Tag Archives: Close Embrace

Laughing :D

There is something absolutely incredible about laughing while in an embrace.  Not giggling. Not “ha ha-ing”.  No, we mean full-out laughter.

How often, if ever, have you felt your loved ones laughing in your arms?

Tango is serious business, but if you have the chance to laugh with someone in an embrace, seize the moment and enjoy it.

Embrace Phobia

We have heard very experienced Tangueras say they have difficulties following some men – men who are and have been known to be very clear leaders.  Within seconds of seeing these women dance (with men other than their significant others) these difficulties can usually be explained.  Physically, this type of Tanguera won’t let her head touch her partner’s head, she won’t allow her chest to melt onto his, and she will be looking all around the room rather than letting her eyes glaze over or close.  Emotionally… well emotionally we can’t say for sure, but it is apparent that she does not want to embrace and connect with the man she is dancing with.

We have pondered and theorized the “whys” of the embrace phobia in North America.  There are many explanations and we have spoken about some of them before (here, here, and here)… but one of them surely is the fact that some teachers are actually teaching students that the (close) embrace is only shared with your significant other or those you know well.  A limited embrace!? This is crazy!  By telling students this, you have eliminated one of the most fundamental (not to mention beautiful) aspects of Tango.  We couldn’t even imagine dancing with a milonguero/a (let alone a porteno/a) in a Buenos Aires milonga and thinking, “I do not know you therefore I will only half embrace you.”  Traditional social Tango requires a committed and (close) embrace.  Teachers who teach otherwise are confused, to say the least.

It is simple.  If you cannot embrace and surrender to your partner fully (physically and emotionally), then you are not ready (or truly willing) to dance Tango with that partner.

Weight in Your Heels

This concept is for women only.

Continuing from our posts, part I and part II, on pulling hips back, we move onto this other crazy concept.  In order for women to properly maintain a posture that includes having her hips over her ankles (while simultaneously maintaining chest-to-chest contact with her partner), she will want to put all her weight in her heels.  “Blasphemy!” you cry.  We promise you, it isn’t.  “But how am I supposed to pivot on the balls of my feet?” you ask.  The beauty of this concept is that you are able to have your weight in your heels (i.e., your centre of gravity over your heels) while at the same time lifting them.  When the heels are down, your weight will be there, but when your heels are raised, your weight will not literally be in your heels, but your body will experience it as such.

Here is an exercise to test what we’re talking about:

(To best experience this exercise, do this in heels)

  1. Stand straight, sideways to a mirror.
  2. Lean forward (not down) as though you are searching for your partner’s chest with your own (“show off your breasts/chest”).
  3. Your weight will now be in the balls of your feet.
  4. Pull your hips back over your ankles (no arching of your back required) until the line between your hips and ankles is perpendicular to the ground (if you are wearing pants that have a seam down the side, make that seam completely vertical).
  5. Consciously put your weight into your heels
  6. Maintaining a constant level, bend your knees while lifting your heels off the ground (if you have to shift your weight, it should be extremely minor)

No need to point out just how awful these diagrams are, but we thought they might be helpful… if only a little bit :)  And yes, they are slightly exaggerated.

This is it.  You have experienced the concept of having your weight in your heels while lifting your heels.  What does this mean?  It means so many things!!!  It means:

  1. No longer gripping the floor with your toes
  2. No more excruciating pain in the balls of your feet
  3. Longer nights of dancing
  4. Dancing on your own two feet
  5. Being able to maintain your own axis

This concept was something our maestro told K during a lesson, but only in passing.  We wouldn’t say it is something you would generally hear, but again, this is a gem.

Let us add a few more clarifications though.  Firstly, if a woman does not know how to properly embrace a man (including “technically” and emotionally), pulling her hips back and putting her weight in her heels will likely result in the woman running away from the man during the dance.  That is, she will be back-leading with her upper body.  So if the woman is not “showing her breasts off” and maintaining contact with the man’s chest, her focus will be on her bottom half and the embrace will be ignored and possibly sacrificed.

If this concept still seems crazy to you, we understand.  However, the idea of putting all your weight in the balls of your feet is just as crazy.  It is impossible to put your weight in your toes and actually stand on your own two feet unless you are standing completely straight… like a BALLERINA.  That said, your weight, at a minimum, should be equally distributed between the balls of your feet and your heels.  Furthermore, the pain you are inflicting on the balls of your feet is unnecessary and torturous.

Finally, to touch on the “hips back” idea one more time…  You cannot stand straight as a woman and actually make contact with a man’s chest unless you pull your hips back and reach for the man with your chest.  That, or you can bend over at the waist – which low-and-behold has your butt sticking out in a BAD way.  Secondly, if you do not create some version of “hips back”, there will be no space between the men’s and women’s feet.  You’re damn right K doesn’t want to make contact with the man’s groin.  Hello!?  Ewwww!  That is what ballroom dancing is for – where contact is made from the sternum all the way down to the knees (we speak from our past experience as competitive International Ballroom dancers).

“Close” Embrace


Photo by “Jorge”


In Spanish, there exists only “el abrazo“.  Why then in English do we say anything more than “the embrace” (when referring to a chest-to-chest embrace – in whatever “style”)?  It seems to us that one of the reasons there is a problem with the embrace outside of Argentina is due to English-speaking people having created terms, and thus concepts, such as “close embrace” and “open embrace”.

The two of us will now make a conscious effort (in our teachings and in general) to refer only to “the embrace” and “open hold”.

Tango “Styles”

We have previously stated that we don’t really believe in different styles of Tango and that there is only one Tango that has personal styles or is danced somewhat differently due to space, location (barrio), or era.  After our time in Buenos Aires, we discovered that this holds true… almost.  We did observe and hear some definitions for the various styles and here is what we learned (but is by no means the absolute truth on this topic):

Milonguero Style (or “Centro” Style)

Is seen mostly in the downtown milongas where there is less space to dance.  The embrace stays closed, the steps are smaller, and the musicality is slightly more literal and “choppy” (however, it is in no way S.O.S. Tango Musicality).

Villa Urquiza Style (or “Barrio” Style)

This is the most marketed style – especially by those who have no concept of what it represents.  It is about quality – in posture, movement, and musicality. Specifically, there is a focus on the connection of the steps to the music.  For this reason, it is said to be “elegant”.  This style is more easily danced when there is more space in the milongas because it can use a more flexible embrace (at time interchanging between closed and open).  The men tend to use enrosques during giros and dance more elaborate steps.  It is these elaborate steps which provide “space” for the more complex expression of music often seen in this style.


A “milonguero” may dance any one of these styles and does not necessarily dance “Milonguero Style” Tango.

Our “Style”

What “style” do we dance?  We don’t claim to dance any “style” of Tango.  However, here’s our answer:  When we danced in a Buenos Aires milonga that didn’t provide much space, our Tango was more of a Milonguero Style (we were even told a couple times that our dancing was “muy milonguero”).  When we had and have more space, our dancing is more typical of the “Barrio” style.  Although we may have learned some Villa Urquiza Style Tango and our dance may have some flavourings of it, we would not claim to dance it at all.

For those who continuously want to claim that Nuevo Tango is a style of Argentine Tango, we can only say that we never once heard a teacher of Argentine Tango put Nuevo in a list of styles.