The embrace or “el abrazo” in Tango is really a hug. And just like a hug, it is made up of more than just arms and chests/torsos. The embrace also includes the head. When you hug someone, really hug them, your heads will touch and you will be in a cheek to cheek position. Of course, this will not be the case if there is a disproportionate height difference or you use an open head position.
Some people say that having an embrace where the arms are nearing shoulder level (for the man) is very “ballroom”. We definitely don’t agree with this statement. We previously wrote about being concerned before our Buenos Aires trip that our posture and embrace would give us away as ex-ballroom dancers. Yet no one commented on it and we were, in fact, often told that we look/dance “muy milonguero”. You need only look at some of the best milongueros (past and present) to see that they dance(d) with “high” embraces. As examples, the milongueros Gavito, Vidort, Osvaldo Cartery, and Jorge Garcia all dance(d) with their left arms high up and they definitely do not look like ballroom dancers.
Argentine Tango Embrace
Ballroom Tango Hold
What really looks and feels like “ballroom” to us is if there is a lack of contact between the heads. Ballroom posture is all about keeping the top part of your body (from the sternum up) away from your partner. Even in a toned-down social posture, the heads are absolutely not supposed to touch. However, in Argentine Tango, whether cheeks are touching or a chin is in contact with the top of the head, head contact is ‘muy importante’ and the cherry on top.