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The talk of gender roles, 50/50 responsibility, shared leading and overall equality in forró has been taking off in the past years, riding on the wave of feminism that is (thankfully) spreading across all areas of our society and organisational structures.
We see more and more female leaders and male followers, but we have yet to see a woman whose primary (and initial) role is to be a leader and vice versa.
Why is this?
Is this a problem?
Or is this just the “natural” way of things which should not be messed with?
There are many mixed opinions about this topic and even while writing this, I found it hard to lock down all the points I find relevant or believe in. What I am 100% sure is that these topics need to be discussed. Assuming the way things have always been is the correct way has never brought us very far.
So, let’s give it a try, shall we?
Let’s start with a very important question: We all love forró, right? So, why change it? Men and women are intrinsically different, we think differently, feel differently. Bringing more women/men to the opposite side will inevitably proportionate the right conditions for experimentation and evolution of the dance. We would need some time until this is generalized and asking someone to dance does not come with predefined roles – will this be a mess at first? YES! Is it worth it? HELL YEAH!
– Men are taller
It’s for sure easier to lead a shorter person, but would that mean we should decide who leads and follows based on height? If that was the case, a great majority of male forró teachers/dancers in Europe would be very quickly excluded from the leading role. Moreover, adapting to the other person’s body is part of being a good leader/follower
– Men are stronger
Forró is not an acrobatic dance (apart from some sporadic aerials), a good leader with a good follower search for the perfect balance of contact, direction and “presence”, no physical strength is needed, at all, ever – and this should be taught at every living second of any forró class
– You need to specialise in one role
There’s only so much time to practice the dance you love, but again, that doesn’t define which role to select in the first place, does it? With that said, learning the “opposite role” will for sure improve your main one
– Women only learn how to lead out of necessity
There is still this intrinsically dangerous thought that “Men learn to dance as followers because they want to discover a new side of their dance/get better at dancing” while “Women learn to dance out of necessity – because there aren’t enough leaders” – although there might be some women who started leading for this reason, this doesn’t represent the majority and undermines women as being unable to be interested in all parts of the dance (as men are)
– Men naturally like to lead, women like to follow
This is where things get interesting. We can go off on a 20 page dissertation about what is natural, what is cultural/learnt/imposed/expected, but I feel like the only main point I want to make here is: the ones who do should lead/follow and the ones who don’t naturally fall under their role, should be able to easily, without judgement be able to ONLY choose the opposite role
And this is, no matter how many different views I try to take, how much I try to question and break my beliefs, THIS is where I always end up:
You should be able to choose from the start – without a biased tiny whisper that tells you – “you’re a man? you should lead, you will be seen as weak if you follow, you will not attract women if you follow”, “you’re a woman? you should follow, you’re smaller, weaker, trust us, you will like it more if you let go and enjoy the ride”.
It’s hard, of course, to erase decades, centuries of an ingrained notion that strength/power = leadership, leading and following should not imply any kind of power play, when in dancing we are both aiming towards the same purpose and end goal: having a fantastic dance.
In the end, as we say here in Xiado, you should always “Be whoever you want to be on the dance floor”.
In the classroom
On the dancefloor
Tell us what you think, do you agree? Do you have something to add?
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