The Americana Embrace


The 'Americana' Embrace

The Embrace is the hallmark of Argentine Tango. It’s what gives the dance its particular look and most certain it’s ‘feeling’ regardless of whether or not you’re watching the dance or in the dance. Most people, once they get over the hump of ‘close embrace’ (and you’re never really over it, there’s lots and lots and lots of refinement work to be done over the years to come, so you’re never really ‘done’) will tend to stay there, believing that they’ve arrived. And truthfully, they have. While there are variations on a theme within the construct of the embrace (‘V’, Open, Closed ‘V’, Open ‘V’, Single File, Stacked, Floating, Variable or Free, etc) the dance doesn’t change much after that. It’s only the embrace that changes…sometimes. So we ask the question, why on earth would you want change that or do anything to mar that experience of a close embrace with someone to change the embrace ? The simplest answers to that question is heat, expectation, or music. When we say ‘heat’ we’re really talking about the fact a few tandas in on a very hot night, and Tango can be a very sweaty business, so every once in a while you do need to drop the embrace or create space within the couple to allow for the body to cool down. When we say ‘expectation’ we’re talking about the fact that some dancers just don’t mesh well together, they have this expectation of one thing, and then they come into the embrace and it’s sooooo not what they expected. So as a result they may need to change the embrace to allow the dance to work. Or when we say ‘music’ we’re talking about certain pieces of music demand a change in vocabulary choices and different ways to express what’s happening within the music. It is for that reason that we talk about a variation on the theme above - The Americana Embrace.

What is an Americana Embrace ? This is better known as either a Promenade or it’s sometimes referred to as a ‘Sweetheart’ Embrace. So named because it looks like you’re taking your partner out for a stroll. It just so happens that this ‘stroll’ is on a social dance floor while in the line of dance.

From a Following Perspective, you don’t have a whole lot of control over this one. The choice to engage the Americana is entirely up to your Lead (the person, not the action). However, due to body heat, bad breath, or body odor issues you could force an Americana, but the fact is that it’s only going to last so long and you can’t stay there forever. Sadly. So with that in mind there’s really only one thing that you can do to survive an Americana: Allow your left arm to ‘float’ around the lead, the more space that you create with this thing, the easier the Americana becomes. And even here you can’t really control how much or how little contact you have with the lead’s arms (the action, not the person). There has to be a certain amount of physiological pressure and contact within the embrace (less pressure is better), and because of that some Leads overdo this a bit and thereby making it difficult for you to do your job. While you have no control over the entry point of the Americana, you do have a certain amount of control on it’s engagement (while you’re in it), and exiting from one. Specifically how you execute your transition back towards the couple facing each other. How ? The resolution step (the last step) you can slow or speed up or add an embellishment to decorate it. Just an idea.

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From a Leading Perspective, this is all on you. Let’s go over some rules. Repeat after me: 1.) I will not overuse the Americana Embrace. 2.) I will not engage in flashy vocabulary simply because it’s ‘cool’ because I don’t know any better. and 3.) I will not squeeze the living daylights out of my partners. Got it ? Good. Now repeat that 10,000 times! Especially #3! Dude. Seriously. While the Americana certainly falls into the flashy vocabulary toy that separates you from the rest of the herd. The caveat is that if you execute it poorly, which happens a lot, especially if we invoke a ‘Salsa’ Inspired entrance instead, then you’re just asking to be giggled at. That said. Use it sparingly. No, I mean that seriously. The Americana can be a fun distraction to play with as it opens up options and opportunities for us that aren’t generally available to us. Like for instance, the Anti Molinete, for one. Anti Ochos for another. Open Side Sacadas. Any one of a dozen Reverse Sacadas. Reverse Ganchos. Reverse Volcadas. Reverse Colgadas. Single File Walking (although this is kinda creepy if done inappropriately) and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But the simplest and really cool thing about this is the promenade itself. Just that alone by itself without any decorate is the bees knees. 🙂 One more thing, this piece of tango vocabulary tends to make some followers feel a little put off, as it’s not normal to do this. So it’s important to gauge your partner if they’re open to this kind of thing before you spring it on them. A good way to tell whether or not your Follower is open to the idea, is to look at who they dance with on a regular basis. Short of asking them directly that’s all you have to go on. If their current crop of Leads is a bit crazy…then you have a shot.

From a Dancing Perspective, this particular embrace format opens options and opportunities for both Lead and Follow. From a leading perspective it opens to possibility for variance vocabulary. What’s that ? ‘Variance Vocabulary is like say a  sacada but there is a ‘twist’ to it. There are multiple pieces of vocabulary like sacadas, colgadas, volcadas, as well as a series of wraps, ganchos, ganchitos, paradas, barridas that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of or have access to because of the asymmetry of the embrace, and now that you’ve added an Americana Embrace, you now have access to all that vocabulary! From a Following perspective, there’s one really good piece of news for you. More than likely the Lead is going to walk you around a bit with this, and because of that, it’s more than likely going to be a forward walk, hence the ‘promenade’ idea above. That said, this is an opportunity for you to show off your fabulous forward steps! Stop and think about it, how often do you get to do that ? I’ll answer the question for you - 4 times in the dance. And usually those 4 times only happen for a step or two. In this instance, it’s a sustained circle, at least one rotation, maybe two…depends on the music.

