the couple works and how it works successfully are understanding that you are in a state of interdependence with your partner. That’s what you’re doing. You’re working in concert with one another. All the parts of the whole, the leader and the follower, must work together in tandem in a certain way for the unit to move forward. Not only the leader and follower doing their respective parts, fulfilling their respective roles, but they’re occurring simultaneously or at least in tandem. You may perceive it to be chronological in order. On the outside looking in, it appears to be linear or chronological, but the corresponding principles are working in tandem with one another.  

One analogy or picture that you might want to have in your head because you‘re like, “This seems a little abstract. Give me something else that’s tangible that I can think of that might help me to better understand that. Think about a car. Every car has all of these moving parts that work together so that the car can move in space and time. You have passengers inside of the car and then you have the car that is moving. These parts are working interdependently together so that the car moves. Because they’re a part of the car’s larger body, any one of them doesn’t function anymore outside of the car. A car battery needs to be inside of a car to power the car. It doesn’t have any full function by itself because it is created and designed to be a part of the car. It helps to power and move the car 

That should help you understand in terms of you are parts of a whole. The goal is for this new thing that is created to work and function. Another way of looking at it is lock and key. You move from one space into another space. That lock and key, once it comes together, it makes another environment available to you all. You go from one room into the next. That is a part that can help you. The man and the woman come together like a lock and key to have greater access to something else.  

When we talk about leader and follower, some things are inherent in the name of what they are, the kind of assignment they have. The principles are the elements that come together that each one of them is doing together in concert that makes up the principle as opposed to the role and responsibility. Before we get into the two columns of leader and follower, we always attempted in this show to draw a relationship between the things that we see on the dance floor and the obvious places where we see that exists in relationships. The principles and the idea of principles can be readily seen in the biology of a man and woman. There are biological corresponding factors that are represented in these principles 

What am I talking about? Let me make it plain. In the act of sex or intimacy between a man and a woman, there are biological corresponding factors that come into play that we will see in the dance. In the biological act of intimacy or sex, anatomically, the man and the woman had two different designs that come together and work in concert with one another to have a function, which is not just pleasure but to procreate. The man anatomically is designed to give to the woman. The woman is anatomically designed to receive from the man. When those two things happen together simultaneously then the larger body of the creation of the family, pleasure, and procreation becomes available or happens.  

As I said in the lock and key analogy, the ability to procreate becomes available, or the procreation occurs in the creation of life, or the ushering in of new life occurs. There’s an actual anatomical design that is inherent within a man and a woman in terms of how they fit together in order to come together to create a unit that is the couple. That couple creates the fundamental baseline element or the singular unit of community which is family. I believe that the fundamental unit of community is the couple because out of the couple comes the family. In social sciences, they say the fundamental unit of society is the family. The man and the woman come together, they procreate, and that thing that they create in concert with one another is the family unit. The thing that binds it is the commitment. That is in the form of the covenant or the marriage. Once they come together, they are a unit.  

I know that socially and societally, people come in and out of relationships, families do break apart, and divorces do happen. If they’ve created children together, they will always be the parents of those children. Technically, the unit always exists. It may not exist in the form that it was designed to exist as, which is all under the same roof, but the family structure doesn’t disintegrate just because the social covenant and commitment are broken. There’s still connection. There was something that was still created. Both of those parts are still needed in order to nurture and care for what was created out of that union successfully. It was originally designed to all be in the same space. There were reasons for that regardless of what’s going on culturally in society. Just as there is an anatomical design for the coming together, there is a design that governs why that makes sense. That’s to be discussed at another time but I do want to acknowledge that.  

Not only are the man and the woman’s reproductive organs designed to come together and work in concert with one another, but the other biological systems come and start to work as well. The biological systems of the endocrine system get involved. It’s not just the reproductive or endocrine system, but also the nervous system, the circulatory system, and the musculoskeletal system. I think the only body system that is not directly involved is the digestive system. The entire set of body systems is also participating in this process of intimacy and the act of sex. This whole understanding of the fact that when you are in the act of intimacy and sex, every part of you participates in that, then some of the requirements that you see show up in the dance when the two engage, and the fact that it requires so much of you will make sense now that you have that context.  

