Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance


Creepy Hand Embrace

‘Creepy Hand’ Embrace. The hand-in-hand aspect of the embrace is a corner stone of Argentine Tango. It forms the iconic look and the iconic feel of the dance that we associate with Argentine Tango. Over time as we become more and more familiar with the dance we begin to form our ways of embracing our partners regardless of whether or not it’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, it’s what we do that is ‘comfortable’ for us. Frequently we are completely unaware of the tension, force, compression, and pressure that we are generating with our hands, as Leads or as Followers. Sometimes that pressure or tension or force can be caused from the Follower’s perspective as a loss of equilibrium in either turns, ochos, or just walking with our partners. Or from a Leading perspective because we are completely unaware of our strength and think  that because no one complains that everything is “Ok” when that’s not the case at all for either role. It is for this reason and a whole bunch more that today’s Practica Tango Advice covers the topic of the ‘Creepy Hand’ Embrace.

From A Following Perspective, while this is most certain more a Lead issue than it is a Follower issue, this issue comes up for the Follower in a myriad of different ways. Mind you the video only details 1 specific one for you as a Follower. There are multiples iterations of this which can best be described as ‘the hanging hand’ embrace where the Follower’s right hand hangs off and in between the Leads thumb and forefinger. There’s the Follower’s Grip Hand, which is their left hand squeezing the living daylights out of their Lead’s right bicep, and a few more choice ones but those are stand outs. In the video above we see that the Follower can be accused of gripping the Lead’s back with their fingers outstretched (shown in the video above). Truthfully, there is something desirable about doing this. And that’s to get as much information from the Lead as is possible from the Lead’s back (yes there’s information there). However, frequently that’s not what’s going on. So what’s going on ? The Follower is repeating what they’ve seen a famous dancer do without the understanding of why it’s done and failing to notice that it was done in an instant but not for the entire dance. And even some of those dancers are unaware of why they’re doing it. It’s a lot like the 12 Monkeys and the Banana with the Electrified Ladder Experiment. Eventually you remove the all the monkeys 1 by 1 and replace them with new monkeys that have no idea why you don’t climb the ladder and they just know (because the other monkeys tell them) that the ladder is painful and not to go there, even though there is a banana at the top. Same thing is true here. So why stretch out your hand ? Good question. Well if you’re hand is in the right position, then you’re in the proper place to receive another vital piece of information. Where’s that ? Directly over Thoracic-8 of the Lead’s spinal column. This is where most, if not all of the Lead’s turn information is coming from. This space acts as a pre-cue for the Follower. However, the fact is (and this is where the monkey/banana thing comes in) that most Follower’s can not get around their Lead’s Trunk because their arms don’t go far enough and as a result they end up in the Lead’s arm pit (see the Arm Pit Dancer) which creates more problems than it’s worth. In short, you want to close your fingers, it looks nicer.

From a Leading Perspective, this is another one of those places where you have issues going on in at least 2 places, certainly the ones that are detailed in the video above. Primarily you are the architect of the dance. Meaning you create the iconic look of the dance. And if you look like you’re grabbing the Follower in places that they rightfully shouldn’t be grabbed then you know what ? You look really creepy. Period. Now add to this the Lead that watches the Follower’s face as they dance, add to this the Lead that squeezes the living daylights out their Follower’s, and then throw in for good measure the Lead that is rubbing certain body parts that got no business being rubbed against anything, anytime, anywhere near a social dance floor! And do you know what the result is ? CREEPY LEAD SYNDROME! Is this desirable ? No. It is not. You as a Lead have a responsibility and that responsibility is to be a gentleman. At every stage of the dance, from el cabeceo, a la entrada a la pista, a el abrazo, a la baila, and then walking the Follower off the floor afterwards. All of this is your responsibility. To present them in the best light, to show them off regardless of their skill level, and to show them a good time and what it means to be a gentle, respectful lead. Remember this is a social dance, not a “grab them by the _____ (think Donald Trump)”. That is your responsibility, and as such that means you want to show them as much deferential behavior as is humanly possible without compromising the embrace, without compromising the architecture of the dance, and without being so standoffish that it looks like they have warts. No. At the same time, you could make an argument that you’ve seen Horacio Godoy do this, or Gustavo Naivera or Chicho or Sebastian Arce or….or….or…. yup. You’re right. They have and you know what ? There’s a difference between YOU and THEM. They have done things the ‘right’ way, and you haven’t. They know better and are making an artistic statement for a moment but revert to ‘proper’ when they want to on demand. You on the other hand are completely unconscious about it, they are not. They’re very conscious about the look, the style, the idea, the visual, everything. You are completely ignorant and only understand what’s comfortable for you. In other words, they’re tango royalty, and you are not, so we grant them a pass for artistic reasoning. You can also make the argument that you’re being artistic as well. Good argument. Except for one little tiny issue, which is where this started….you’re unaware that you’re doing it in the first place! 

From a Dancing Perspective, the fact is that you’re going to keep gripping the living daylights out of your partners, even after this article. And you’re going to keep doing it until one of 3 things happens. 1.) You watch yourself on video and realize that it doesn’t look at that fabulous. Most of the better dancers in the room do not grab their partners. The elegant ones, whom you’re trying desperately to emulate, do not grab. Fingers are closed. Period. 2.) You consciously, and willfully want to change how you look because you don’t like it. 3.) You run into me or a guy like me, and recognize that there’s a whole lot of less than desirable going on and in which case you straighten up and fly right until we’re out of eye shot and then you go back to what you’re doing until the next time you come around in the rotunda.

The Last Word. There is really only one solution here and that’s to close your fingers. But it’s taken this entire article to show you all the places where this can happen, a 5 minute video to show you some of them, all to get to the final point that you need to close your fingers so that you stop looking like you’re grabbing your partners. It’s that simple.

This article is an example of Practical Tango Advice. It’s 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. This one is here to show you the smallest hint of what’s embedded behind the paywall of Tango Topics. Please consider subscribing. It’ll be well worth it.

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