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July 16, 2003


Musings on the embrace

Through my personal experiences and observations of other leaders, I have come to realise that for Argentine Tango, as far as leading the dance is concerned, the left arm of the leader does not have much importance. In fact, ideally, the leading should not be initiated by using the left arm alone. The bulk of the leading action is done through the body and the embracing (right) arm, whether we are dancing in a close or open embrace. Well, one can argue of course that arms are in fact not absolutely necessary for leading, but that is for a higher level and not really the point of discussion here.

This is actually not something new to most people, I suppose? However, an additional implication of this simple observation is that (especially after having seen the Tango dancers on the recent trip to Paris and Berlin) some techniques in leading are more universal than others.

By this I mean that some fluid embrace that are suitable for flashy performances (and with a suitably tuned partner I might add) may be totally unsuitable for beginners or someone still unable to follow well. On the other hand, leaders familiar with close embrace seem to have little trouble adapting to dancing the open style.

I wonder if, for a leader in Tango, this means that it is easier to first learn close embrace and then switch to open embrace? Or vice versa?

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1 Comment
  1. Jul 29 2007

    Great question!
    There are many ways of leading, including the chest lead, and leading subtely with arm cues. Some milongueros do one, some do both, some don’t lead at all but dance with intention.

    My opinion, after dancing ten years in Buenos Aires, and now teaching here with my milonguero partner, that it’s best to get a firm foundation in the milonguero close-embrace style before (and if) moving on to more open salon style.

    If you can lead your partner to do improvised steps to the music in a tight embrace, then it’s easier to learn choreography and dancing with distance. It’s more difficult to move from open to close, which tends to freak out a lot of people (especially men).

    And lastly, for sure, when the years pass and you are 60 years old, you will want to return to the comfort and connection of tango in the close embrace, which is all about your partner and the music and nothing to do with athletics, ganchos, or kicks.

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