'Pseudo' Close Embrace
Close Embrace. It is the hallmark of the dance. It is what gives Argentine Tango its iconic look and feel. At the same time, the embrace creates more problems than it is seemingly worth sometimes. One issue that happens at the beginning for most leads AND followers, is the space issue that a lot of people have. That space, and really intimacy, issue that happens generates problems for both roles not just the one. The issue is what we sometimes refer to as “Pseudo Close Embrace”.
From A Following Perspective, let’s get right down to the nitty gritty on this one - there are a whole host of reasons why you don’t want to engage in close embrace. Here are just a few - 1.) The Lead you’re dancing with has bad breath. 2.) They haven’t showered in a pigs age. 3.) They’re sweaty, as in dripping sweat. 4.) They’re being really awkward. 5.) They’re acting strange. 6.) Their sexual energy is really off-putting, in a negative way. 7.) They’re known to have a compressive and restrictive embrace. Etc. There almost as many reasons to not go into close embrace as there are grains of sand on a beach. Ok, maybe not that much but there are a lot of reasons. Still one more that comes to mind is that you have never felt comfortable in close embrace. No one has actually taught you how to, because as far as it seems to you every Lead (the person, not the action) that you dance with or have danced with seemingly has some weird thing they do with regards to close embrace, one squeezes you to tight, still another talks to you while you’re trying to dance, another asks for ‘resistance’, still another is a little grabby, and then there’s the guy who’s all over the place trying out every piece of vocabulary their teacher has ever taught them. So yeah, you have a right to be somewhat circumspect over when you engage in close embrace dancing. You have legitimate reasons that supersede comfort. At the same time, there is the one thing that this problem does generate for you. It’s a lack of clarity, everywhere, and without getting into the details of it. You have 4 common pieces of vocabulary that you’re being led to where you have quite literally have to figure out what the frak they meant by X, Y, and Z. And as a result you end up being pushed, pulled, and tossed around like a rag doll and simply because you’re in the wrong place. The wrong place ? Yeah, about 4 to 6 inches from your Lead (the person). If you were to close the gap in say…turns (one of the four common pieces mentioned above), the turn would become much tighter and far more efficient. And that all starts with you, the issues outlined above notwithstanding, the closer you are to your lead, the easier your job becomes.
From a Leading Perspective, … in a word ‘OY’. Yeah that just about covers this one. This is another one of those Lead/lead issues that just won’t go away, at least not any time soon.
1.) You’ve got societal stuff in your head - meaning what society says is the right and proper amount of physical distance and physical body contact that you should have with anyone regardless of gender, especially for someone that is not your intimate partner or family member. And even that’s a stretch.
2.) Then there are body intimacy issues in your head - meaning you may not be aware of your own intimacy issues at all or just the opposite. The fact is that your intimacy issues, assuming you have them, are related to one thing and one thing only - sex. It’s how you navigate or categorize physical intimacy. It’s the first thought that came to your mind when you read the word above the first time. That’s not what intimacy is my friend. Not to school you here because it would take too long but intimacy in this respect is not only a physical distance thing, its also an emotional quality that you have to be ‘ok’ with giving and receiving with someone. Sex, should never enter into the equation. Or even sexuality should never enter into the equation. This is dancing, not trying to bed someone.
3.) Then you have gender bias issues - meaning the person you’re dancing with you believe should be one gender and not the other. You can not conceive of having a pleasurable dance that is not from the same gender as you. Truthfully some of my best dances have been with the same gender! One Lead comes to mind that continually blows my mind. 🙂 So in other words, get over it. Mostly this is a guy problem and not necessary a female problem. Women are fine leading other women. Men are the ones with the issues.
4.) And lastly let’s not forget the topical one of late - sexual safety! Meaning that opposite gendered couples with a male in the leading role tends to not be aware of the presence that they have, and women in the following role tend to be very much aware of a man placing themselves onto a woman’s body and then have to try to think that the male in question has the best intentions.
All of that stuff is in your head. And quite honestly it’s enough to drive anyone batshit crazy.
This is really simple. Creating distance and space from your partner is not close embrace dancing, not by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s put this into a physics perspective. The closer you are to the center of the circle, the easier it is to revolve around that circle, right ? Same thing is true here. In this case, as the lead, you’re the center of the circle, and your follower is orbiting you. You want that orbit to be as close as humanly possible and then some. Which is to say that your follower’s orbit should have no more distance from you than the fabric of your clothing. At the same time we also don’t want to force them or compress our embraces to do it.
From a Dancing Perspective, space in the embrace is ‘ok’ if the following are true: 1.) you’re a beginner and you’re not familiar with the customs of the dance. 2.) someone has intimacy issues - you have to respect someone’s boundaries. 3.) body odor/bad breath/hygiene. Nuff said. 4.) compressive/ restrictive embrace issues. 5.) Vocabulary choices. Vocabulary ? There are certain pieces of vocabulary that do require space in the embrace in order to execute. Those are the circumstances under which one should engage in space in the embrace. However, if all of those things are equal then you quite literally have no excuse except … poorly understood technique and less than desirable execution of that technique. The embrace counts as 50% of the dance, so it is only rightful that we try to eliminate the most common issues to make our embrace as lovely as humanly possible. One of them you would think is to create space and that’s not the case here. By adding space to the space, we create more problems not less, again, assuming all things are equal above. So ideally we want to create a closer embrace that you would normally think of. Body on body, fabric to fabric, skin to fabric contact. If air can pass between you and your partner then you’re not close enough!
To be fair, there is a school of thought that says that the embrace can be 'fluid' based on the vocabulary being employed. I should know I preached the line of reasoning, quite heavily, for years and still do to an extent. However, in this instance, we're not talking about a 'fluid' embrace, not by any stretch of the imagination! So get that though right out of your head. Do not confuse 'Pseudo' Close Embrace with a 'Fluid' Embrace, as they're not the same things!
Near The Last Word. Quite honestly if you’re not getting the hint yet that you need to change how your operate, then you’re missing the whole point of this article. And that’s that you need to clean up your dance by reworking your understanding of your foundation and its application in everything. Contrary to what you might believe this isn’t about steps and patterns, but rather about the quality of your embrace, and the quality of your walk, and how those two fit within the time of one beat to the next, from one musical note to the next. How you execute that is insanely important.
Paying For The Soup. A good place to start with this stuff is this website. You do realize that this is that bullshit paragraph that tries to get you to subscribe to the website so that you'll actually get something out of these posts, right ? If you were a subscriber you'd see the missing 4 minutes of video that could actually help you to change your dance for the better. Furthermore you'd see this paragraph replaced by actual help!
Think of it this way. What does a single class a month cost you ? 15 dollars ? 4 of them in a month ? 80+ and that’s not including private lessons or Milongas or Practicas. Now add in the fact that you can’t video the entire class for replay, just the end piece if that from which you’re supposed to derive the meaning of class ? Good luck with that. The moment you walk out the door you’ll immediately forget 90% of what you ‘learned’. What’s the point in that ? It’s a waste of money and time. Especially when there is a far more efficient method - Tango Topics. Hit the green button and subscribe today as a GOLD+ user!
Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in class!