Tango Argentino > Comfortable Close Embrace?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Malena, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Malena

    Malena New Member

    It's probably such a basic and obvious thing to ask, but I can't work it out for myself and I was hoping some of you good folks could help...

    Me and my partner are at the 'recent beginners' level at our local tango class. We'd been learning in open embrace the whole time and last night we were introduced to close embrace. The way the class works, the teachers try to rotate leaders and followers as much as possible, so everyone dances with everyone. We worked very slowly: standing a foot's width apart, leaning towards each other and connecting, and finally adding the arms. I got to try this with leaders of many shapes, sizes and ability, and managed to have some very comfortable dances - adjusting accordingly to each leader.

    HOWEVER - the few minutes at the end of the class where I got to try with my partner was not so successful. We tried again today with little joy. I'm 5'7" in my shoes and he's probably nearing 6'. We're both pretty slim if that means anything. If I keep my head straight forward and look over his right shoulder my nose and lips get buried in his shirt (not so good when I'm wearing lipstick) and the right side of my head gets pressed up against his jaw, straining my neck. When I've tried turning my head to the right more my forehead presses his jaw and is still uncomfortable. He also complained his right arm was going numb, even though I wasn't gripping him with my left. He has a tendency to stand up straight (i.e. not leaning forward on the balls of his feet), grip with his left hand and I've been known to stick my butt out!

    Despite our deficiencies we still managed to have comfortable dances in close embrace with others, but it's been pretty rotten together! The reason why I'm asking you is because our teachers will be on holiday for a couple of weeks and we'd like to work on this without any further upset. Any ideas?
  2. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Start by working on the right posture, first separately, standing still, then moving.
    Then practice just standing together, in the correct posture, working on your embrace and hands position.
    Then start walking together in the embrace.
    There is a number of exercises for developing a more comfortable embrace. Where are you located?
  3. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Welcome to DF.

    There is some difference in your heights, but it doesn't sound that unusual.

    Are you able to dance comfortably with other partners his height? Is he able to dance comfortably with other partners your height?

    If you are dancing with your hips held backwards, I think that's a problem, but it may not affect your head or face.

    If he's standing straight upright, I think that's also a problem, but again, it may not affect your head and face.

    I can't think why his R arm would be numb if you aren't clasping it. Do you have your L arm wrapped over his shoulder?

    If you two are the new ones in the class and everyone else has more experience in close embrace, maybe the only problem is two beginners trying to work it out together. That's often difficult, but it usually improves with time.

    I would suggest that you both project forward a bit more, you with your hips and he with his chest. Who knows, that may help. If you move your hips forward, it may cause your head to move backward somewhat.
  4. Malena

    Malena New Member

    Thanks Lilly,

    We're based in London, UK.

    He just walked in the door, so we were able to put your advice to work. He's walking with completely straight legs (!) and I was probably sticking my neck out to force a connection. Once he started leaning forward there was more of a connection in our chests and I was able to look over his shoulder without hurting my neck, and without his arm going numb. Thanks for helping out.

    We'll keep practicing in open embrace and build up the time we spend on close embrace. Hips and knees!
  5. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I would like to suggest an exercise, but rather than trying to explain it here verbally, let me see if I have a video illustrating it, and I will send it to you.
  6. Malena

    Malena New Member

    Thanks for getting back to me. Yes, we were able to dance comfortablu with EVERYONE else in the class. I danced with a man shorter than me, and someone of almost 7'. He said he was also comfortable with others.

    I don't do that generally, only as over-compensation when I get a leader who doesn't put their weight forward.

    We think he may be tense, as he is in his L arm. My L hand rests lightly on his R shoulder blade

    I agree here. About a third of the class had no experience with close embrace but that seemed to make no difference in comfort. I remember before we started with these teachers we had a very poor one who inflicted a frame rather than an embrace on us. My partner reported back and shoulder pain then as well. Maybe he needs time to relax into each new thing?

    Yes, we started to do that and that seemed to ease the strain somewhat significantly. Some mirrors would probably help!

    Thanks again!
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hello, Malena. Welcome to DF.

    Let's talk a bit about that projecting your hips forward bit some time.

    I find the arm wrapped around my partner so that my forearm is parallel to the floor awkward, depending on whom I am embracing. I can feel how pressure on the shoulder could create numbness or pain, but don't know if he is doing that.

