London’s queer tango circuit blazes trail for Strictly Come Dancing’s same-sex couples

Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood revealed that the hit BBC show is planning to introduce same-sex couples in the next couple of seasons.

But same-gender tango has been thriving in south west London for years.

The city’s same-sex tango circuit, also known as queer tango, was launched by Lora Hudson back in 2005.

The 57-year-old, who is of Jamaican descent, teaches Argentine tango in both regular and same-sex varieties in Clapham as well as in north London.

She was voted Dance Teacher of the Year 2008 by industry magazine Business & Leisure and her current Clapham class is still going strong, with nine new members at the last meeting.

Lora, who has been doing regular tango for 16 years, believes the closeness of the embrace is key to the success of the dance, which has exploded in popularity since Strictly.

“It is a different and beautiful way of moving – you speak with the whole of your body,” she explained.

“It is full of all the things that human beings should be doing with each other on a day-to-day basis.”

One of Lora’s former students, Paul Southwood, who has been dancing for 15 years, started dancing queer tango three years ago.

The 29-year-old integrative psychotherapist from Putney also competed in ballroom for the University of London and won the group dance title in Weston-super-Mare in 2005.

His dance background includes Strictly staples such as the foxtrot, quickstep, jive and cha-cha, but he wanted to try out same-gender tango for a challenge.

It was also a chance to partner and dance with his friend Tom, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“The uniqueness of queer tango comes from the fluidity of roles throughout as the leader can change several times,” he said.

“Tango is a traditional, historical dance that has a present resonance because by dancing it you increase your mindfulness – embracing the present moment and the music to express yourself with a partner.”

Paul says it is about time that Strictly bosses included same-sex couples.

He said: “I think it would be a good public representation that it is fine to dance with whomever you like and it can be done.

“At the end of the day, dance is about expression and creativity.

“You can’t be creative if you are only dancing within confines, be they gender or something else.”

Lora agreed it is a good move, but is a little more sceptical as she believes the show is a superficial take on the reality of ballroom dancing.

“I know professional dancers who would wipe the floor with those on Strictly,” she said.

“But it is a good way to expose kids to the idea that same-gender tango is possible.”

Both stressed the benefits of queer tango for everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation.

Paul believes queer tango gives the LGBT community a way to interact, while also allowing for heterosexual people to express themselves without the need for gender-specific roles.

“It is the dance that offers the most freedom of expression,” he explained.

“It means talking and dancing with people you don’t know so it improves social skills too.”

As well as the health and social benefits which extend to any dance, Lora added that queer tango has an aesthetically-pleasing quality – for both viewer and dancer – and that the challenge of the dance itself is rewarding.

“You can’t do a course in six weeks and expect to be a tango aficionado,” she said.

“You need to be serious about your commitment to the learning process.”

As for advice on taking those first steps into queer tango, Paul advises people just to go for it, especially as most taster classes are free.

He said: “I would recommend it to anyone. Dance has got something to teach everyone.”

Meanwhile Lora’s ambition is to get the whole country dancing tango.

“I want to see tango everywhere, not just in salons,” she said. “People from every background, every age – I would love that!”

Lora holds classes in the Plough Studios, on Park Hill Road just off Clapham Park Road.

For more information, email [email protected]

Picture courtesy of Lora Hudson, with thanks

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