I know it’s delicate to talk about the sexual act and the act of intimacy. The reason that it’s important to have that backdrop and that understanding is because some of the elements of issues that come up as you participate in the principles of the dance will make complete sense once you draw the parallels between that, and the leading and following, and the giving and receiving. Another thing that I do want to highlight is that not only do we have this biochemical response that comes together. The man and the woman having their corresponding roles and functions in that interaction. You also have to understand when I talk about the anatomical design, the man’s anatomy is designed to give and the woman’s anatomy is designed to receive that thing. The man has his reproductive organ and its designed purpose and function. One of them is to be able to be the corresponding organ to the woman’s reproductive organ. The woman’s anatomical design is to receive the biological organ of another person inside of them.  

That is profound. I think we glossed over that, but that is a reality that we want to look at, especially in dance. When we start talking about giving and receiving, we will see why certain issues arise when that dance is not working well. A woman’s body is designed to receive and accommodate another person’s body part inside of her body. Correspondingly, the literal part of a man’s body is designed to be inside of another person’s body. That is the ultimate act of giving and receiving, lock and key, connection, sharing, and becoming one unit. Even though we perceive it to be a temporary coming together, in the embrace, once you come together, you are becoming a system. That is one of those places where you see man and woman coming together, not only to become man and wife but also to become a system for procreation. Not only creating together literally but creating together figuratively in the world and the community around them.  

22T 9 | Principles Of Tango

Principles Of Tango: Every principle on the leader’s side has a corresponding principle on the follower’s side. Each party is responsible for a key component of that principle that mirrors the other.


We’ve talked about when two become one, they become one system. We talked about how one of the overarching principles that govern the system is that independence gives way to interdependence. There are also two other points of the system that come into play once they become connected. That is the points of connection and the points of transfer. The points of connection mean the places on the body where the embrace occurs because information and energy travel through that point of connection. The way that you come into the embrace, that is a place of connection. Its information. It’s like the cell phone 

It is the way the communication goes back and forth in terms of giving details. The energy is done through points of transfer. The power that propels the couple comes through the sternum, breastplate, core, or belly button. Those are the two places of the transfer. Those that are responsible primarily for transferring the energy from one partner to the next. The specific directions or instructions on how that energy is supposed to move through space and time, what direction, what kind of momentum, and dynamic that energy is supposed to move, that occurs through the points of connection or the embrace.  

Leadership Principles

Let’s get into it. I’ll use the word energy a lot. I don’t mean energy in some woo-woo abstract concept. The idea of energy is the force or power that the man is using to carry the couple through space and time. We’re going to get into the parts of the principle that govern the leader. We’ll then come back and talk about the corresponding element on the follower side. The number one rule of the leader, the governing principle that governs his behavior is to keep the woman safe. Everything that he does needs to do that. Everything that he does or born out of that facilitates the couple being safe. His role and his goal is to keep her safe. All of his decisions are with that in mind.  

If there’s any decision that might compromise her safety, both physical or emotional, then his responsibility to keep her safe is the decision that has the highest priority always in the couple. When he’s moving and he’s making decisions, that is the highest priority. That’s the number one rule. He has to make a choice and one will compromise her safety either physically or emotionally, then the default is whatever is going to keep her safety physically or emotionally, that becomes his choice.  

The gentleman spends 90% of his time walking forward. We talk about the car analogy. She should not remind you of your Jeep. He’s like, “She reminds me of my Jeep.” She’s not the Jeep, but like to use those driving analogies because there is a flow of traffic on the dance floor. In The Anatomy of Tango, we talked about the environment, and the fact that dance moves are a progressive dance in a counterclockwise fashion. The gentleman is moving and facing in the flow of traffic. That’s important because he is moving the couple forward like his safety is moving in the flow of traffic. When he’s driving, it keeps the passengers in the car safe and it keeps the car intact. It also keeps the other cars on the road safe as long as he’s moving easily in the flow of traffic. He rarely is going to go against the flow of traffic because you could compromise not only the safety of everyone in the car and the car, but he could also compromise the safety and wellbeing of any cars that are traveling behind him at any point in time.  