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Cutting to the chase.

There’s no doubt about it, this particular option with the embrace is kinda cool, and some may consider it to be ‘not tango’ but it is actually part of the canon of the dance. That said, because it’s a canon of the dance, we do actually want to explore it if for only one reason and that’s to say that we don’t want to do this at all. You should at least have access to good, clear information as to how to Lead it, and how to Follow it. A good place to start with that is right here in this website. Right now you have access to these articles with half a video here and there and that’s supposed to help you to improve your dance ? However, the only way that you’re going to improve by having access to clear information that is repeatable, demonstrable, honest, direct and available to you 24 hrs a day. Put another 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. When there is a far more efficient method - Tango Topics. Hit the green button and register, and then upgrade to either gold, gold plus, diamond, or milonguero level today! Think of if this way, free is nice, but all the toys are behind the paywall kiddies.

That said….I look forward to seeing you in class!

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Close Embrace Sacadas


Close Embrace Sacadas

When we’re first starting out with Tango, both roles see the idea of a sacada as cool, flashy, or impressive. And they are until you realize one simple, but immutable, fact: They’re illusions…of walking technique. The Sacada happens due to an intersection of the Follower's walk into the Lead's or vice versa. At the same time, the Sacada is usually relegated to something that is done in open embrace and/or thought of as ’nuevo tango’ vocabulary. You can thank Gustavo Naivera, Fabian Salas, and later on “Chicho” for that one. The Sacada was around long before those three came onto the scene. It just so happens that they made it very popular. One aspect of the Sacada is while they are typically done in open embrace because of the space needed for them and certain variations of them. There is a version of them that is purely for Close Embrace, hence today’s topic: The Close Embrace Sacada!

From A Following Perspective, this is one of those places where you don’t have a whole lot of control over when a Sacada is initiated, but you do have an inordinate amount of control over what happens after one is initiated. How you exit the Sacada regardless of whether or not it’s close or open embrace can literally define where, and in some cases, what the couple does next. Add rotation, and you’re quite literally forcing the Lead into any one of 8 Kinds of Turns. Don’t add rotation and come to collection, and you open options on top of options on top of options for yourself and the Lead. For instance, you could, just before you collect, engage an amague and then collect or cross! Mind you this borders on the role of the ‘Active’ Follower, because in this instance without the music playing for us right now, this suggestion is purely a ‘Willful’ Follower and not an ‘Active’ one. The difference ? The music is master to both roles, not just the L/lead (the action and the person).  Meaning that without the music playing right now you’ll hear this suggestion as being ‘willful’ and taking over control of the dance. While that’s not the case at all IF there were music playing! The music should be interpreted by both roles, not just the Lead. However, realistically a good portion of your Leads (the person and not the action), get all frakkin’ persnickety when you try to do that. So pick your battles carefully, and your Leads!

One more thing that you need to be aware of is that you are more than likely in 3in heels with a rather pointy tip. In case you were unaware of this fact, those things are like lethal weapons on your feet. So it’s important to keep this thought in the back of your mind as you let that ‘free leg’ be ‘free’…e.g. ‘swinging’. Try to keep that foot on the ground, specifically the heel, lest you injure someone in the radial arc of your leg going god knows where!

Most of this advice is coming from the assumption that the Lead engages a Sacada on the Follower’s free leg from their Side Step. However, what happens in the case where the Follower Sacadas the Lead on a Back Step, or even a Forward Step ? In this instance, one piece of advice reigns: Step Into Your Lead! Specifically, the trailing foot, and very close to it. Regardless of either your being led to a Forward Step or a Back Step through your Lead, it doesn’t matter, you have to step through and quite literally beyond the lead’s (the action, not the person) step. About 6 inches worth actually. A good portion of the time, especially at the beginning, you do have a desire not to hit anyone or to step on anyone. However, the Sacada by its very nature, overrides this desire by having you step into your lead quite deliberately. Seemingly to step on their feet. Your innate desire is to step away from them to avoid hitting or stepping on them. And that’s the last thing you that you want to do. You actually want to step into them, and right straight through them! And because we’re talking about close embrace here, even more so! In other words, don't be dainty, polite, shy, or timid. You must, must, must, step into your lead!

