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.
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.
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!