It’s the same way on the floor. I call it Tango tickets when a gentleman has moving violations on the dance floor. If you’re going to be in one of my sessions, you are going to get a Tango ticket for your moving violation. One of the principles that govern the gentleman that we talked about points of connection is that the leader or the gentleman is responsible for establishing the connection. Once she gives you a clear indication of what she’s comfortable with, then you use that information to bring her into your arms and establish the embrace. Once you bring her into your arms based on your height, what’s comfortable, and what you all have decided non-verbally, then she is going to put herself to fit comfortably inside of your arms based on the embrace type that you will choose.  

The gentleman is not only responsible for establishing the connection, but he also is responsible for sustaining or strengthening the connection. As the couple moves through space and time, he’s going to be constantly making adjustments and course corrections in terms of their dance, the embrace, the momentum, and how he’s navigating. As he goes through that process, he also wants to strengthen and fortify the connection that he created at the beginning. Even though he starts with a certain type of connection in the beginning, as he moves through space and time, you may have to make adjustments in order to facilitate the ease of movement of the couple. Also, as they get to know each other better, as she gets more comfortable with him, as he gets more comfortable leading her and vice versa, then they both can make adjustments, and then he can strengthen and fortify the connection.  

Interdependence requires a reorientation on the woman’s part that is different from the reorientation that is required from the man. Click To Tweet

The gentleman is also responsible for providing support consistently for the lady’s body, more specifically her body weight. When she gives him her body weight, she is not just giving him her weight physically. She is also giving him an emotional weight. What I mean by that is in order to give her physical weight and surrender to his lead that requires an element of trust on her part, she is surrendering to him through giving him this emotional weight of trust. Not only is she trusting him, but she’s entrusting him with her safety and wellbeing. Even if it’s for few minutes, it doesn’t matter. This is a big issue for women because so many things can go wrong in a short period of time. That issue of trust and entrusting are big. He must provide support and consistency so that she can continue to grow in her trust with him and entrust him with more of herself.  

The gentlemen must give enough energy, power, and impulse to move the couple through space and time. This is the biggest quantum leaps that a gentleman goes through in the dance other than the safety piece. I know that my experience in coaching gentlemen in the dance is they have an intellectual understanding of what it means to be a leader in the dance, but the experience of having to lead a woman and all that comes with that is a whole other dynamic. I find that when I’m working with gentlemen, a lot of them start out with no idea. They’re like, “She’s pretty. I like her. This is going to be a walk in the park. I’m going to impress her with my moves.” These are the things that are going on in their head. When they actually have to get her in the embrace and they realize the responsibility for her safety is in his arms and hands right then, he has to navigate and negotiate them on the floor, it becomes a whole other experience. It’s the enormity of that responsibility and what that means. The experience of that, the feeling of her in his armsher response, and her uncertainty in his arms, he understands it in a totally different way.  

Power, force, and impulse also become a second element that I see when I’m coaching gentlemen, where it becomes this big light bulb. It’s not only this aha, but it’s this big transformational moment for gentlemen when they understand what it means to become a leader. The reason why this becomes a transformational moment is because most men and gentlemen as leaders, before they become stepped fully into what it means to be a leader, they’re very comfortable with the idea of moving themselves through space and time, taking care of themselves and handle their business. They’re comfortable with the idea of propelling themselves, even something as simple as the act of walking like, “I’ve got this.” They’ve got their stride. They’ve got their swag. They’ve got their Ginga, as they say it in Kizomba. The man has his swag or his Ginga. The way that he rolls through space and time, he’s comfortable with that.  

