Breaking Gender Roles

A friend sent me a link to TED Talks and the concept of LIQUID LEAD DANCING which questions the concept of stronger, taller, masculine men leading the weaker sex across the dance floor.

If you are unfamiliar with ‘liquid lead dancing” as espoused by Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox, take a look at the TED Talks video which I am having a heck of a time embedding in my blog. Rather than shoot myself, it would less bloody if you were to take a moment and go to Google. Your key words are ‘TED Talks liquid lead dancing’ I’ll also post video on my Facebook page.


I took all of today’s photos on London’s Southbank during their annual Tango Festival.

In a “liquid lead,” the partners take turns. One partner and then the other seamlessly takes the lead on the dance floor. Instead of listening to one long monologue, the dance is more of a conversation between two equal people. In terms of gender equality, this more balanced approach is counter to the outdated convention that men lead and women follow.

My experience on the dance floor has been mixed. With a good partner, I am more than happy to follow. But with a poor partner (typically one who dances, emboldened by alcohol, only at weddings and bar mitzvahs) dancing is less enjoyable. Too often, shuffling about in a vacuum and lacking leadership,  I have heard my partner disparagingly hiss, “If you want to lead, LEAD!”

pope-tango-10-012Mistakenly I assumed that most women had dancefloor experiences similar to mine. No so. Running this video and my experience past my daughters, they struggled to know what I was talking about. Their lack of context could be attributed to their youth. Maybe they were never part of the slow dance generation: maybe the issue only pertains to women of a certain age.

And given my age and gender, when my partner would confront me with my pushy, unladylike behavior, I would give in. Biting my lip, I would silently think, “If you knew how to lead, I would happily follow!”

Copp and Fox think that that model of she cant be taller or bolder… he dictates and she reacts is part of outdated, gender training. “When we dance with a consciousness, we are taking care of each other.”

Watching the video, I was reminded of watching Tango on the Southbank during my London years. This year’s tango festival is April 28 -May 1. (Book you flights today! A shame if you miss it because you dallied.) In addition to formal tango workshops and competitions, dancing the tango is on-tap for passersby’s. Its a Flashmob sort of thing in that a group of strangers gather together in a public space to perform and then suddenly disperse.

pope-tango-10-018Far from the glitz, athleticism and professionalism of “Dancing with the Stars,” Tango aficionados and passerby’s gather on the Southbank to dance in the afternoon. It is a mixed group of ages and abilities. Novices equal the number of the trained dancers. Sweat suits hold their own against those dressed to impress. Dancing on the Southbank feels like a group-hug.

Prior to the common folk coming to the floor, the musicians take their place, and a professional couple steps on the court. The most amazing dance I’ve ever seen (and one in keeping with the notion of liquid dancing) had the couple standing yards and yards apart.

pope-tango-10-016When the music started, the couple (Tango stepping on their own) moved closer together and then back. The partners continued the pattern of advance and retreat while incrementally moving closer with each advance. As the music concluded, the couple touched. Their touch was not a passionate embrace; rather, it was just a touch – a signal: Let’s begin! Everything prior to that touch was flirtatious foreplay. That was dance!

Closer to home, closer to a small town, politicized population, we talk about crossing the great divide. I’m thinking that Contra Dancing is the answer. If you don’t know contra dancing, it is sort of like square dancing, but instead of forming a square, the dancers form two lines facing one another. The musicians play; the caller calls; and the dancers follow, but with the completion of each figure, one line moves left and each dancer faces a new partner. The West Custer County Library has a Contra Dancing DVD or you can check it out online thanks to Google.

If anyone wants to give it a go, get in touch.
















About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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8 Responses to Breaking Gender Roles

  1. marilynjh says:

    How I loved attending tango performances by Maria Benitez in Santa Fe and Denver in the 80s and 90s!

    • timeout2 says:

      You know everyone, Marilyn. Find someone to teach a tango class in Westcliffe. Nothing too fancy – just the basics. I am way too old for Dancing with the Stars!

  2. Elizabeth L. French says:

    I have always had trouble with that. It’s because as a pre-teen, watching American Bandstand, I would dance with my younger, shorter sister. So of course, I took the lead. Then, as a teen, we were into dances like the twist and the jerk. No partner needed. Now, I’m into belly dance. And, when Willson and McKee are in town, Celtic called dancing. Is that similar to Contract Dancing? I do love me some dancing!

    • timeout2 says:

      I do love me your across-the-pond phrasing. Celtic dancing is probably the roots of Contra dancing. Google Contra and take a look. The Contra dancing DVD at the library is very good. If I can find someone to help me pull off a local contra dance , I’ll be sure to call you.

  3. Bar Scott says:

    Good morning Doris.

    As always I enjoyed your post especially since I’d seen the video. I showed the video to Brent who loved he dancing but didn’t really get the gist of the political statement and the significance of roles we all assume — not always for the best. He’s a guy, a big, white guy so in some ways his view is a skewed without his realizing it. I don’t think he knows how much power he’s had without a fight. Understandable, and he’s a good man with a fair heart, but there are some blind spots…

    To CS for Donna hood’s b’day party tonight. Thinking about going back Monday night for a gospel dance and concert. Interested? I’m gonna go and come back efficiently since Brent’s out of town.

    Writing Monday morning too. A good life.

    Love Bar

    Sent from my iPhone


    • timeout2 says:

      Gospel dance and concert! If you go, count me in! Writing Monday morning. As for the gender politics of of ‘liquid lead,’ even Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox didn’t realize the implications until someone brought it to their attention.

  4. Life & Times says:

    It has been so long since I have danced a couple dance . I never contemplated the many innuendos in couple dancing.
    I always loved dancing when I had a good partner. However, I am capable of leading or following. 😉 I enjoyed the memories your blog brought to me – I never considered the gender issues til now (tho the subtle undertones may be the reason I have refused to dance with some).

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