Gorgeous women, slobby men
The women are gorgeous - why don't men make the effort?
I first came across the Argentine Tango social dance scene in the mid-1990s. I was at a salsa venue in Brixton (the Loughborough Hotel, now alas closed), which had a tiny Tango salon / chill out lounge area. My first impression of the dance scene was of a set of gorgeous women in drop-dead outfits and killer shoes, dancing almost at will around a bunch of predominantly-older men, who for their part seemed to just stand there looking bored, and let the women dance around them, to music which had no obvious rhythm or timing. Oh, and Clive James tried to chat my bird up there, also.
From my then-perspective (as an experienced Modern Jive and Salsa dancer), the whole thing looked strange, and I could see very little point to any of it - it didn't attract me. Several of my salsa friends were seduced by Tango around that time, and I couldn't understand that either. Why would anyone leave salsa for Tango?
Fast forward 10 years
Some years on, I can look back at these first impressions with a certain degree of embarassment. I was wrong on almost every count.
What I mistook for freestyle walking was elegant and graceful dancing. The men weren't bored, they were focussed. The women weren't making it up, they were being led at every step. The music did have a beat, and a rhythm.
However, I was right in one thing (well, two, counting Clive James). The men were indeed older, and the women were indeed gorgeous. And they still are.
All shapes and sizes
In Modern Jive, people come in all shapes, sizes, races and ages.
If you look here, it seems that most Modern Jivers are in their 30s-40s. Based on observations, there also doesn't seem to be a vast difference in ages between men and women within Modern Jive. From an ethnicity point of view, the evidence is more scarce, but this seems to suggest that Modern Jive dancers are mostly ethnically White British.
In Tango, the demographics seem different. Whilst I don't have any hard data, in the London venues I've been to, I've noticed that the leaders either are older, or look older, than the followers. As a very very rough guess, and based purely on my own observations, I'd say that the women are generally slightly younger than average in MJ (on average, in their 30s), whereas the men seem to be, on average, slightly older (maybe 40s-50s).
And whilst most Tango dancers seem to be predominantly ethnically white or Latino, there also seem to be a lot (relatively) of ethnically Oriental women at Tango milongas - a far higher percentage than in Modern Jive, definitely. Although the ethnographics of different dance scenes are a separate discussion.
And all gorgeousBut one thing I've noticed in all milongas is that the women mostly make greater efforts to dress up than in Modern Jive, and mostly look better.
Women always make more efforts to look good than men do of course, in any partner dancing scene I've experienced. The average man in MJ is thought posh if he wears a good T-shirt. And it's true that Modern Jive dancing is not really suited for drop-dead skintight dresses with thigh-high slits, or 4" Comme il Faut shoes. But that's enough about my outfits...
It's also true that dancing with Tango posture will usually enhance your looks - compared to Modern Jive, where posture is either optional or a dirty word.
There may also be a "scarcity" competition factor at play; the abundance of followers at most Tango venues, or the scarcity of men, means that we guys don't really have to make an effort to get to dance. Or, possibly, we're just inherently slobs.
It may be a combination of all of these things - outfits, posture, youth, quality of movement - which make women in Tango so gorgeous. Long may they remain so. Now, where'd I put that T-shirt...
- David Bailey