How do you hug your dance partner?

I’ve observed the wide variety of embraces used in the Buenos Aires milongas.  Here are a few examples.

The Arm Clamp

I read a comment on a tango forum where the writer called it the left arm clamp.  It is common among senior couples in the clubes de barrio, as well as being adopted today among the younger generation of dancers.  It is the way Dorila Raquel Borja embraces her partner Cacho.  It’s acceptable for the woman to use as long as she doesn’t clamp down on her partner’s right arm and limit his movement.  Newer dancers are adopting it without realizing this can restrict the man’s movement unless the woman’s arm is very light on his.   There are women who would like to control the man, and this is one way to do it.


The Back Rub

If a short woman is dancing with a very tall partner, this is an option.  However, I’ve seen it used where couples are the same height.  It appears that raising the arm to embrace a partner is too uncomfortable for some women, so they have adopted this one.  Like the Arm Clamp, it can interfere with his arm movement to lead her.  It doesn’t seem to sustain body contact while dancing, so it’s not an embrace for making a good connection.  Perhaps some women have adopted it because it’s in vogue.  I’d like to know who started it.  I don’t hug a person around the waist, so I wouldn’t dance that way either.

The Crow’s Foot

This one tops the list for the worst embrace used for tango.  I don’t know who invented it, but it certainly is different.  It requires a woman to direct energy to her hand where there is constant tension.  We need to relax and surrender to a partner when we dance.  That is only made more difficult when we have an awkward arm and tense hand placed on the center of our partner’s back.  It seems like it’s more a decoration than anything.  This embrace is more noticeable when one is wearing a large jeweled ring on the index finger.  I suppose that is the reason for its popularity, especially among those who dance exhibitions.  

The Gripper

I’ll never forget the day I walked into Lo de Celia and saw this one being used–not only by the woman but also by her partner.  First of all, you need long arms or it’s a stretch to do it.  I’ve been told that women have adopted it so they can take control.  That tells me they aren’t interested in dancing tandas with any milongueros viejos.  I don’t know why women want to take over, but this embrace is as weird as it gets for social dancing.  I’ve seen and done ballroom dancing for years, and nothing like this has appeared anywhere except in tango.  I wonder why. 

The Flying Elbow

This is one I don’t like to see up close on a crowded floor.  I’ve had a few close calls with flying elbows almost hitting me in the eye.  That’s one reason I always dance with my eyes open.  Any embrace is better than this one because it is dangerous.  It requires a simple adjustment by the woman to make her embrace more natural.  It takes more effort to raise the arm this way and minimizes contact with the man’s body.  The more contact we have, the more information we receive from our partners in the dance.

My thanks to Bob and Viv Finch (a/k/a Los Galeses) who came all the way from Wales to pose for these photos.

2 Responses to “How do you hug your dance partner?”

  1. tangobob Says:

    Thanks for the mention. Some of those embraces felt just wierd. It is a shame some people have to be so effected, to me it should just be a gentle hug. A wonderful way to spend three minutes.

  2. tangolady Says:

    Yes!, the more natural and relax is the embrace the more beautiful the dance could be. So “Minas” JUST GIVE IN and enjoy the ride!!

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