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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Embrace me like you really want to dance tango

Tango is music and we can dance to it, but without an embrace, I’m not dancing tango – I’m doing something else. I make my connection with the music, with my partner, with the floor through the embrace. It’s my medium of communication – I propose a movement to my partner, she responds, I follow – our bodies communicate this through the embrace. Of course, I’m talking close embrace, and when I’m in Buenos Aires in particular, that means chest to belly contact – then we dance as one.

Taking up the embrace with a new partner is a defining moment. I take up the embrace with very clear intent. I want my partner to know that I feel confident with her, to reassure her that I know how to dance well, that I will keep her safe as she is led into the unknown, to create a feeling of trust. At the same time, my partner will communicate a lot to me when she takes up my embrace: I will be able to sense her love of tango, the strength of her frame (if she presents a weak right arm, then the dance may be compromised immediately), her willingness to surrender (entregarse). We are exchanging knowledge about each other - a lot of information flows back and forth at that moment, and almost immediately we create expectations and sense how we are going to approach the dance.

With a good embrace, I can lead one step then pause - we are able to wait-feel-listen while being transported by the music. With a good embrace, I feel confident that we can improvise and navigate regardless of the crowd. With a good embrace there is an intimacy, with energy flowing continuously between my partner, me and the music. Only with a good embrace can I dance tango.

Much has been written about the embrace and the following quotes encapsulate its essence for me:

  • Mari in her tango diaries says: “Hold me like it’s personal”. She also writes about the ‘entrega’ mentioned above.
  • Stephanie in her blog writes: “the embrace is about who you are and your ability to communicate that to another”
  • Finally, Johanna in her blog ‘I’m so easy to please’ gets to the heart of the matter with a piece of fundamental advice: “Just embrace me like you mean it.”

And for those searching for the perfect embrace, a starting point could be the advice (at 2m30s) from one of our favourite couples, Melina & Detlef - men, give your partner a genuine hug, then take up her right hand.

Just do it.

So what do you want from the embrace?


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Advice to tangueras

In a previous post I praised the tangueras who are patient and taking a long-term view of tango, as a way of cultivating a strong pool of male dancers in their community. Remembering, of course, that the ladies also have to work hard on their own skills, too, so that the dance will be mutually enjoyable.

As well as those all important techniques to develop, tangueras have so many other things things on their minds, such as How to get more dances at a milonga; What is their role in a dance which appears to be male-dominated; and dare I say it, What to wear?

Tangocherie and Maleva share their thoughts, often quite humorously, on these and other tango topics. So why should I reinvent the wheel, when their advice is gold? Thanks Keith Elshaw, for your thoughts, too!

The lady's role is a significant one in what appears to be a male-dominated dance:
There are certainly some effective ways to present yourself at a milonga, and there are some others which I would not recommend. Take a look:
What do you think?
Feel free to share any favourite links on these topics.


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Tangueras investing in the long term

Let's face it, men take a lead role in this improvised partner dance. As a consequence, they have to master a lot of skills before they can begin to dance with confidence and improvise effectively. In broad terms, they must develop a high level of body awareness & control, navigational skills and musicality - not something you pick up in just a few lessons. The men who achieve this are focussed and determined.

Despite this, there are women in the tango scene who are heard to complain that they ....
  • want to dance more often at milongas, and preferably with the more experienced dancers, or
  • expect their partners to employ a variety of showy figures to make their dance more enjoyable, or
  • only enjoy dancing with men who lead well and respond sensitively to the music.

Men, on the other hand, are known to lament that they ....

  • fear that their dance partners will become bored with their limited repertoire of figures, or
  • lack the confidence to dance in the milonga, because of the challenges of navigation and being watched by others, or
  • need their partners to be more balanced, controlled and patient, rather than anticipating.

Sound familiar? Does this apply to your tango community?

Speaking from a woman's perspective, I'd like to think that wise tangueras are patient - they are, after all, mostly in it for the long haul. They know that a leader needs a lot of time and practice to develop funfamental skills, as well as the confidence to dance well with them in the milonga. They also realise that their own road is a long one too. For a woman in tango, responding with sensitivity, good musicality, skill and confidence requires hours of focussed practice as well.

Basically, these ladies understand that it's vital to learn to walk before trying to run. So they don't expect to be entertained with elaborate performance figures. They have long since realised that trying get them to jump through these hoops will only lead men to throwing in the towel altogether (and where would that leave the ladies?), or see them wrestling with those figures (and their partners) because they lack the necessary foundations.

On closer inspection, those patient and wise tangueras need not be the selfless creatures they seem. They're strategic & far-sighted, and are working towards developing the local pool of competent and confident male dancers, who will bring them hours of pleasure on the dance-floor for years to come.


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