After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't Fear It, Embrace It!

This popular debate on the internet Tango-L is a bit like clerics in the Middle Ages arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. How close is a "close embrace?" And what the heck is an "open embrace?" And if you dance close, does that mean you have to go for coffee afterwards?

I believe the term "close embrace" as it relates to tango was coined by a native English speaker to distinguish it from the "hold" of ballroom. But an embrace is an embrace. Do you "embrace" someone at arm's length in normal life?

The tango embrace, even though you may not know or care about the person, is the same position as embracing someone you love. It's not the person you love, but the music. And it is the dance position of tango. You want to dance tango? You assume the position. It doesn't mean more than that and there's nothing to be afraid of.

The milongueros of Buenos Aires know this. It is true, however, that some may try to take advantage of a foreign woman's rush of emotion at being in such intimacy with a man who seems to find her so desirable. Perhaps where she comes from the men are "afraid" to embrace her fully, afraid that she will think he is "interested" in her for other reasons, or back home the man himself is afraid of his own emotions when he has a woman in his arms.

So many people get all riled up about what does it mean to dance so close, how much do they have to like the person to be so close, they have to really know well the person they clasp to their chest, etc.

It's a dance, folks, not matrimony! Just a five minute commitment to forget yourself in the arms of someone while you move in harmony to the music.

In my experience as a tango dancer and teacher, many "foreign" dancers, especially those from Anglo-Saxon traditions, are indeed afraid of the embrace. It has to do with our personal space, which unlike latino and arab cultures, is much wider. People from "English" cultures are not used to being that close to someone who is not their sweetheart or beloved relative;  sometimes their emotions get all confused after a tanda of moving together as one, hugged so dearly by a stranger.

Print by Elizabeth Brinton

The embrace is the position for dancing tango--it's the base for all of the emotions and feelings that arise from the music and being connected, not only to your partner and the music, but to the Universe.

There is no such thing as an "open embrace." If you can stampede a herd of elephants between the couple, there is no embrace.

Tango is danced heart to heart. The beating of two hearts united together is the rhythm of tango. Two hearts, four legs = 2 x 4 = Tango.

As studies have proven over and over again, the embrace is good for your health. Hugs are healthy for your heart and good for your soul. You don't need a Free Hug in the street. You can dance tango until dawn and go home full of endorphins, feeling cured of all that previously ailed you.
Painting by Jan Rae

I'm not going to say as others have, just go and dance salsa, swing, or something else if you don't want to embrace your partner! People of course can dance how they like, but dancing tango without the embrace is missing out. Why fear it? Use it, luxuriate in it, enjoy it!


....... said...

I love this. When I was teaching, I'd always have my students just give each other a huge hug before having them dance together. I think sometimes a hug can be incredibly dynamic in exactly the same way that the abrazo is and just as wonderful, warm and comforting!

sunny said...

I too have done Tango dancing and found
It very much a connection dance which
without the embrace and closeness
it would be pointless...

I have done for years a West Indian dance
to reggae music called the rub or grind
It's a highly provocative dance, much more
intimate than Tango is.. Maybe sometimes eyebrows
can be raised how sexy the dance can
done but this is a dance! simple as that
nothing more or less. There for 2 people to
enjoy a rhythm to ..

If two people fancy each other after a
dance then it's easier to understand that an
aura between them exists and is
there to be explored if they wish to..

I say enjoy the embrace and forget hang ups :)

Jacky said...

"It's a dance, folks, not matrimony! Just a five minute commitment to forget yourself in the arms of someone while you move in harmony to the music".... Yeah !!!
Very well said Cherie !

sunny said...

A dance is a dance, when two people are in that moment they share something special.

After that the dance is on more, the moment
has gone, just be patient and wait for the
next dance.

Making an assumption that this is going
to take off into marriage means, it's am illusion
going on in that persons head.

Only this week a friend thought that
after a great dance with a cute man,
plus their warm moment together meant,
I fancy you.

She's not heard from him, so it was only
a dance in his mind.

Keep the 2 things separate and
disappointment is not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Hey Cherie,
Missed you at the group this week. I finished Buckaneers..really enjoyed it! I'm thinking of downloading Anne of Green Gables and passing it to you so you watch some Canadian drama..hehe
I enjoyed this is difficult to surrender to that 'embrace'..but that is why I love Argentina so much. To be able to practise this all the time..

Christy Day said...

Loved loved LOVED your Don't fear it, Embrace it! blog. So many truths at so many levels.