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Body Contortion

Contortion

Contortion.  You see so many different ideas of dancing tango that it sometimes very hard to differentiate desirable from the undesirable. That unless you teach you’re not going to see these issues and need to be reminded of them, frequently so that you stop co-creating these less than desirable issues.

What is Contortion ? In it’s simplest form, ‘Contortion’ is twisting your body, then placing your body, and further still compressing (squeezing) your partner’s body into you, into a physiologically untenable position, and staying there for the length of a song. Then starting the next song in the tanda from a clean position, and then starting to slide into the contorted position. This is ‘Contortion’.

And ‘yes’, it is an issue. Everyone exhibits some form of contortion. Everyone.

Before we go any further, 2 things are going to happen while you read and/or watch the video above: You’re going to immediately run to the judgement that 1.) The author/teacher is being a perfectionist. 2.) That the author/teacher is being arrogant. Neither are true. These are stark observations offered without judgement. If you see yourself in these things, then so much the better. However, the thing that you should rightfully pay attention to is not the resolution example, which gives you the idea of perfectionism, but the latter part of the video that starts at (07:36). 

That said, let’s talk about Contortion.

From A Following Perspective you have 3 primary areas of Contortion that come up for you. 1.) Arm Over The Shoulder. 2.) Side of Body Following. and 3.) Follower ‘Chicken Arm’ Distortion.

Arm Over The Shoulder - This is an outgrowth of wanting more, or deeper physiological contact with the Lead. And while the physiological contact does serve it’s intended purpose, more contact, the problem with it is that it compromises the body to do so. As a result of going over the Lead’s shoulder with yours (as shown) above, you end up raising one shoulder above the other, and thereby curving your spinal column. And as an added bonus you’ll tilt your head into your lead.

Side of Body Following - This missive is factually placing your body in the Lead’s armpit, but only having the physiological contact of about an inch or so of their body. As a result of this kind of Following, all of your vocabulary will become ‘linear’ or ‘oblong’. Example: Turns will no longer be circular, they’ll be ovals! The back step of the molinete (not a milonguero turn) will become almost impossible to do, and you’ll end up in the Lead’s armpit, thereby being behind the L/lead, seemingly never able to catch up to them. 🙁

FollowerChicken Arm - The Follower will create a loop with their left arm, placing their left hand on the ribcage of the Lead’s right side about 6 inches down from their armpit, and then bend their elbow out at a 90 degree angle, and here’s the wacky part - then they’ll raise their left shoulder above their right, thereby curving their spine, all in ‘close embrace’.

From a Leading Perspective you also have 3 areas of concern that generate Contortion. 1.) Head Tilt (Away/Towards). 2.) Side of Body Leading. 3.) Lead Chicken Arm.

Head Tilt - While the topic of Dancer Head Tilt has been detailed before, the Head Tilt that is most common here is the Tilt of the head TOWARDS the Follower. As a result the Lead will place physiological pressure on the Follower’s head. This is done without the Lead necessarily being aware that they’re doing this. Sometimes, infrequently this is Head Tilt AWAY as shown at (00:00) so as to ‘accommodate’ the Follower’s Bodily Contortion or because they don’t want to get too close to the Follower’s face or mouth area. It’s too intimate for some Leads.

Side of Body Leading - This lead missive is factually placing the Follower’s body along the side of your body. The physiological contact point is about an inch or two wide, and is a strip of contact on your body from the crease of your right armpit to your hip. As a result of this kind of Leading, all of the Follower’s vocabulary will become ‘linear’ or ‘oblong’. Example: Turns will no longer be circular, they’ll be ovals! The back step of the molinete (not a milonguero turn) will become almost impossible to do, and the Follower will end up behind YOU, seemingly never able to catch up. 🙁

LeadChicken Arm - The Lead holds their left arm out straight, level with their shoulder line, and then bends at the elbow in a 90 degree arc, towards the Follower, then grasps the Follower’s hand.

