Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of connection, love, fellowship, unity, harmony and beauty, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us into individuals, but tango unites us into a team, community and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through affinity, altruism, cooperation, accommodation, and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

September 10, 2009

Close Embrace and Open Embrace (III)

The feeling of dancing close embrace tango is totally different from that of dancing open embrace tango. The enchanting music, comforting embrace, and rhythmic motion of the two connected bodies have a hypnotic effect to the dancers, causing them to fall into a state of daydreaming, so heavenly that they don't want to wake up when the tanda ends. (See Cradle Effect.) In close embrace tango, the male partner feels his female partner’s soft, springy, flexible, sensitive and responsive body. She snuggles in his arms, surrenders herself to him and becomes an integral part of him. As they dance, her body twists in his arms, her torso trundles on his torso and breasts rub his chest, her muscles relax and tense, and her whole body adapts ingeniously and femininely to his changing posture. All these generate a pleasant sensation. He feels a real flesh-and-blood woman. The beauty of her body and her femininity excite him. He enjoys dancing with her because only she as a woman can stir the feelings within him that make him a man - strong, needed, in charge, dependable, and protective, just as only he can stir within her the feelings that she enjoys as a woman. His masculinity, strength, support, care and protection make her feel safe, loved and beautiful. In his embrace she returns to her womanhood again. Only in that moment can she fully enjoy being a woman, as in real life she has to be more independent. Tango is known as a refuge and it has to be danced by the opposite sexes to have that effect. When tango is danced by the same-sex partners, something mysterious and magic is missing, and to me that is anti-tango. I know some people will argue with me about this. But, hey, that’s me. I like women and enjoy a dance that contains the beauty of both masculinity and femininity. (See Tango and Gender Interdependence.)

But that is not all. If close embrace tango is sensual and physical, it is also romantic and soulful. No one has depicted this aspect of close embrace tango better than Eugene Grigoryev in his short essay What Is Tango?. Here I want to quote his essay in its entirety because I myself cannot say any better, and the narrative of close embrace tango would not be complete without this depiction of its romantic, poetic, dreamy and heavenly feelings. The following is Eugene’s masterpiece.

“Tango is more than just a dance or a sequence of steps. It is an expression of our emotions, an inner reflection of who we are and what we experience, a way to channel what we feel through movement. Tango is a language of expressing what we feel through motion, stirred in us by music, in unison with our partner. It comes into your lives in many different ways, as simple interest, a hobby, or a fascination… and ever so slowly it becomes an addiction.

A simple look, a gesture, a smile, an eye contact, his askance to lead, her acceptance to be led, all done without any need of verbal communication. As the music compels them, she comes close to him, they embrace… they feel each other breathe, they feel the passionate song unfold, it flows through their bodies, invigorating them, stirring emotions, which they both share… They can be strangers in real life, but as long as they are in this tango moment, they can be anyone they want… You don't have to know the person or even want to know them. Time ceases to exist during this moment. Both dancers are moving to the music, listening for it to tell them what to do… They slow down, pause, accelerate, suspend, all in the moment… almost as being possessed by the music. Outside of this moment is the real world, with its everyday problems, solutions, responsibilities, deadlines… but not here, not now… Now it is only tango, a refuge, a moment of surreal experience of desire, longing… words are not meant to describe it.

The social aspect of milonga is fascinating. It holds anticipation, surprise, heavenly music, moments of contact and separation. The challenge and satisfaction of rhythmically moving in unison with another person is what lures us to Tango. The experience is both physical and surreal. In three minutes of a song, you can experience a rollercoaster of emotions, but you will not experience them alone. For in those three minutes there will be a person embracing you, sharing what they are feeling with you… all without a single word being spoken… pure, raw emotions expressed through motion.”


  1. What a wonderful post. I enjoy your blog so much!

  2. Everything sounded great until I got to this line: "In his embrace she returns to her womanhood and childhood again. Only in that moment she can truly feel and enjoy being a woman, as in real life she has to be less." Paul, you are reaching and speculating. You are not a woman, and you are just flat out wrong. I am a woman every second of the day, and every second of the day I enjoy being a woman, and at no time or place do I feel less, nor do I have to be less, nor could I be less. Let me tell you what I feel, as a woman, dancing tango in close embrace. I feel the unison of the masculine and feminine energies, and the harmony that those two energies create when we move as one and in time with the music. I trust my partner in his lead and this trust allows me to submit both to his lead and to the music. I don't feel anymore or any less a woman that at any other time of the day. What I do feel is enveloped in the sensuality and rhythm of the music, in the unity with my partner. Do I feel sexy sometimes when I'm dancing? I don't think sexy is the right word...I think its more sensual...I sometimes feel sensual, raw, powerful because the uniting of both the male and female energies can be really powerful, but these feelings are already inside me and every woman and we carry them around all day long. Tango is not the only thing that brings these things out and it certainly doesn't create them. A woman who allows herself to feel the amazing connection of tango, is a woman already in touch with her femininity and her womanhood and she relishes both every second of the day.

  3. I like what you beautifully said about yourself as an individual. But I don't think myself, or any person in that matter, as merely an individual, but a part of the whole, without the latter the former is incomplete no matter how wonderful he/she is from his/her own perspective. I do not dispute with he who appreciates his own being, but if he regards himself as everything and can be so without others, I do think that is narrow-minded and arrogant to say the least. Tango is not about the individual. It is about the whole.