In the Tango, when he takes on the responsibility of taking on a partner, he has to generate an exponential level of force because he not only has to move himself through space and time, but he has to move her through space and time. He’s got to move both of them through space and time. The amount of power that is needed to move you as a unit is vastly different than just moving yourself through space and time. This is more than the amount and the quantity of power that is needed because the physical structure of the unit as two people is different than one individual walking forward. Now you have two individuals that are focused and literally walking or facing in opposite directions. Both of them that are normally walking forwards, one of them is tasked with walking backwards.  

22T 9 | Principles Of Tango

Principles Of Tango: There’s an actual anatomical design that is inherent within a man and a woman in terms of how they fit together in order to create a unit.


The amount of energy and force, not only in terms of quantity but also in the quality of power, the type of power he has to bring is vastly different. His partner is not only trusting him, but his partner is having to walk backwards in high heels oftentimes. There’s all of that dynamic in play. How he moves through space, even how he walks has to change because it has to take all of these new elements into account. The way he holds his body even has to completely change in order to hold her body weight and still be moving forward, to support her body against his but still be walking in the opposite direction. It’s profound. I love watching gentlemen come into their awareness of what that means. Also, because they come into that new awareness, they also come into a different understanding of what power needs. They realized that power is a whole different dynamic than they ever thought of before when it comes to leadership.  

The gentleman is not only given enough power to move the couple through space and time, but the gentleman has to support, transfer, and move her weight. We’ve already given some imagery on what that means in terms of moving the woman through space and time, especially since we understand that the woman is walking backwards. Walking backwards as simply even with the most practiced of followers is not a natural thing. A woman will only find herself walking backwards for a prolonged period of time when she’s dancing. Outside of the dance space, even if she’s training, she still is spending 99% of her time in life walking forward. Even to train your body to walk backwards for minutes or hours at a time requires a complete reorientation of yourself and disorientation from what is natural and second nature to you.  

We’ve been walking since we were children, since we’ve taken our first steps. That is a natural automatic thing. There’s an automatic way that we move through space and time that the woman has to override to be in the dance. When the gentlemen understand that she has to override her very nature in terms of movement to agree to be in the embrace, there can be a new level of respect and regard of what she has to go through mentally, psychologically, and physically to stay engaged in the embrace, and to have her weight supported, transferred, and moved by somebody else. To have someone else in charge and guiding her weight and her body through space and time without her initiating it.  

Another principle that covers the gentlemen is lead and then follow your lead. It’s like speaking and then listening to make sure that who you’re communicating with is understanding and hearing what you’re saying and then giving them an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. In a typical verbalhealthy conversation invites participation by both partiesIn this case, because the man is speaking, he’s looking to see if the woman understands what he says. He gives her an opportunity to contribute or offer feedback to him, and then also contribute to the conversation herself. You see that circular movement of information, energy, and communication in the dance is all non-verbal. The gentleman is also leading and then following his lead. It’s the other part of that, which is making sure there are understanding, seeking feedback, and then inviting a creative contribution by your follower or your partner for the next phase or step of the dance.  

A follower’s goal is not to make the leader look good, but to make him be good. Click To Tweet

As a leader, the man is already the person who starts and initiates the dance itself. By inviting the woman, he is the one who starts and initiate the coming together of the couple. The gentleman is also responsible for starting and initiating the actual movement of the steps in the first place in the dance, the beginning of the movement of creating the figures. It’s important to understand that so that the lady understands that she is the effect of the cause of him. She’s not to initiate, not to get ahead, or not to back lead. That is the responsibility of the gentleman. The gentleman is not only initiating the movement but he starts to initiate the ideas which is the figures. He is responsible for initiating the ideas. She’s responsible for being a demonstration of those ideas, and also contributing creatively to those ideas. The gentleman is responsible for navigating on the floor. That means the rules of the road and adhering to it. Every once in a while, the gentleman might change directions for a brief period of time like you might see on the road in terms of a U-turn.  

