Tango can be danced in many ways. For example, it can be danced in a virtual embrace where the two partners dance around each other at a distance without actually touching each other. The man leads the woman with a visual signal from his torso to show how he wants her to move and the woman follows the visual lead to carry out the step. A visual lead is difficult to perceive because it cannot be felt and must be seen. The difference between different signals often is so subtle that it is hard to discern by the eye. It's quite challenging for the man to send a clear visual signal and for the woman to apprehend it. Also, the virtual embrace lacks the physicality, comfort and sensation of the physical embrace. It disables movements that require physical support. Despite these limits, the virtual embrace discloses an important distinction between lead and follow: the former is to plot the dance and the latter is to beautify the dance. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.) It also reveals the fact that lead/follow is not just a physical process but also a psychological one, requiring mental concentration and comprehension. The awareness of this fact is important because one cannot dance well with the feet unless one can dance with the heart.
Experienced dancers also use some variations of the close embrace to increase movement possibilities. One variation is the V-shaped embrace in which the two partners are connected with one side of their torsos and leave the other side open. Another is increasing the incline of the body to allow more space between their legs. The combination of the two is still another option. These variations require flexibility and stamina of the body. In actual dancing dancers may switch from one variation to another. For example, when doing ocho the woman often changes from one side V-shaped connection to a chest-to-chest connection to another side V-shaped connection.
The choice of embrace is affected by many factors, such as physical conditions (flexibility and stamina of the body), dance styles (movement inclination or feeling inclination), purposes (social dancing or performance), environment (floor density and milonga codes), music (fast or slow tempo), movements (fancy or simple, large or small steps), maturity (age and experience), and genres (tango, vals or milonga). Every embrace has its merits and limits. In the milonguero style of tango, the close embrace is used to secure the communication of feelings through direct torso contact. In the Villa Urquiza style of tango, a loose embrace is used to facilitate fancy footwork. In stage or show tango, the open embrace is used to deliver intricate performance with dazzling figures and thrilling tricks. (See Three Theories on How Tango Is Led.)