Heads up


The milongas are for dancing, not for practicing and offering feedback to your partner.   Argentine men are clear on this when they enter a milonga.

Jose invited me for a vals tanda.  I looked to him because we’ve enjoyed many vals tandas together.  After the first dance, he made a suggestion that I change the my head position because, as he said, it would look nicer.  He is taller than most of the men with whom I dance, and it’s a stretch for me to see over his shoulder.  I danced with Jose as he suggested, but felt I’d lost connection with him.

Last Sunday, Luis invited me to dance.  After the first dance, he asked me to change my head.  This request came days after the first one.  Luis and I are about the same height.  He asked me to turn my head slightly to the right, placing my forehead on his, with my nose pressed against his right cheek.  I dance with my eyes open, so I was staring into his eyes and giggling about it.  Not only did it feel strange to me, but made me dizzy.  It was impossible to focus on the music while trying to adjust to this odd angle.

During our teaching days in Chicago, Carlos Favre and I gave a workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art called, “The Art of the Embrace.”  A large number of couples with no social dance experience signed up for our tango workshop.  Carlos and I began our demonstration with a two-armed, cheek-to-cheek hug with each other and then transitioned to the dance embrace.  It was the simplest way we knew to show the tango embrace.  It was obvious to us that many couples were not big on hugging each other.  They needed help getting close for a full-body hug.

Tango is a hug between two.  I don’t even consider how I look when I hug a friend and share my energy.   It’s the same for me when I dance tango.


6 Responses to “Heads up”

  1. R. Bononno Says:

    I’m with you (about the embrace) but surprised that someone would ask you to change your head position. And you’re also right about the reluctance of beginners to embrace a stranger the way one does in tango. Especially up here in North America.

  2. Tango Therapist Says:

    If someone is in pain because of one’s embrace, that would be the exception to not suggesting/correcting/teaching on the dance floor. However, your partner was looking for a better outward appearance? That’s clearly a foul in the game of tango. Time-out box! 🙂

  3. Janet Rieck Says:

    The more you dance the more you realize that it is the adjustment factor that you need to be able to do. If you go in with a preconceived idea of what the dance or embrace is you will find it difficult to dance with a lot of people. Let them get you there (embrace) first and then let the rest happen. The old men know how to do it…you have to let them. They are the easiest to dance with…they should be…they have been dancing long enough.

  4. Mikhail Says:

    Well, our tango teacher always says that a woman should slightly turn her head toward the man. He says that it looks not good when a woman peeps out from behind the man’s shoulder and besides deprives the embrace of its special intimacy. What do you think about it? Is our teacher right or it doesn’t matter?

  5. jantango Says:

    I’ve listened to the milongueros viejos and watched the milongueras for years in the milongas. There is more than one way to embrace, and each person finds what works for them. There is more variety today than ever.

    Your teacher wants a certain “tango look” that he has learned from his teachers. Those teachers perform choreography on an empty floor and don’t have to be concerned with colliding with others.

    Tango is a social dance, so the woman looks over the man’s shoulder to prevent collisions by signaling him with her left hand. If her head is turned to the right, she can’t see other dancers. We don’t dance alone socially.

    A woman can look in different directions, depending on what is most comfortable and least distracting: to the floor, straight ahead, or to the ceiling. I use all three eye levels depending on the partner and the music. I can warn my partner with slight pressure from my fingers on his back that someone is close and he shouldn’t step backward.

    I’m among the minority of women in Buenos Aires who dance with their eyes open.

    Patricia Muller in Italy has taught tango for many years and here she shows how to find a comfortable embrace for tango. https://youtu.be/h_ClTgcg5UQ

  6. Marc from Paris Says:

    1/ Men shouldn’t lecture their dance partner on any point. From what I’ve seen here, “maestros de pista” are among the worst dancers.
    2/ Men should adapt to their dance partner. Period. If they can’t, they should first ask themselves if their are still fit for dancing…

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