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From a Dancing Perspective these are 3 most common forms of Body Contortion that happen for both roles. You see this stuff everywhere and think to yourself “Well….if so and so is doing it, it must be ok, right ?”, and at that point you normalize the behaviors and postures of the people around you. At the same time you also have something else working against you, your memory of your last session with your ‘teacher’. At some point during that session (assuming said teacher has their collective act together) said teacher should have noticed (frequently a good portion of them don’t) and then remarked upon (again, they don’t want to hurt your feelings…mind you, it’s your money, ‘feelings’ shouldn’t enter into it!) the fact that you’re embrace, your posture, your body is contorting this way or that. And unless you are reminded about it constantly, you’ll think about it for about 2 steps and then you’ll completely forget about it. And if you’re thinking that you’ll remember this stuff on a Social Dance floor at a Milonga…think again. Stress gets in the way that happening. If you are stressed out how much space you have between yourself and the couple ahead or behind you. Or if you’ve missed something and you’re focused on that…posture, embrace, presence are the last things on your mind. You’re too damned busy freaking right the frak out. Dancing ? HA! Again this isn’t about perfectionism, nor is it about arrogance, this is demonstrable fact, proven time and time and time again.

The Free Lunch! Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with an instructor. TANSTAAFL! Or in this case, today, it is a Free Lunch! Today it's free for a variety of reasons, most notably to get information out there because it needs to get out there, rather than sit behind a paywall where only a very small number of people will see it. 🙂 So enjoy this free lunch today. But eventually, even with this video freely available to you, you're going to need reminders, you're going to need someone to constantly point this stuff out to you, and that's where having access to this website is absolutely crucial. Because seeing it once, is not learning it 100 times. It only scratches the surface.

Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because this concept is not talked about anywhere on Youtube. No where. No teacher is going to show you this stuff, and yet this is precisely what they'll correct, assuming they're not doing this stuff themselves, and they have the fortitude to correct this in you to begin with. That's why you're not going to see this on youtube!

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. 😉

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!

The Last Word. Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a Gold, Gold Plus, or Diamond level subscriber today.

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!

Embrace – Body Position/Placement

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Embrace – Close Embrace

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Hi! The page you requested is premium level content. In order to see it in all it's tango glory :-), and get rid of this annoying message, you have to do one of three things.

1.) You can register and then upgrade your subscription to a gold or diamond level user, or
2.) You could purchase the video from the store, or
3.) If you're already a gold or diamond level user, you should see a login form below. Just enter your username and password and you'll be taken to the appropriate page! If you've forgotten your password then you should see a link to resetting it.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in class!

Embrace – Intention

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Hi! The page you requested is premium level content. In order to see it in all it's tango glory :-), and get rid of this annoying message, you have to do one of three things.

1.) You can register and then upgrade your subscription to a gold or diamond level user, or
2.) You could purchase the video from the store, or
3.) If you're already a gold or diamond level user, you should see a login form below. Just enter your username and password and you'll be taken to the appropriate page! If you've forgotten your password then you should see a link to resetting it.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in class!

Engaging The Embrace

Engaging The Embrace

A Lead’s Job. The fact is that in modern Argentine Tango, while the Follower most certainly has a role and a job (several), setting the tone and style of the embrace is the squarely the job of the Lead. The Follower, as sexist as this sounds, fills that space with their complimentary embrace. And so that we don’t slight the Follower’s role in this regard, we will discuss the Follower’s side of this equation in a later article and requisite video. Right now we’re talking about a Lead thing. Further still, a Follower should not stop reading at this point. Think of this article, from your perspective, as pulling back the curtain of the seemingly black art of leading. Or think of it as ideally what your lead wants to do but more than likely is not doing.

Leads you have a role and a job, several, and one of them is creating an embrace structure that is comfortable for the Follower while at the same time creates the iconic visual that is a Tango embrace, that allows for maximum effect with minimal input. Put another way, you have 3 primary goals: 1.) Navigation. 2.) Architecture. and 3.) Music. Under the category of Architecture we have 2 sub-categories. 2a.) Form. and 2b.) Vocabulary. Think of 2a as what we look like (the visual), and think of 2b as what you do with 2a in time to 3, while employing 1. And all of that starts with - Engaging The Embrace.

