When did tango first start feeling like dancing? For many, if not all of us, it was the moment we tried out the embrace.

But as we start learning more figures, we tend to get so busy dancing that the embrace slips down on our list of priorities. It’s not until after we’ve gained some experience when we start recognizing its importance. This isn’t a fault so much as it is a natural process of learning, so don’t feel bad.

So before we go jaunting off on too many tango adventures, here are some reasons why it’s worth making an effort to revisit this seemingly fundamental element:

It’s always there: Physically, it’s the most obvious way of connecting with our partners. Our minds might be occupied with doing figures correctly and remembering technique. Figures and sequences have a clear beginning and end, but the embrace is constantly happening. And since it’s always there, we have endless opportunities to refine it. Let’s make the most of those opportunities.

It’s a rich source of information: We get a clearer sense of how a partner moves, what his/her comfort level is, and even a sense of his/her personality. It’s through the embrace where we feel the nuances of the figures, and depending on the partner, even the music as well.

It’s more than a technical formality: It’s true that much of the tango embrace can be understood through technical means. Without a good embrace, for instance, a basic step like a cross or ocho can feel more like a wrestling match. Our teachers are always reminding us to relax our shoulders, avoid pushing/pulling with our arms, and exercise good posture. But beyond this technical stuff, the embrace is also a means of communicating with, and understanding, another human being. Ever get lost in tango bliss, or have a really good dance that made your evening? At the root of all that was a nice embrace.

So at the next milonga, before we try any figure regardless of complexity, let’s first make sure the embrace is working. If it is, let’s keep it looking good from the beginning of the tanda until the very end.



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