Lessons from Salsa and Tango

I haven't talked about this on the blog at all, but guess what, I have been learning salsa and tango for a good few weeks now. I'm not really a "dance person" with requisite coordination or grace per se, but I do like learning skills. Despite having lots of fun at this Latin dance club that I went to with friends in Greece over the summer, I remember feeling so stupid and clumsy surrounded by more experienced dancers on the dance floor.

Lately, my instructor for both salsa and tango, Daniel, has been talking a lot about the different gender roles in dance, between the roles of the leader and the follower, the difference between the role of the males and the females etc. I won't go into that too much here (unless you want me to!) since what I found most interesting about his talk in relation to style and fashion, is the social aspect of dancing. The kind of tango we have been doing so far is the Argentine tango, which is different from ballroom dancing in that it is all improvised. Unlike ballroom tango that relies on flair and pizzazz to bedazzle the audience, Argentine tango is mostly about the chemistry between you and your partner alone. The older more experienced couples usually dance only the basic steps (with a trick thrown in from time to time as an "inside joke" between the two), since really everyone and everything else is secondary. What elevates Argentine tango to an art form depends on how "good" your partner feels to you and vice versa. Having spent 20+ years in Argentina perfecting his dance, Daniel has a lot of wonderful insights to share. The first being that in the past, one can expect that most gents could dance a little. Traditionally, people have learnt to dance through their elders and then practiced at social gatherings (both formal and informal). Due to the war and the unstable government that followed (he didn't specify about the latter, but I'm guessing PĂ©ron?), a whole generation of men did not get the opportunity to grow up learning to dance. This, coupled with more gender equality and changing ideas on gender roles in modern day society, makes it harder than before to judge whether someone would make a good dancing partner purely based on looks. You would think a seemingly worldly, smartly dressed, older gentleman would make the best dancer, but you could be very off. Likewise, the sloppily dressed younger dude might seem to be a poor dancer, though he could very well dance his pants off. There is no longer a clear signal for who would "feel" good as a partner, despite "looking" the part.

I like how this relates to style and fashion, because I firmly believe in order to look good, you must "feel" good about yourself. You can take this in many ways, whether it is feeling more comfortable in your own skin, a particular piece of garment and how it feels to you, or more literally against the popular beauty mantra of the day: il faut souffrir pour etre belle. Perhaps you feel more confident in wearing heels, or maybe you prefer flats – it doesn't matter. As long as you are honest with yourself, why should it matter to anyone else? It's not that I would like to dance with a complete schlubb (who would?), but sometimes it can be easy to forget what makes us "feel" good in favour of what just looks good. 

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