Typically what happens: You step onto the floor without engaging proper floorcraft (which we will discuss in a later video series), then you grab your follower’s right hand, lift it, then step in with your right, leaning in with your right shoulder, and then place them in your armpit (the Follower willy-nilly goes there as well), and then wrap your right arm around them, and then almost immediately there after you begin throwing vocabulary at your Followers in the hopes that they won’t see that you have no idea what you’re doing to a tango, milonga, or vals!

The Problem ? For a good portion of Followers they want a gentle, guiding, clear, clean, non-compressive, non-restrictive, non-pushing, non-pulling, non-resistive experience that does not include being told what to do as their doing it. But what they get is something akin to what typically happens. And that’s not covering what happens inside the dance itself. Typically the Lead is forceful and doesn’t listen for the Follower’s response, which is kind of important. Instead they rush from vocabulary choice to vocabulary choice (ochos, turns, more ochos, lots of turns…etc). The issue is that throughout all of that the Lead’s embrace is restrictive, resistive, and compressive (resistance based dancing), trying to control the Follower instead of inviting them to do X, Y, and Z. Guiding them, suggesting, inviting, proposing. What they get is control, contain, push, pull, and a host of manhandling with the lead’s arms. This is not something that anyone wants to have happen to them, and yet this is precisely what passes for ‘dancing’ a good portion of the time and it’s not desirable on multiple levels.

The Right Conditions. The whole issue above stems from the Lead’s inability to create a platform to work from - an embrace that is calming at at the same time clear without the use of force. That starts with creating the right conditions. The Right Conditions ? We ideally want to calm the Follower’s mind. Quite honestly, they’re freaking out. Why ? Because they have no idea what craziness (especially if it’s a Milonga tanda) that the Lead is going to come up with. They have to be ready for anything. Understand that it is a jarring experience for most Followers. The Right Conditions here are first creating calmness in your body, in your posture, in your arms, everywhere. Just calm, quiet. That quietness is incredibly important. We want kinesthetic silence. What we generate is what they hear. And if they’re hearing kinesthetic ‘noise’ then we’ll get that in response! So ideally, we want a calmness in our attitude and kinesthetic quietness in our bodies. We don’t want anything that will create a ripple in them. Think of the right conditions as though it were a placid lake at dawn or sunset. We want that mirror reflection of motionless to reflect the sky. The Follower, in this analogy, is the sky.

Where To Begin. Most of this ‘calming’ starts with your own body posture. Learning how to engage good posture that is at once not ramrod straight but rather upright using the body’s natural inclinations (corrected of course because a good portion of you have terrible ‘natural’ posture). A posture that does not rely on force, or tension in any way, shape, or form. No more than is necessary to hold the body upright. And even that’s sometimes too much, and the language used to describe this stuff is sometimes very vague and not very helpful. However, there is a language that describes this stuff perfectly - Alexander Technique! Put simply Alexander Technique was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander, and is an kinesthetic process that retrains your ability to realign your body’s natural posture and secondarily to avoid unnecessary muscular tension. Alexander had the belief that your self-awareness could be inaccurate which is created as a result of bodily stresses and situations that we learn over time that we must unlearn, which as a result in created unnecessary muscular tension when standing or sitting with body weight unevenly distributed, holding the head incorrectly, walking or running inefficiently, etc. In other words, Alexander Technique is the language that you have been looking for to describe how to correct what you’re doing with your posture and so much more.

To be a bit clearer, there is a perception in Tango that your posture must be ramrod straight, this is a holdover from two very distinct areas. 1.) Ballroom (yes Ballroom has infected tango). 2.) Performance Based Tango. Both of these things have contributed to the less than helpful idea that we must hold ourselves in these almost impossible positions for hours on end to ‘look nice’ to dance with. Followers will know this the moment it’s written here, but you see they’ve danced with those ramrod straight dancers, the ones that look nice to dance with but the moment they get into the embrace they realize they’ve made a mistake. Good posture does not need to be ramrod straight in order to be good. It does however, need to be comfortable, and at the same time upright without contortions in any way, shape, or form.