From a Leading Perspective, we have talked about Sacadas before. So there’s nothing new here from a Leading perspective except maybe a few pieces of advice to serve as reminders. Let’s get to it shall we ? 1.) Remember that when you engage in a Sacada, that it’s as an accent to what’s happening in the music. Yes it’s flashy vocabulary, but like all flashy vocabulary what makes it flashy is that it isn’t used every 5 steps. Ideally we want to use this stuff sparingly, and even that’s too much. 2.) Safety first. Meaning that if you’re dancing with a beginner follower, we do not engage Sacadas, Volcadas, Colgadas, or anything of the like. Walk, Turn, Ocho, Cross. Got it ? Trust me that’s enough. Yes it may be ‘fun’ but you can hurt someone if you’re not too careful. And you can never be too careful. 3.) Not to mention a good portion of the time you’re going to make the Follower feel as though they’ve missed something when they don’t ‘get it’, and thereby inadequate. 4.) Sacadas, while you are doing them to the Follower, fall into the same category of flashy or difficult vocabulary for the beginner Follower because you can not anticipate just how the inexperienced Follower will react to them. 

That said, adding Close Embrace Sacadas for the experienced Follower that we have to be very clear and careful about is our right arm…or more specifically the compression of your right forearm (and hand). Factually there is a desire that occurs, as the Sacada does, in close embrace, that we want to compress or pull the Follower into us. And that would be a major no-no. Why ? Because it stops their movement or possible rotation! You must allow for the Follower to move within the construct of the embrace. Failure to do that, and you’re going to end up with unintended consequences that create more problems than it’s worth.

Still another area that we have to think about is the initiation of the Sacada itself…specifically leading the Follower into you, and not the other way around. Again, this isn’t about pulling or compressing, but rather about body position and body placement. The whole reason the Follower steps into you is due to where you are placing your body. Take your body away from them, and they follow it, thereby stepping into you, viola! Sacada! Ok it’s a bit more tricky than that, there’s a desired weight transfer that must happen in certain variations of the Close Embrace Sacada. Again the desire is to pull them along with you and you can not under any circumstances do that! You must allow for them to freely move into and away from you.

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From a Dancing Perspective, the Close Embrace Sacada looks intimate, intricate, and above all else, very hot. No doubt about it. Done right, it screams “WOW”. Done poorly, and well…not so much with that. And that’s exactly what happens most of the time. The intent is there but the execution is poor. So we end up missing the whole effect. Either the intersecting step (lead or follow) was too shallow, too deep, or missed entirely. All of which happen quite frequently. It is only with time and patience, and a lot of practice that we ‘learn’ through trial and error (more error than trial) to execute with precision the Close Embrace Sacada. To be clear, this variant of Sacadas require precision control, precise intent, and precision execution. To alleviate this problem of precision, you’ll see a lot of Leads (and some Followers) quite honestly watch the feet of themselves and their partners (I make this mistake myself from time to time especially on over-rotated back sacadas). This is a major no-no! It breaks the illusion! This is where we talk about one of my favorite topics that almost no teacher talks about - Proprioception from a Tango Perspective. What’s that ? It’s the ability to sense where your partner is in space and time WITHOUT looking! This is not something that you just learn and it happens. There is no class on this stuff. It is a skill that you build through time, with time, with lots and lots and lots of trial and error. Unfortunately that ‘error’ results in someone’s feet getting bruised sometimes. Trust me, you learn pretty damned quickly after that! Add in Close Embrace Sacadas and this skill is an absolutely necessity! Failure to build this skill and the Close Embrace Sacada is going to be the Close Embrace Bloody and Bruised Toe Extravaganza of Your Worst Nightmares! So how do we develop this skill ? Simple. Stop watching your partner’s feet. That’s the starting point.

The Missing Information.  There's a free tip (for registered free users) that's not here because you're not logged in. If you were logged in, you'd see a free tip, but because you're not, you're not seeing it. So ? If you want the free tip, then go register as a free user and login. 🙂 However, if you want the toys, and to see the 49:29 HD quality video on how to properly lead and follow a Close Embrace Sacada and all the toys that go with it. Then you have 2 options. 1.) You can buy it. or 2.) You can subscribe!

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you pay for this video or subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because what you'll find on Youtube doesn't explain and walk you through the how a Close Embrace Sacada works! That’s why!

So, please, go right ahead, go watch all the presentation videos on youtube all you want. Because that's what they are 'Presentation' videos. The couple's that you're used to seeing are performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they're not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about 'Social Dancing'. So please, go spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won't help you, because you're missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher! (ahem) ME!  The goal of youtube videos is to entice you to go study with those teachers in person. The goal of these videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and be done with it. 😉

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique.

In an hour long class, with the blind leading the blind through rotation of partners (uuuggggh!), you may glean a piece of the information you need and not get the whole thing, and you’ll miss important pieces that you’ll end up having to take a private lesson for to get the finer points. This way, you can watch over and over again, and get all the supplementary materials, and if you want you can still go take the class, only you’ll be better prepared to do so!

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