25 Feb 2008

The In-s, Out-s & In-Betweens of the Embrace

In the present moment, Feb 2008


After these months in BA to date, what have I observed about the makings of a good embrace?

My thoughts today are not focused on the technicalities of the embrace: such as the merits of full chest-to-chest vs. a v-shape chest contact, or which direction the heads should face etc etc.

What I am interested in is a lot simpler than the complex dissections found in some of the forum discussions.

Before starting on this topic, here is a interesting observation about the ambience of the traditional milongas here. In striking contrast to the rushed pace of this frantic, restless city, nobody is much in a hurry in the milongas in Buenos Aires (at least among the portenos). Veteran milongueras, the women strike leisurely poses and nonchalant-charm. Perhaps taking extra care not to betray any anxiety or desperation for a dance.

Nobody starts dancing the second the music starts. Everybody chats amicably for a bit while waiting for the couple ahead to start off on the tango merry-go-around.

This attitude of unhurried composure is directly translated into the tango embrace.

Starting the Embrace: The In-s
The first step is moving into each other’s embrace peacefully. An air of quiet reassurance from the man says to the lady, come to me and trust me.

The leader sense that the lady has settled physically into the embrace before moving off. Leaders, if your partner has not settled into your embrace before you decide to move off, the jarring sensation would be felt immediately by both. A surprising start is perhaps not the best foundation for the tanda ahead.

Todo Tranquilo para Bailar I (For the Men)
Setting this tone of calm for the dance is important. Maestro Javier Rodriguez once said in a class, the gentleman should hold the lady in his arms like a baby during the dance.

What does Javier mean with this analogy? Think about about how it would feel. We would hold a baby securely in our arms, not in a tentative or frail manner (as if the baby will drop from our arms at any minute). Yet the hold is gentle, since we are not attempting a strangle-hold on the (poor) baby.

During the dance, we would take care to create a comfortable environment. Not to unduly startle the baby with sudden movements without adequate preparation to mark the move. The baby feels safe, secure and happy. Likewise gentlemen, it will be so for the ladies!

Todo Tranquilo para Bailar II (For the Ladies)
Ladies, the man has many responsibilities to take care of to dance with us. It is not an easy task. The important thing for us ladies is to remember to be relaxed in the embrace. By this, I don’t mean that the body turns to jell-o. While in this relaxed state, the core muscles sustaining our middle remains active. We hold ourselves and our own axis.

Tension or nervousness will be transmitted to our partner and make the man’s job to lead harder. This is very easily felt in the embrace. Vice versa for the men, of course.

Relax the mind so that we can better listen to what the men is communicating to us. Since I am a strongly visual person, it is my personal preference to close my eyes to reduce visual distractions. At least here in Buenos Aires, porteno ladies young and older keep their eyes open, or close as they please. So there is really no “rule” about this.

Beware the In-Betweens!
Leaders, don’t latch onto your partner throughout the break between songs in a tanda. The dance is over after the song ends. Now is the time to make social chit-chat, especially since the milonga is a social occasion to get to know your dance partner.

More importantly, doing so often implies an intimate intention. Not even real life couples hang onto one another for dear life during the break between songs within the tanda.

Ending the Embrace: The Out-s
Coming out of the embrace is a natural and mutual separation between the man and the woman. There is nothing very challenging or profound about it.

Once at Maipu 444, I danced a tanda with a tango visitor who had a most disconcerting way of dropping the embrace so fast, it felt as if we parted before the last note has ended for each song. Since this visitor cabaceo me for another tanda later, I concluded that the dancing was not objectionable.

Although I am sure he didn’t meant to be rude, his style of rapid separation gave the impression he does not know how to take care of a woman’s feelings or understand the mutual sharing during the dance.

It is possible to sense many things about our partner during dance. The overall impression I received from this gentleman is that the woman is simply a means to an end to dance tango.

Frankly, this is a terrible thought.

So what is the fundamental ingredient that makes an embrace?

Besides dancing close-embrace, I have had some excellent dances here in Buenos Aires in either open or semi-open embrace too, with shared mutual connection and enjoyment. There is no faking this feeling.

My final thoughts on the embrace is this:

Just because a couple choose to dance in close embrace does not automatically equate to a connection. This is merely form. It is what you give to one another and to the dance, genuinely. This is essence.

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