That Thing We Do. The fact is that a good portion of you reading this have a body problem. You want and then again you don’t want. In one respect you want to be touched and in another respect you don’t. You want to be hugged and embraced, and then again you don’t. You want to be next to someone, close, very close, touching close, but at the same time….not. Society says one thing, Tango says another. It’s a diametric opposite that you just can’t get away from. There are perfectly good reasons why you want, because it feels good. It’s pretty simple. And there are a few double dozen reasons why you don’t want….someone hasn’t showered recently, is really sweaty, has bad breath, someone is soaked through with sweaty clothing, and then there’s the ‘sexual energy’ thing that most men are completely unaware of, but women are very aware of. And while we’re talking about sex. From a Male Leading position, there’s the whole female breast/body thing. Society says you can look (not directly) while publicly you can not touch directly. Which flies in the face of Tango, which says ‘touch’ and quite literally place your body wrapped around your partners, while at the same time don’t touch too much. It can be a little confusing, but you generally follow the rules of good, respectful conduct, which states - don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your mother to know about! At the same time, as a Lead, you want to create a platform from the plane of your body that is almost like a comfortable couch or bed to sleep on. Why ? Because the Follower is going to spend the next 9 to 12 minutes there! That’s why. From a Female Following position, you have a body with a brain, chest, hips, and curves everywhere. I know, right ? Mansplaining….oy. Society sexualizes your body constantly, in every detail, it’s not like you can forget it because it’s everywhere you look. Your body, is as happenstance of Argentine Tango, going to be touched, in sometimes inappropriate places and ways by men you wouldn’t normally have anything to do with except as it happens to be required in Tango. That requirement ? The plane of your body must meet the plane of your lead’s body in every way possible. It’s like form meeting function. Or peanut butter meeting jelly. Or … you get the point. Why ? Because you want to be able to hear (kinesthetically speaking) your Lead in exacting details, and that requires the plane of your body to be in complete contact with your Lead. Backing away from that, makes your job, your role, much….much more difficult than it needs to be. From a dancing perspective, what we're really talking about is close embrace dancing. Ideally we want to be sternum to sternum, sometimes referred to as a ‘core’ embrace format, or ‘square’ embrace format. Sometimes referred to as Body-On-Body contact. That’s not to say that a ‘v’ or ‘closed-v’ or ‘open-v’, or ‘open’, ‘slightly off-gigline’ body-on-body isn’t valid. It just means that these versions of close embrace create situations or kinesthetic dynamics that are more or less preferable for the Lead and not necessarily the Follower. Like for instance Turns (see the Armpit Dancer). Ideally you want your partner to be right in front of you, gigline to gigline for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is ease of dancing on multiple levels. So the whole body-on-body is very important as it relates to what has to happen in the dance, it’s the thing we do. Without that physiological, deep (psychological), physical, kinesthetic contact in the dance, let’s just say it makes things a bit more challenging.

Your Arms. Frequently a good portion of you use your arms and hands to direct the Follower. This is called ‘Paddling the Follower’. We do not want to do this. Instead we want to allow the Follower to ‘float’ or move within your embrace structure. However, that’s not what happens. We apply tension, force, compression, to either control or to indicate which way we’d like the Follower to go. In specific we use our right hand, right forearm, and left arm as a whole. This is not desirable. By the way, this is that bullshit paragraph that appears in every single one of these articles that is just specific enough but not entirely specific to actually help you. If you were to register and then upgrade that to a paid subscription, you would see an entirely different paragraph here that tells you specifically what you want to do. And you'd see the missing 4 minutes of the video above in the proper order. Oh yeah, the video above is slightly out of order than how I shot it. You want to see it in it's proper context.

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The Last Word - Difference. There can be a difference in you, but isn’t going to happen by itself. It requires a few things. First, a willingness to want to make a difference. And frequently that doesn't happen because you think or believe you've already arrived. Secondly, a good, reliable source for this kind of information – hint ... this website! And thirdly repeatable, clear, clean information that you can play with, over and over again. That's where this website comes in and the videos that are sitting behind the paywall. Register for free. But if you really want to take things to the next level, upgrade that registration to a GOLD level user, and start redeveloping your Tango technique today.

