Clearly, there are many “styles” of (personalized and/or marketed) embraces. There are embraces that mix and match various chest, head, arm, and body positions. For the purposes of this post, we wanted to write about the two embraces that seem to be at opposite ends in the traditional Argentine Tango embrace spectrum (i.e., the V-embrace and the Square-embrace) and why we prefer (and use) the Square-embrace.
Chest Position: We want to feel an embrace (un abrazo… a hug) that actually feels like a hug. A hug in the normal sense of the word; one that is chest to chest. One of the biggest reasons we simply could not continue learning to dance in an extreme V-embrace was because we were longing for the feeling of a real “abrazo”. The mechanics of the V-embrace ensure that a couple are in a “V” shape. This means the left side of the man’s chest and the right side of the woman’s chest are open. Attempting to connect only one boob to one pectoral muscle simply left us longing for more contact.
Head Position: We have been observing the cloning effect that is taking place recently… where females around the world are doing their best to copy the “intense head position” that looks towards the man. Besides this being a completely unnatural head alignment and an open invitation to smell one another’s breath, this brings us back to our love of the “abrazo”. When people hug, they don’t look in the same direction!
As an important aside on head positions: A leader who may enjoy a follower with an “open” head (i.e., her head facing him), is unlikely to find a “closed” head to be intrusive to his embrace (unless he uses the head as a point of contact to lead through). However, a leader who enjoys a “closed” head follower is more likely to feel that an “open” head is intruding into the space of his embrace.
Body Position: With the combination of the chest position and the head position in a V-embrace, the woman is often working her way into the man’s armpit. Her body is not facing the man straight-on and she is slightly turned on an angle towards the man. While this can work for someone who has excellent body awareness or body conditioning, it is an unfortunate goal for many adult learners who have enough difficulty aligning their bodies straight in a natural state. Many women will not be able to dance backwards in a straight line when their upper body is not facing straight back and this can lead to an awkward dance (at a minimum) to physical pains and injuries.
Arm Position: The position of the woman’s left arm is very flexible in a “Square” embrace (although there tends to be a preference for a draping arm around the shoulders). However, there seems to be a very set position in the V-embrace. That is, the woman holds/pushes against the man’s right shoulder blade with her left hand. The result is a jutting-out elbow that can be very dangerous in a crowded milonga. In any case, this is another example of how this is less like a hug, more like a dance position, and simply something we prefer less.
All of this is not to say we don’t like the way the V-embrace looks. There are numerous couples who look absolutely beautiful dancing this way. As a follower, K enjoys dancing with leaders who dance in this way and she does her best to adapt to those leaders. Which is a good point to stress: It is up to the woman to adapt to the man’s “style” and embrace. As a “square-embrace” follower, K should not go up to a V-embrace leader and plant herself squarely on his chest. Similarly, a V-embrace follower should not position herself in a V-embrace when she dances with Jorge.