Thursday, 18 Oct 2018

Variations in the Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace

The Tango Embrace. The Close Embrace And Variations

George Bernard Shaw famously wrote in 1962, in an article in the Spectator magazine, that dancing was “the perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire”. El Chino tells me that the great tango teacher Carlos Copes said this many times too, but Shaw gets the credit in the Dictionary of Quotations. I wonder who said it first? Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that tango and sex have long been linked. It is salutary to remember, however, how aggressive the pope of the day was when the waltz first saw the light of day. This was because, for the first time, members of polite society danced in an embrace. Peasants had been enjoying such things long before that; the waltz was born of the ländler, an Austrian folk dance.

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 1

Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace. History is funny like that. Some things have to be acceptable to the ruling classes before they seem to matter much. I’m told that in 1816, when the waltz was first aired in polite society at Carlton House in London, it caused quite a sensation. The assembled company included the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Wellington, but history does not record what they thought of it. I would guess that their very presence stamped a seal of approval on the dance. Other notables were less accepting of the new fashion. Lord Byron, for example, was outraged at the sight of people dancing in an embrace. He wrote that it was like watching “two cockchafers spitted on the one bodkin”! I would love to see a discussion between Byron and Billy Connelly, who said: “Dancin’ is foreplay!”

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 2

Tango Embrace

The Tango Embrace. Main Aspects

The tango was, of course, also denounced as lewd and unseemly, and I suspect that, human nature being what it is, this must have contributed greatly to its popularity. I would be surprised if very many people nowadays think of waltz in those terms, but tango still has its reputation. When you experience close embrace the reason is abundantly clear, but even in more open embraces the ‘chemistry’ of the dance is obvious.

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 3

Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace. Speaking as a mere male, and a happily married one at that, there are few things more pleasurable than being in the arms of a beautiful, fragrant woman. How many opportunities does the average man have to hold a woman in his arms during the day? I make the assumption from watching friends dancing that many women have similar feelings about men. What is more, the very nature of this thing called tango is that it is a form of flirtation between a man and a woman. How delightful that is!

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 4

Tango Embrace

When we attend our classes there are usually at least 12 couples, and it is a useful practice of many teachers to insist that we change partners regularly throughout the class. In that way you get to meet all the potential partners and get close enough to them physically to break down the barriers of shyness. I found that it was a great deal easier to ask them to dance socially after I had held them in my arms in a class.

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 5

Tango Embrace

The Tango Embrace. Useful Tips

This is not the only reason why, if we are to dance tango well, it is essential that we keep changing partners in classes. It is so important because, in one respect, learning to dance tango is a little like learning to drive a car. It is important to have lessons, but the thing that makes you a competent driver is the number of hours at the wheel. In tango, when you have connected at an intimate level with all the others in the class, it is much easier to dance with them socially afterwards, and that is where your growth as a dancer takes place: on the dance floor. This is not all. When we learn tango we learn about connecting with another person, and this is a skill that requires us to sense all that we can as quickly as possible about the way our partner feels about the music. Leaders need to learn how to judge whether followers have received the signal, or ‘la marca’, that precedes a move. Followers need to become increasingly sensitive to those signals.

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Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace. Because we all enjoy dancing in our own style it is far better to dance with many different partners as we learn. Let me return to the analogy of the language of tango. I could learn to speak English quite proficiently with my teacher from London, but be completely thrown by meeting someone from Scotland or the United States because of his accent. It can be just the same in tango. There are moves that work very well after I have practiced them with Judith but never come off on the social dance floor with other women, however competent they are. It is often merely a question of accent. It is a polite custom to dance at least three dances with any partner before thanking them and moving on.

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Tango Embrace

Three seems to me to be the bare minimum for me to ‘tune in’ to a new partner. I have discovered the wisdom of dancing the first song very simply, trying to tune in to my new companion’s vibrations. The greater the variety of people we dance with in the greatest number of different styles, including different types of embrace, the easier it becomes. Actually, many useful exercises for learning tango can be carried out in what is referred to as the ‘practice embrace’. This may be as nonthreatening as standing in front of each other holding both hands, or – more commonly – holding arms with hands on our partner’s biceps and wrapping arms around the other’s arms to produce good feedback contact along the arms.

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 8

Tango Embrace

The Aguerrodi philosophy frequently uses a much simpler embrace; the leader stands with hands by his side and the follower makes the connection by placing her hands fat onto the sides of his shoulders. She does not use the leader to hold her up; she maintains her own balance. In this position the leader learns to give indications with his chest without being tempted to use his arms. It works best when the leader keeps his weight towards his toes and, if the follower also does so, she gives a firm, clear feedback to the leader. The transmission of intention from the leader’s upper body becomes very obvious to the follower with the connection that is possible in this hold. Usually, once we have achieved enough success with an exercise to try the move for real, as it were, the teachers ask us to adopt the tango embrace.

Variations in the Tango Embrace - photo 9

Tango Embrace

«A Passion For Tango»

David Turner

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