The Reverse Embrace

Reversing The Embrace

There are certain defaults that we possess after years of dancing. We don't realize that they're defaults but they are. And for the Non-native speaker, 'default' in this case means unconscious ways or methods of doing something that is performed frequently. 'Defaults' from a Tango perspective could mean but is not limited to how one crosses one's feet, how one engages the embrace, how one asks for and follows a series of ochos, how one would follow a molinete, etc. These are default behaviors. We learn them as a result of several things, not the least of which is how we (at the time that we acquired the information) bodies weren't able to accomplish an end goal so we do what we can and as a result we end up imprinting the 'less-than-desirable' way of moving, or engaging the embrace (read that as squeezing, pulling, pushing, hanging, etc), or crossing, or molinete, or .... or.... those ways of moving into vocabulary to accomplish the goal, even though it's not desirable. We don't realize that we have formed this way of moving, and it’s now ‘comfortable’ even though it’s contorted (mostly) and at the same time we sort of forget how to do X, Y, and Z properly (mostly because we don’t have someone poking and prodding us to remind us about X, Y, and Z and how it should be done) and therefore we stop paying attention to it. This becomes our ‘default’ behavior in Tango.

The Concern: This isn’t so much of a problem but rather a ‘concern’, something to be mindful of that if left unchecked, can create problems for us later on down the line. A good portion of you reading this will only look at the video and see this cool toy, and not look at the deeper issue that’s really going on here. A fair number of you will see the issue but not pay it any mind, thinking that this doesn’t happen for you. You’re perfect. Right ? Furthermore a smaller number of you will only see that this isn’t just a Lead issue, but a Follower one as well! 😉 So what’s the concern ? That we as dancers become very accustomed to sending AND receiving kinesthetic pressure/compression/force/resistance information via the embrace which 9 times out of 10 creates more issues for us than we would like. This becomes our default behavior in the dance. The key component here is ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’. You’re going to think that sending refers to ‘leading’ and that receiving refers to ‘following’, when both messaging happen for both roles at the same time. A lead or follow both send AND receives information. Mind you a good portion of both roles, don’t actually listen to the other but that’s a story for a later topic. However as a result of this way of dancing, we tend to get stuck or bogged down in our default behavioral responses and can’t see another way of moving.

From a Leading Perspective a good portion of Lead/ers (not necessarily a Lead - we’ll get to that in a moment) rely heavily on the asymmetry of the embrace to communicate our intentions, specifically our left arm and hand (for a lot of leads) in turns and ochos (think ‘resistance’), and for a smaller number of leads their right forearm and a much smaller number of leads that use their right hand to paddle their followers into turning or stopping. This is using the embrace to communicate our intentions, or more to the point forcing the follower to do X, Y, and Z through compression, tension, resistance, and physiological pressures. These pressures are ‘messages’ to the Follower and what a good portion Lead/ers that use this way of dancing don’t realize is that this is not a desirable way of dancing. A Lead does NOT use these things, much like a Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense - never for attack, they use body-on-body contact to communicate their intent without pushing, pulling, or physiological arm/hand pressures to indicate their intent. And even a Lead that does all of that properly still has a default set of movements, a default set of expected responses, that they’re unaware of. It is to that group that this topic is really speaking to. Why ? Because the Lead/er crowd of resistance based dancers have absolutely zero desire to change what they’re doing. For there to be change in that dancer, several things have to take place. Most notably they have to have reached the end of the road with Resistance Based Dancing, to be shown that it is less-than-desirable by experiencing it for themselves - what it’s really like to pushed and pulled around the floor for 12 minutes (assuming a 4 set tanda). That, and a lot of Followers saying “No” to them, and a lot of sitting. Speaking directly to the Lead reading this, you have a concern that your lead is not what you think it is, it’s not as clear as you think it is. So by reversing the embrace you will see the areas where you are weak, and where you are clear. 