That is an occurrence that should not occur often for the safety of all involved. It’s important for the gentleman to make sure that he’s not only navigating the couple to have fun but he’s being aware of all the other couples on the floor as well. The gentleman creates and he co-creates with his partner. Once he leads, then he’s looking not only for feedback but he’s also inviting his partner’s contribution or response. That is what makes the dance co-creative in nature. The last principle that the gentlemen must understand other than those that we talked about is that he is leading one step at a time. A gentleman may have this vast vocabulary and all of these steps that he wants to try.  

It’s important that the leader becomes presentmoment aware. The gentleman must be in the moment. He can only lead one step at a time, even though the figures and the choreography are a series of steps that make up the final idea that we know of as a figure or a choreography. It’s important that the gentleman stay focused on leading one step at a time and listening through that process. He may need to do things to set up the next idea, but he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself because the dynamic and the conditions of the room are constantly changing. Other leaders are changing ideas, coming up with new ideas, and having their own conversations. Even though a gentleman may have an idea that he wants to lead an ocho on the floor, he may start leading an ocho and then halfway through leading that step or that figure, someone might step in the way or another couple might change directions in a way where he cannot finish leading that figure because there’s somebody else in that space at that time.  

22T 9 | Principles Of Tango

Principles Of Tango: The first governing principle of being a leader is that he needs to keep the follower safe.


He has to either pause, reverse, or lead something different because he no longer has the space available, or the conditions for leading that particular figure or idea are no longer available. The gentleman has to be flexible. The only way that he can be flexible is to stay in the moment with his partner that he stays presentmoment aware. From moment to moment as he’s leading, he’s paying attention to what’s going on with him, his partner, and the floor. He’s making the adjustments and the course corrections that are necessary in order for them to be able to negotiate and navigate the entire experience, and still have fun every step of the way.  

Followership Principles

We’ve been talking about the corresponding principles that govern the man’s part of the dance or the leader’s part of the dance. We’ll now talk about the follower’s role and the principles that govern the follower in this unit that we call the couple or partnership. I love this because we’ve covered quite a few of them going through the principles that govern the leaders. Let’s pivot a little bit and talk about the principles that govern the follower. I tell my ladies when I’m coaching themThe number one goal in your role is once the gentlemen has established the connection, you stay with your man like a white on rice.” That’s her goal, role, and governing principle. Once they’ve established the connection, her number one rule is to stay with her man. Meaning, her goal is now that she has agreed in all that is involved with, agreeing to be in partnership with the man, receive his lead, surrender to his lead, reorient herself to no longer be facing in the flow of things, but to be facing away from the flow of traffic. Trust and entrust him with their safety and wellbeing, in close proximity with himcompletely reorient the way that she understands moving through space and time, and to walk backwards in potentially high heels for long periods of time, doing something that is simply not natural to any woman.  

Once she has agreed to do all of those things requiring her to override the things that are normally more natural to her, to receive his energy and the lead that he’s given, the way that she is able to maintain that agreement is by staying in partnership with him. She has to take on a different understanding of interdependence. Irequires a reorientation on her part that is different from the reorientation that is required from the gentleman. They both are requiring substantially profound tremendous shifts in their understanding of the world, and how they move in the world as they move from independence to interdependence. She also has to take on a different step because she has to reorient her direction. Her physical body has to be reoriented to move in a direction that’s against the way that she normally moves anywhere from 95% to 99% of the time. 

It’s important that the gentleman is sensitive to that because that’s a process that requires training and she has to grow into. It’s something that she has to constantly be working on and working towards in order to continue to stay in that physical state as well as that state of mind. Her number one role is to stay with the man. Once they established the connection, she is there to maintain the connection. That’s the only way that interdependence can continue to exist. It’s after that she’s made the agreement, she continues to maintain the connection. The responsibility for sustaining or strengthening that connection is on the leader. The leader is the one that’s responsible for tasks with making adjustments and course corrections based on his observation of everything that’s going on, and the fact that he’s responsible for navigating and negotiating them through space and time. She is there to enable it, keep it the same, keep it going, and allowing it to continue. The next step for him is to sustain it. He establishes the connection, and she maintains the connection. She enables it to still continue to occur, and then he sustains and strengthens it. That’s the cycle of that particular principle 

