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June 15, 2007


Evolution of the embrace

Once upon a time, all Tango dancers in Singapore danced in an open embrace.

Fast-forward to present, close embrace dancing is the norm rather than the exception during a typical milonga.

Speaking for myself, I can clearly remember the first time a girl (she was already an experienced dancer at that time) came very close to me, and this was within the first two months – no formal classes and before my first workshop – of my Tango journey, I was literally petrified! Come on, what was I supposed to do? There was simply no space to move. 🙂

The first inkling of personal acceptance (or, more appropriately, “acclimatisation” to) of dancing in close embrace came during Esteban and Evelyn’s workshop in 2003. Esteban introduced a very relaxed close embrace which I still use today from time to time. This was a comfortable embrace that was closed on one side (man’s right) and slightly open on the man’s left, and could still allow a little space between the couples, as typified by Julio and Corina. The most significant transformation took place during my 3-day trip to Berlin, after which my Tango was never the same – for the better, I may add. This was the time when I mysteriously modified and adopted the right embrace to accommodate the crowded dance floor and to be able to dance with total and at time, bulkier, strangers.

The search for the “perfect” embrace then continued with the arrival of Jean-Michel and Royce in 2004 when I really got a taste of the milonguero embrace. It was fortunate that subsequently a few teachers (see my list of teachers who have visited Singapore) typifying this style of dancing happened to pass through Singapore, which helped to clarify some of the concepts in my mind. And finally in 2007 we were very fortunate that Hsueh-tze Lee (March) and Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse (May) accepted our invitations to conduct workshops in Singapore. They are definitely top-class teachers who are in the best position to pass on the intricacies of dancing with strong connection.

Community-wide, between the beginning of Tango in Singapore in 1999 to the present day, something must have happened, no?

While this is over-simplifying a little, out of the current crop of dancers, the bulk of the slightly more experienced dancers (having danced between 2 to 3 years) were transformed during the period after the arrival of Jean-Michel and Royce, who held regular milongas in their temporary residence that had a small dance area; the tradition of enforcing good navigation on the dance floor has continued after the opening of IXI Danza, adhering to most of the traditional milonga codes. Majority of the remaining and newer people with 1 year’s experience came into contact with close embrace and became comfortable more or less as a result of the “Hsueh-tze effect”, and subsequently experiencing the mastery of Javier and Andrea.

It still amazes me to observe a growing maturity of the local Tango community in naturally choosing the most efficient embrace for dancing. For a predominantly Chinese Singaporean society that is supposed to be slightly reserved, most dancers have actually taken to close embrace like duck to water. It is apparent that close embrace is the embrace of choice, not something learnt in workshops and forgotten, unlike many other things. I guess there is a deeply felt connection that we all yearn for, somehow, which can be found by dancing close to another human being.

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1 Comment
  1. Jun 20 2007

    Hi YY, it’s interesting how dance changes with time. I wanted to drop by to let you know that Michele Kadison, a long-time Tango dancer in Buenos Aires, published a great, personal piece on the “Tango Metaphor” today, and I think you and your readers would be interested in it.

    Let us know what you think!

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