Apilado (pron: Ahh-Pee-Lah-Do), sometimes you will see this word spelled as 'Apillado' and pronounced as Ahhh-Pee-Sha-Do. They mean the same things. The latter is a bastardized - ahem, Argentine version of the word. In short, this word is the past participle of the verb 'Apilar' which means 'to pile up' or 'to put in a pile'. From a Tango perspective it means to put one's body onto another, or to place your body onto another persons body. This style is the 'iconic' look of tango, the leaning bodies that form an "A" frame between the partners.
This ‘A’ frame was made very popular by Maestro Carlos Gavito when he was El Capitan of the traveling Tango show “Forever Tango” in the 1990’s. It was for effect, not as a way of social dancing. Now and again it can be quite useful, but not as a constant! Not unless you like driving around a ton of bricks! Truthfully though there is always a tiny, small, amount of apilado going on, very, very, very small...VERY small, like as in 1 to 3 millimeters worth! More than that and you are just asking for trouble.
Video: Maestro Carlos Eduardo Gavito con Maestra Geraldin Rojas
From one perspective, it is an ‘embrace’. However this slightly inaccurate. A more accurate way of looking at it, it's style of movement. Sometimes this is done to the extreme for effect to accentuate the Look of Tango, or more importantly the dramatic effect of the musical crescendo.
A question that comes up for some folks is this: “Is this Argentine Tango ?”. And the answer is a qualified “No”. It’s qualified ‘no’ because for some people this is their perception of what encompasses Argentine Tango. This laying body on body in the extreme. So we have to include this in the definition. 🙁 However, most of us that dance socially, day-in and day-out, thankfully, this is not Argentine Tango.
Truthfully almost no one actually dances like this socially. Why ? a.) it's uncomfortable as all hell on multiple levels when done to the extreme, and improperly, in some cases. b.) it takes up an inordinate amount of space within the line of dance and does not work on crowded floors. c.) it's generally performed improperly and invariably there's an injury, usually for the Follower! and last but not least d.) when Gavito died it fell out of fashion. Can this form or style of the dance be used in the line of dance ? Yes, but only if there's lots of space for it. Does it need to be a constant ? No.
The Tango Topics Opinion: Apilado should only be used very sparingly, and you should rightfully learn this from a series (not one) of professionals that use this stance in their dance or performances. In short, do not try this at home unless you are under the care and feeding of a qualified instructor! And even then practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, for several months, and when you're done with that...keep practicing it privately for a few more months before you take it out of the lab and put it on the floor at a practica, and then much later on a milonga, where you pull this out once and then let it go! It's spice, or accent, not the entire dance!