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!