    I find the occassional no arms moment to be instructive regarding how much "lean" you need to form a connection.
  8. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    My personal preference is a very parallel close embrace with no offset, so take this with a grain of salt, but i think an important concept is that the primary intent of the embrace is to be in front of each other, and that the "aroundness" of the hug is a bonus, something we enjoy about the dance, not something that has a function - we don't hold onto our partner, we lean forward to connect, and the arms something of an an adornment. Followers (and i assume leaders) who focus too much on the aroundness feel constricting sometimes.

  9. Malena

    Malena New Member

    Thanks Steve and Gssh on tips about arms - we will certainly work on that.
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Try just standing up and hugging each other using both arms like you normally would in an affectionate embrace (nothing to do with dancing). The one requirement to the hug is that your left arm will need to go over his right arm, (which may not be how you normally hug).

    If that doesn't feel good, fix that before proceeding, (presumably, you'll be able to figure out how to hug each other so that you are both comfortable, while keeping your left arm over his right arm).

    Once you are in a plain hug that feels good, then unwrap your right arm, along with him doing the same with his left arm and put them into a tango position (without changing anything else about your hug). The goal is still comfort (not stiffness or anything else).

    If this still feels good (and it should), then the next step is to stop embracing, look at your foot positions. If your feet are at the correct distance apart from each other, (anywhere from maybe 4" to a foot), you are done, (although likely they'll be too close together).

    If they are too close together, move your feet away from each other until you get to around 6" apart, and then try again from the top.

    You'll get there.

  11. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    as above but he hugs you around the base of your ribs and lifts you gently until you are in contact at whatever torso levels work for you; you relax your hips downward, until your heels are on the floor. this improves the disocciation for you by opening the gap between rib gage and pelvic girdle.
  12. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    He probably also needs to slightly 'sit' and to keep the knees slightly bent (not too much, though, because if he does it too much he's going to make his natural step too large for you).
  13. Mario7

    Mario7 Member

    OK..Ive been dancing 4 1/2 years.. a few months ago, my practise partner and I decided to go to a more 'V' embrace (closer on man's right side) and to not at all rest the woman's head/neck on mine. The woman is in charge of her own balance and upright axis and at most, only meets her farhead to some part of my head...but just barely touching..having the woman responsible for her own balance, etc. and never using me to pull herself upright (ie:in a giro) has greatly improved her and our dance. This may seem obvious to experienced dancers but beginners at close embrace often get the idea that they are supposed to lean on each other...often the embrace is taught with the couple leaning on each other with their arms behinds their backs..(no arms)...while I used to be a fan of the apilado lean, and I still seek contact at and just below the ribcage, I now see any higher contact as very COUNTER-productive.... any comments on my post are appreciated as my embrace is still evolving.:cool:
  14. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    They're _both_ close embrace embraces, but the kinematics (and certainly dynamics) of a leaned embrace and one with leader and follower centre of gravities over their respective feet are very different.

    There's merit in both of them. You can even go from one to the other in a single dance, although you can only pull that off with people familiar with both styles and which you know very well.
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    There are lots of possibilities in close embrace. The three main variables are: How much lean (or how much weight / pressure), how much are you offset from each other (shifted to the side of each other), and how much "V" (how open is the open side).

    Of course it's also possible to change the embrace during the dance to facilitate certain moves. A lot of people use more of an apilado embrace when walking, but then change to more of a V, (or even slightly open) when doing certain figures.

    Others prefer never to change the embrace, and thus will simply not do any moves that would require them to change it. There are many possibilities, and many preferences. Unfortunately, an awful lot of preferences are masquerading as rules.
  16. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Just wondering how much influence a DP actually can have ;) Joke aside, I think that there are hundreds of interstages between true apilado and salón-V concerning the opening angle as well as the position of the face contact. So you can adjust to your partner´s height as well as to the music played.
  17. Malena

    Malena New Member

    Thanks once again everyone! It seems as we practice more, we get more relaxed and comfortable...
  18. This is a great observation about the dynamics of the tango embrace, though a more advanced concept, it helps explain all of those conflicts between teachers and rules that are so often encountered while learning.
  19. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    FTFY. ;) I wholeheartedly agree. Too much preference/tradition/local flavor masquerading as rules.
  20. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    which is the antithesis of Conditional Teaching...

    so I agree ( he adds cautiously) with Peaches...

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