He provides support for her consistently. The lady’s principle is that she surrenders her weight to support and lead. He provides support with his body physically and emotionally by giving her a sense of safety in the embrace, letting her know that she can trust him. She surrenders her weight to his lead and his support, trusting him and entrusting him with her wellbeing and safety both physically and emotionally. There’s a lot of trusts that’s involved in allowing someone else entrusting that level of your wellbeing to them, especially in this kind of dance. The gentleman is responsible for giving enough energy, power, and impulse to move the couple. Her corresponding element of that principle is to receive all of the energy and allow it to flow through her. The energy of the man flows to her. It literally flows through her body and makes her body move in ways that result in the figures or steps that we see. He leads it and then the force that’s coming through her body creates these results or outcomes in the forms of steps and other movements. The only way that that occurs is because she allows it freely to flow through her body and allow that outcome to be a manifestation of the energy that she’s experiencing coming in and through her body.  

At the top of this episode, I talked about the anatomical correspondents and how intimate that is because the gentleman is designed anatomically to give and the woman is designed to receive, how much intimacy, and how much trust occurs in the act of giving and receiving when they come together physically. You can see a profound and significant level of intimacy when you have that exchange of giving and receiving energy. For some people, it’s even more intimate experientially than sex to receive all of someone’s energy. Let it flow through your body and then manifest it in the way that it shows up in terms of figures in dance steps and movement through space and time. That’s her corresponding. She has to allow it to flow unhindered and uninhibited. The more unhindered and uninhibited she allows that energy to flow through her, the more beautiful and more accurate the dance and the more in sync the couple is. That’s why the trust and entrusting is so significant because the level of trust that she has in him sets the stage for how freely his energy is allowed to flow through her without any resistance.  

He’s responsible for supporting, transferring, and moving her weight. Her corresponding role is to allow that. She’s also sensitive to the nuance of what he’s doing and allowing it to flow accurately. What do I mean when I say letting it flow accurately? She is responsible for being responsive and sensitive to the instructions and information that’s coming through. Sometimes, that can be a challenge for ladies because ladies have this nurturing and loving spirit that wants the man to be successful. Many women want the men, whether her friend, colleague or partner, to be successful, be proud of what he’s doing, help him out, and do well. If she has some inkling of an idea of what he might be trying to lead, especially in the early stages of the dance, she may try to help him out by fixing it or doing what he’s trying to do as opposed to what he’s leading.  

Her principle is to understand that he needs her to follow him in a pure fashion so that he gets the feedback that he needs to make the corrections that he needs to make to strengthen himself. It strengthens his ability to communicate clearly, proficiency, and level of mastery. If something is not working out, he gets to see it and then he has to make adjustments. It doesn’t help him to make him look good when he’s not doing well because it might hurt you. If his energy is moving in one direction but you’re trying to fix it, you may have put yourself outside of the flow of the energy into someplace that’s unsafe. He may be sending you over here because there’s somebody over here. You may say, “He’s trying to do an ocho.” You step in that direction and take yourself or the couple into harm’s way.  

The other thing is it doesn’t make him successful outside of the couple. If he thinks that he’s doing well in a certain area in private because you’re making it right for him, but then when he goes out into the world and he must perform whether in dance or in any other area but he hasn’t learned that what he’s leading is not the outcome that he is getting. In other words, what he’s leading is not what’s coming out. If you’ve been fixing it for him, then if he goes into another environment, his expectation is he’s got it, when he actually doesn’t have it. You might be weakening him in future experiences because he thinks he’s a great leader. He gets out in another environment where he has to demonstrate his leadership and he’s a horrible leader. He had no idea that he was a horrible leader. It’s important for the ladies not to do that.  