From a Following Perspective you may not realize that you to have a default way of moving, a default expectation and responses. You may, erroneously, believe that The Reverse Embrace structure outlined above in the video applies ONLY to the Lead/er (and Lead). Not true. It applies to you as well. How’s that ? Simple, you have the same embrace biases that the Lead does only to a smaller degree, however your concern is that you have a set way of doing things, specifically your turns, ochos, and crosses. By reversing the embrace, you realize just how awkward things feel. The awkwardness is a key component to making things feel effortless. Truthfully we want the awkwardness to occur, it creates a scramble in us and we want it to occur. Why ? Because it shows us just where we’re our expectations are at, and more importantly where our defaults are at and how they present themselves. By reversing the embrace you will recognize those things as well as where you are compensating for a poor or unclear lead to do X, Y, and Z. Or more importantly having to infer what a Lead (the person not the action) is or more than likely is NOT doing. It’s the inference that we’re really after. Why ? 2 reasons. Firstly, we can clean up what we’re doing, and secondly it also creates a place for us to interject an idea or two (think ‘active’ follower).

We have to address the larger resistance based follower crowd that may be reading this: You have issues. Resistance is not desirable. It’s work. Hanging, Pulling, Pushing, not so much with that. You will never progress to dancing with the desirable leads in the room as a Follower if you continue to utilize this way of moving, and reversing the embrace will only make things 10,000 times more challenging for you. “Challenging” is an understatement. More like downright impossible. You are hardwired to use your embrace and the lead/ers embrace to stabilize yourself in turns, ochos, and crosses. So ‘hearing’ (really ‘feeling’) the nuances of the dance are outside your abilities at this point because you are unstable, and this nuance topic of reversing the embrace is more of a ‘WTF’ than anything else. 

The Dancing Perspective is that this is a nuance topic that a good portion of you will dismiss entirely as folly and not really helpful to one’s dancing at all. It couldn’t possibly change what you’re doing. It couldn’t possibly rewire you to do something else. That’s the dancing reality. When in fact reversing the embrace is probably one of the greatest tools you have to refining your skills as a dancer. Why ? Because ideally you want your dancing skills to be seamless and effortless regardless of what style or type of embrace you use or whom you are dancing with. Short of actual solo practice working on your technique of execution, this is one of the more useful diagnostic tools you can possibly get without a teacher in the equation! So when would you use this tool ? Simple, EVERYWHERE! Why ? Classes, Workshops, and/or Seminars ? Yup. Practicas ? Absolutely. Milongas ? Yup. Why ? Just for fun because you can.

Fixing It or in this case, changing it. The really cool part about this is that you can do this going forward today. You don’t need a class, you don’t need a workshop or seminar or a private lesson to teach you to do this. Nope. Not one little bit. There’s no special class on this one, it is it’s own class. The feedback that you’ll get from employing this tool is nothing short of immeasurable data that you wouldn’t get otherwise. If you’re thinking that you could just ask for feedback from your partners. That’s not going to help. a.) They don’t possess the language skills to identify what’s going on. Ok, a good portion of them don’t. b.) Honesty, that’s the problem right there. A good portion (like 90 to 95%) of the people you are currently dancing with will NOT tell you the truth of how you feel to dance with, or comment on your dancing for fear that it will offend you or hurt your feelings. And quite honestly you don’t want to hear their feedback either mostly because you think that your dance is spot on to begin with. So unless you want to have your head handed to you (and most of you, unfortunately, don’t) then this is the probably the safest route to getting the necessary feedback that you require in order to change what you’re doing!

However, you do actually require help. And that means actual technique, actual feedback, and actual clear, clean, consistent, concise information that you can play over and over again. That’s this page, and the videos that are sitting behind it. Registration is free, and you get about 40 older videos that will open the door to those ideas. However, that’s not the real power of this site. It’s the foundation, technique, exercise, and whic videos that are sitting behind a paywall. It’s the full videos that these snippets that you see are from. You want the full videos. All of them. 🙂 Hit the green button and subscribe and consider a gold membership. It’s really the best of all possible worlds. You get access to all the video content that you can watch anytime - anywhere, and a 40% discount on all video purchases in case you want to download something for offline use when you don’t have an active internet connection.

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