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, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, 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 connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

September 3, 2009

Close Embrace and Open Embrace (II)

Close embrace tango and open embrace tango are two different dances. They have little in common in their structures, techniques, feel and philosophies (what is tango, why people dance tango, the gender roles in tango, and principles of partnership, etc.), so different that people who can dance one dance may not be able to dance the other without learning it. I knew this from personal experience. When I first tried to dance close embrace tango after three years of learning open embrace tango, I had no clue on how to do it because everything, including posture, connection, axis, balance, space, movement possibilities and the way to lead and follow, changed. (See The Styles of Tango.)

In fact, open embrace tango has more in common with ballroom dances than tango. Just as in a standard ballroom dance, in open embrace tango the two partners are apart by an arm's length without bodily contact. Each partner is on his/her own axis independent to the other, so the two do not depend on each other for balance. Theoretically the man is supposed to lead with his torso. But since there is no torso contact, he has to use the hands to lead, and the woman receives the lead through her hands instead of her torso also. The feeling of dancing open embrace tango is exactly like dancing a standard ballroom dance. No intimacy and comfort of embracing another person. No sensation of the two connected bodies moving together in sync to the music. No emotional involvement between them. The fun of dancing open embrace tango mainly comes from a broader range of movement possibilities due to the increased space between the partners. Each partner focuses on his/her own performance. They do not enjoy the physical existence of the other person.

I like to dance open embrace tango just as I like to dance ballroom dances. It's spectacular, intricate, dazzling and showy. But that is not the reason I love tango. The reason I love tango lies in the close embrace, its physicality, intimacy, coziness, sensuousness, sentimentalism and romanticism. In close embrace tango, the two partners lean into each other, chest against chest and cheek touches cheek. His arm encircles her body, and hers is around his neck. In such closeness the two partners literally feel each other's body, hear each other’s breaths, smell each other’s odor, and sense each other’s impulses. They rely on each other for balance and there is little space between them. Consequently, the way they move their bodies is different from that in open embrace tango. (See Spot Dancing in Tango.) The man leads the woman with his torso against her and does not need to use the hands. The woman receives the lead with her chest. She closes her eyes, surrenders herself to him, relishes the caress of his embrace and enjoys his attentive ride. It is a very comfortable position in which to be and to dance. (See Close Embrace and Open Embrace (III).)


  1. you are right :)

    nice blog generally

    please increase your range of observations into other areas of tango :)

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  3. I agree with you on your observations on the closed embrace. However, when there is a big difference in lenght between partners, closed embrace is often very difficult, not to say impossible. I cannot look over my partners shoulder with my 150 cm and his 180cm. It does not mean that there is no intimacy, physicality or coziness. For me, these things have also to do with the stage you're in. If you're in the fourth stage than a not-completely-open but also a not-completely-closed embrace can have this all. It's the interaction between the two dance partners. I love to dance with a guy that is more than 2 meters (I can rest my head against his belly :-D ) because of the attention he gives to his follower.