Gentlemen, it’s important for you to be aware that that’s her role. One of the things I love about Tango, one of the reasons that I’ve been able to rise in the ranks as a professional, and one of my claims to fame is that I am world-renowned for being a pure follower like a masterful follower because of the purity of my following. The gentlemen all around the world that I’ve danced with from beginner, professional, to master know that they lead me to do something that what I’m going to do is exactly to the millimeter. I‘m going to do exactly what is led, no more, no less. If he didn’t give me enough energy for that boleohe didn’t give me enough energy for it to pop and fly or it’s not enough power, then that boleo is going to look limp. I’m not going to fix it and make it all nice, crisp and clean. What the gentleman gets from me is a direct and pure reflection of his lead. He not only knows exactly what’s going on but I am in complete step with him because my accuracy also allows me to be in sync with him.  

Another way is if I’m dancing with a leader, my dance as a follower does not look the same way as it does when I’m dancing with a professional. This is important, especially on my followers side because whenever you see a lady, even if she’s a professional and her dance looks the same whether she’s dancing with someone who just started or with someone who’s been dancing many years, there’s a problem there. That lets me know that she has not mastered her following. She should be a mirror or reflection of the lead of her partner. If the gentleman who is a brandnew dancer is struggling to step, it’s not that I’m going to struggle to step but I’m going to be a reflection of all the nuances of him learning. It’s going to show up in how I execute what’s going on. I still have the key principles in place in terms of what it means to lead and followI’m not going to look like a master instructor is leading me if I’m dancing with a brandnew beginner leader.  

You want to be pure in your following and it gives him pure feedback. This is also important for gentlemen because you’ve got to understand that your lady’s goal is not to make you look good. Her goal is to make you be good. She’s not here to make you look good and fake it for you. She’s here to make you better through her feedback whether it’s direct or indirect. She’s here to strengthen you, fortify you, and support you to becoming a greater and greater leader. When you understand that, you will appreciate the feedback you get from her because that is her role in the dance. Her role in the dance in terms of the interaction with you, even though she does provide leadership in a different form, is to give you feedback when you are in the space of leading or generating the power. She’s not only supposed to be sensitive but she’s supposed to be responsive. That will show up in her accuracy. She translates purely. She provides feedback.  

22T 9 | Principles Of Tango

Principles Of Tango: The follower’s number one role is to stay with the leader. Once they established the connection, she is there to maintain that connection.


The last thing that the lady is responsible is executing one step at a time. The gentleman is responsible for leading one step at a time, but the lady is responsible for executing one step at a time. It doesn’t matter how many more steps or ideas she can sense that he wants to leave next. Her role and her goal is to execute one step at a time because that’s all she can do. She can only finish the step that he led so that she can be ready in the right position and alignment to execute the next step. For my advanced dancers, the gentleman knows that he may manipulate that and use the momentum to speed things up. Even if he does, her role is still to execute the step that he led. She is to execute one step at a time each element that he has led, and he’s responsible for negotiating the rest.  

If he led me to take a side step, I’m going to focus on finishing, starting, going through the process, and completing that sidestep. I’m not worried about the pivot and forward step. I’m going to bring that sidestep into technical completion before I’m getting myself, my mind, my body, and my energy ready for the next step. I may sense the lead for it, but I still have to continue the execution of what was already set in motion because there’s an energy that was sent in that direction. If the gentleman led me sideways, he sent energy through me to go sideways. That energy is still traveling sideways until I finished executing what happens before the change of direction of energy occurs. You can begin to visualize that.  

These are the principles and the rules that govern the roles of the unit that is the partnership with Tango. I know that that is an involved, detailed primer of the principles and the rules that govern the role that oversees the partnership. You can already begin to hear a lot of the dynamics that occur in relationship, things that occur naturally, anthings where places break down. When people start asking me questions about whether or not traditional or gender roles are outdated or things like that, I like to bring them back to this. Let’s talk about the fundamentals and the design of things, and then we can get into the other discussion. I’m hoping that what you’ve read has already started to get your wheels turning in terms of the rules that govern the roles of your partnership both on and off the dance floor of your relationships. I’ve been talking with you The Anatomy of Tango, focusing on the principles. As we say on the show, it not only takes two to Tango, but absolutely it takes you to Tango.  

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