How to give a great hug

Our world is trust deficient.  People need to hug more.

We trust when we accept an invitation to dance tango with a stranger.  We bring our bodies together and hold one another for three minutes without speaking.  This simple act of trust, accompanied by the music of tango, is changing our world for the better.

Have you gotten your 12 hugs today?   We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and twelve hugs for growth.  It’s unfortunate that certain cultures are touch deficient, but tango dancing is helping to change that.  There is no deficiency in Argentina where hugs and touching are common.  Tango makes it possible for us to get our daily dose of hugs on the dance floor!

A good beginning for a tango class is teaching how to hug another person.   A hug isn’t common in all cultures.  Teachers can’t assume that everyone in class knows how to hug or that they are comfortable with putting their bodies close to others.

A good way to start is lining up the class participants in two rows facing each other.  Everyone raises their right arm vertically and extends the left arm horizontally. Then the two rows of people approach and give a full body hug with both arms wrapped around each other where they stay for a minute or so, taking time to breathe and feel the other person.  Then one row moves down one place to practice with another person, until everyone has hugged.  Men can hug men, women can hug women, too.  I recommend ten minutes of hugging at the beginning of each class.  Everyone will be more relaxed for class after their daily dose of hugs.

A hug requires trust and no holding back, but that doesn’t mean tight squeezing or discomfort.  A half-hearted hug doesn’t count.  It may take practice for some to relax and surrender to the hug from a stranger, but it’s worth the effort if one wants to dance tango.  Feedback to a partner is proper and often helpful.  This is good preparation for going to a milonga where you will dance with others for the first time.

I’m certain that most of you can recall attending your first class that began with the eight-step basic and trying to memorize the sequence.  You focused on your feet from the beginning and felt clumsy.  When you had to dance the sequence with a partner, it was worse.  You had no practice with the most important part of tango — the embrace.  If you’re uncomfortable in the embrace, you can’t trust.  And if you can’t trust, you can’t dance tango.

Our world needs more tango dancers.  Our world needs people who trust one another.

How to give a great hug.


6 Responses to “How to give a great hug”

  1. Carol Conway Says:

    Super post… thanks.

  2. Liesbeth Bennett Says:

    Dear Janice, this was a great, and very important entry in your blog.
    Thank you very much.

  3. Chris, UK Says:

    Class rotation that forces you to dance with someone you don’t want to is bad enough. This is one of the things that makes classes off-putting to many newcomers, especially girls.

    This proposed class rotation that forces you to spend one to two minutes in a hug with someone you don’t want to is even worse.

    What comes before a real hug is the choice to hug and a choice of who to hug. Take away this choice, and the hug is at best insincere and fake, and at worst undesirable and unpleasant intimacy with someone who simply paid a class entrance for the privilege of getting physically close to people whether they want it or not.

  4. R. Bononno Says:

    Yeah, dancing with people you are not sympathetic toward or who feel antipathy towards you can be a pretty awkward experience. Doesn’t make for a good class or a good dance. Other than that, I’m all in favor of hugging. But I generally like to hug the people I like to hug. Interesting about the training, however. You’ve got to get people to overcome their barriers to being close to strangers. That can be the most difficult part of learning tango for some.

  5. Stephen Twist Says:

    Thanks to Donna Voller’s post, my attention was drawn to your delightful piece, with which I totally agree. Here in Buenos Aires, one observes that it is often visitors that have an issue with the embrace. Portenos simply relax into it. After all, it is part of the culture. Which brings me to comment on the comments. If one wants to learn Argentine tango, and become truly integrated as a tanguero here, you simply have to let go of your aversions to hugs and rotation. At classes run by Portenos, both are necessary and expected. Experienced class teachers spot and caution anyone who is acting inappropriately, so that should not be an issue. Which brings me to my final observation. Tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires is a community event. It is inclusive for those that share the culture and adhere to the codigos. That is why, Janice, I believe you are right about hugs and rotation. Thanks for the piece, which I too have shared.

  6. jantango Says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    On Monday I danced with a stranger for the first time. He approached my table, smiled, and invited me to dance. I don’t usually accept invitations this way, but I did this time for one reason — his smile. I knew from the moment we embraced that it was going to be a good tanda. I felt comfortable from the first second he put his arm around me. The steps don’t matter. I hope I’ll dance more tandas with Mario.

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