Embrace like a lover, dance like the wind
The title of this post sounds like a poetry, but having a nice tango embrace is like writing poetry or painting. It comes from the heart and you can not fake it. It reveals who you are and it takes some cultivating to be able to show what is inside of you.
In this post I am going to show you what can you do to improve your embrace. Some of these things are natural and most of us know them instinctively. On the other hand, many are not, and many people have trouble to accept them. I recommend you to try them anyway. Who knows, maybe they will open new horizons for you?
There are two types of tango dancers. One, the ones who came for the moves, they enjoy to be seen, they see tango as a kind of a sport. This post is probably not for them. I write here for the second group, the huggers. These people see in tango much more than just physical movement, they see connection, meditation, passion, interacting with other human being.
One of the most visual characteristic of tango is its embrace. According to one theory, tango embrace is like this because it was created by the immigrants – people who left their families and loved ones and came to Argentina in hope they will get rich. Lonely and disappointed, they found refuge in the warmth of the tango embrace.
The famous tango poet Enrique Santos Discépolo said that tango is a sad feeling you can dance to, and Osvaldo Natucci in this lecture said:
Tango is something else. Tango is melancholic sensuality.
And this is why it will never be something which is accepted and danced by everyone.
OK dear huggers, let me now explain how can you have a better embrace. There are many aspects of a good embrace. Here I will explain 4 of them: using your center and not the hands, using the axes, respecting the balance points and following.
1. Use your center, not your hands – The primary function of the hands in the embrace is hugging. Every other reasons you might use your hands will be secondary. Of course, many people use their hands for communication, but you can not do that without sacrificing some of the comfort and sweetness of your embrace.
There are some moves when helping with hands actually makes your dance better, but be aware that those are exceptions and the more you do them, the worse you embrace becomes.
Instead using your hands try to connect with your center of the balance. That is the point in your body that stands right above the point where you put your weight on. It takes some guidance and experience to become aware of your center – the simplest advice I can give you right now is to search for it somewhere in your middle part of the body, near your stomach.
The ideal communication would be if your center touches the center of your partner – that way the informations will travel directly and undisturbed, and the unity of the bodies would be complete.
2. Have one, not separate axes – It has been said that tango couple is four legged animal with two beating hearts. But this goes far beyond a nice sounding saying – dancers very often actually achieve that. Here’s how!
First, in order to create one body out of two – partners have to be able to give up their own body – and their own balance. You can not make omelet if you do not brake the egg 🙂
Second, giving up the balance does not means that partners melt and lose their axes. It is like love – you can not have true love if you lose yourself. Partners has to be able to stay straight and keep their body center in order to connect.
Third, you have to be able to share the axis. This means that when you dance you lean on the partners body, using his/hers legs as your own.
Does it seems complicated? Yes, because it is. It takes somewhat of experience and technical knowledge to achieve this. And most important it takes trust. The perfect analogy is the everlasting metaphor of love – you give your heart to your lover, you lean and if he/she is not dancing with you it might fall on the floor.
3. Respect the balance points – Why is standing on one leg harder than standing on both? Because when you lift up one of the legs you are puling it out of your balance point. Balance point (or zero point) is the place on the floor where your wait is pressing down.
When babies learn to walk they actually learn how to recognize the zero points. The simple walk is a perpetual getting out and returning to your zero point. It is so natural to us that we are not even aware of it.
The complications came when you make one body our of two – when you dance tango. This new body has different zero points than our own, and the fact that there are four legs involved makes things even more complicated.
I analyzed how bodies move when people dance and I developed system that helps dancers learn this very quickly. The main principle is to be able to step very near to the feet of the partner, to the place where he/she would usually place his/hers foot in the normal walk.
But why is this important for the embrace? Because not respecting the balance points will pull you too far or too close to your partner, which will cause many problems: destroying your posture, pushing or pulling with hands, opening the embrace and so on.
My students spend no time learning how to have a good posture. They find out about that concept from other teachers – not because I do not want to teach them, but because they do not need it. If you learn this part right (together with communication trough the center), you will never have problem with your posture.
4. Follow her (for men) – And now the hardest part. My experience thought me that most of the time this has nothing to do with learning tango – it has to do with your personality. Tango face you with who and how you are – and it reveals you to the others as well.
The best advice I have to give to the male dancers is to learn how to follow the partner. Of course, the men are responsible to improvise the choreography in the moment of dancing, but good dancing is always two way communication.
The leaders in life can not be good leaders if they just give orders. If you want to lead you have to know what others feel and think, you have to read others.
Let me quote the tribe chief from the “Emerald Forest” (1985) when he was asked to move his tribe from the forest:
If I tell a man to do what he does not want to do, I am no longer chief.
If a man leads the woman in his embrace to do something she is not feeling comfortable or she do not like, he is not longer a good dancer. In order to be a good leader man has to follow her heart. He has to become a follower. And yes, the emotional lead of the couple always belongs to the woman, she is the leader there. This is one of the reasons why I avoid the use of the terms ‘leader’ and ‘follower’.
How can this help your embrace? There is nothing worse than forcing a woman in your embrace to do something she does not feel comfortable with. It feels rigid and often will take some physical effort to do that. Embrace should never feel like wrestlers grip.
5. Follow him (for women) – Following the man in the dance (it goes for life as well) is not just following the movements. Of course the girl can repeat the patterns she expect, but this is not actually tango. The real communication comes from the heart.
My experience tells me that this is the biggest barrier the women must overcome in order to become good dancers. If she achieve this everything else will be very easy.
But what does it means? In tango things are not shared equally. The men and the women have completely different roles. Men has to create choreography in the moment and make it correspond to the music, the women has to let her heart feel the partner and enable the transmission of the communication to her body.
To be honest, this is one of the biggest problems I face in tango. I can teach the girl proper technique and I can lead them well, but what they do with that is up to them. It is easy if a woman is self confident and can connect with people – the problem is when my student is someone who is unsure of herself, distrusting, can not give up control etc. She has to give up her shields, which is not easy at all.
There are many methods to help her – and many are connected to ability to feel the moment, not to think about what is next and what was before.
But why is this important for a nice embrace? Because if woman can not follow most of the time she will use her hands, sometimes even physically leading the partner – and this destroys the embrace: for him, and especially for her.
In the end I want to remind you that tango can be very sensual, but it is not the embrace itself that produces that sensuality. The feeling comes from the overall experience which goes beyond the dance.
If you liked this post share it with your friends, so they can benefit from it too. Check out for more similar articles on my blog. Share your thoughts in the comment section bellow or write to me here.
photo by Sergio Scandiuzzi ©