Tango Argentino > Miles apart embrace

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by JTh, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. JTh

    JTh Member

    Ok..I have a fellow class member in AT...she has major intimacy/closeness issues - will not let a guy get anywhere near her- to a point where we can barely embrace when dancing. Needless to say, this has made her a poor dancer - no semblance of synchronous movement, cannot feel nor sense the leads direction, weight transfer etc...and on the other side, the leads feel awkward as well - we can't lead! No connection in the embrace (nit really an embrace - she won't allow any lead to come anywhere near her), just can't non verbally communicate etc...she prefers holding hands and that too far apart rather than any embrace.!!!!! Consistent with all leads and consistent over time.
    How do you think we leads should approach this? Thankfully, she is the only follower that is like this (the others welcome close embrace leadership).. so not a big deal..
    As a lead, I respect wishes of followers if they want to keep distance...but this is too far apart for any meaningful dance and significantly detracts from enjoyment and also hinders anyone from getting more competent in the dance.
  2. rels77

    rels77 Active Member

    Suggest she try a different style of dancing? I mean, hand hold is not AT. It's not ballroom. Maybe Latin dancing? Cha cha, etc all use hand hold. Has anyone spoken to the teacher about this? I would think this is a conversation for the teacher to have with her.
    dchester likes this.
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    With sobriety and stoicism. There are so many tango styles, with close embrace only being one of the rather newfangled ones. DonĀ“t force her, nor try to convert her. She will be good for some purpose. A tango student should have three dance partners in the pipeline, anyway. Take the second one for close embrace, and the third one for workshops abroad or holidays.
    You are wrong. Dancing in open hold is as meaningful as dancing in close embrace. Even dancing alone is meaningful. Don't start judging, too many around already do so.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
    Borazine and oldtangoguy like this.
  4. Someday

    Someday Member

    I think the approach is one of both teacher and classmate. In both cases the most one can do is to inform the student of their choices and the pros/cons' and that their understanding will develop over time. In all cases there isn't a reason to judge or offer unsolicited advice more than once. Lastly, dance is personal and shared and you have no idea why this person maintains such distance. It could be lack of confidence in their steps or emotional trauma which doesn't allow for intimacy.

    The teacher of the class has a higher level of interest professionally to have the progress from this student; presumably the student will enjoy dancing more as she can use the different styles of the embrace as needs dictate; the teacher has an interest in showing that the teacher produces good dancers into the AT community' and the teacher understands that people who come to class do so with an expectation of dancing with improving dancers.

    The student's interest (yours) is more narrowly focused on both having a nice relationship with the student during class and being helpful. Like I said, offering constructive, low key, non judgmental or critical advice once and seeing if the idea has traction with the follower is ok, but continued 'teaching' should be left to the instructor. The follower will come around when the time is right.
  5. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Has the teacher done anything? Where do you live? Could it have anything to do with her cultural background?

    She sees other women in the class dancing in the embrace. If she is interested in tango, she has to get over her resistance or leave the class. The men aren't going to dance with her.
    dchester likes this.
  6. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    This is the topic of my mega-thread, "Not Touchy Feely" :

    A few comments:
    • I think doing Contra, then Blues, and then Tango would have been an easier journey. Naturally I did it in the reverse order. Contra is almost all hands, and the open embraces are very short IME.
    • It is very possible this lady doesn't know why she has a hug aversion. I had just avoided hugs, but if I wanted to do Tango with my DW I needed to face the issue. For me it went even further, even being a meter from a lady was tough at first. One of my female friends now laughs that I used to lean back from her and often asked her to step back and move her hand further down my arm for more Tango Distance. It took me 1 and 1/2 years to figure it out. I spent many hours researching the topic.
    • It is a really hard thing to describe. You intellectually know a hug is fine. You even know intellectually that hugging is healthy, won't hurt you, and if nothing else could be really good for the other party. Despite knowing that, as the proximity gets closer you feel a greater and greater need to flee the scene. I have come a long ways. I think a therapist would be rich if he or she could reliably replicate what has happened with me -- going from hug panic to voluntarily doing CE.
    • For me, it was really helpful to be asked first: "May I show you how it works in CE?" or "If you put your hand over here it will go much easier," or things like that were easier than just being grabbed (which also happened).
    • I have seen multiple events where open embrace only ladies were very popular -- although being young, beautiful, and obviously new to things might have been the bigger popularity factors.
    • The local ladies that know me have been very nice about giving me space as I want it. With visitors and at festivals I know I have disappointed some ladies that really wanted to do close embrace and I didn't deliver. I don't lack dances, though. In 2 and 1/2 years there might have been two ladies that turned me down for not doing CE, and even then it is a suspicion.
    • Do realize that just because we nonhuggers don't hug you doesn't mean we don't like you.
    • I have found there has not really be a "cured" point. I have made overall steady and amazing progress, but sometimes slip back. I have also found I need to keep some forward motion or I'll start drifting back -- even now sometimes I'll dance only with DW at a Milonga. If I hit the ground running and ask a lady early then I'll enjoy dancing with several ladies that night. Ok, so this was a long way to say your friend might one night do a real embrace, and then slip back to the old way of things for a few weeks. Another possibility is she might do a closer embrace with a particular person but not the rest. She might also even eventually do close embrace for a few Milongas and then revert to OE. My humble suggestion is give her as much space as she wants. Avoid saying things like "I thought you were all better now!" (I've heard that one several times!)
    On the contrary, you don't need much touch to lead, indeed, you can lead with no touch at all. Something fun Blues dancers do is to dance with just wrists touching, backs touching, elbows touching, index fingers touching... You can lead an amazing amount of stuff with minimal (or even no) contact. I realize that's not really Tango, but here is a chance to stretch your leading skills.

    My humble suggestion is to give her as much space as she wants. The ladies were very nice to me, and respectful of my Tango Distance desires -- for 2+ years for many of them. Lady instructors would drop little hints, or ask to show me a quick close embrace thing. I did slog through some CE classes. Even now, I do OE most of the night most nights, but I'll do some CE with a few special ladies. Of course I DW gets lots of CE.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
    raindance likes this.
  7. JTh

    JTh Member

    thanks for the replies.
    As mentioned in my posts, I do respect her wishes to maintain distance. I am always non-judgemental in this, and do try to help her with foot movement as its a bit hard guiding any other way ( im learning as well) I think she appreciates me for that.
    opendoor likes this.
  8. JTh

    JTh Member

    I am not sure if anyone has spoken to her about this. Most likely not the leads because there are many other followers who welcome both close and more open embraces.
    The teacher has mentioned from time to time to 'come closer' between the partners, and she has inched forward- but you can just feel the uncomfortableness she is feeling in doing so.
  9. JTh

    JTh Member

    I dont know, it may be a bit of all the reasons you mentioned and maybe some more... Just seems to me its probably more of the last scenario you mentioned unfortunately, as she is very guarded , unwilling to try anything new, take no risks, very safe and guarded, let no guy get closer to her ( even though she has been a member of the dance community for months and regularly sees the leads in class)and doesnt do the stuff in class that require a bit more contact/closeness. ( even if its demonstrated by the teacher)..im using my intuition and sensing skills ( which tango have developed :))...just seems that she is fighting some demons ...
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
  10. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Doing the steps correctly isn't going to result in dancing tango; she should switch to American tap. She has some serious issues, and the class is challenging her. She will eventually drop out when others are dancing circles around her.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  11. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    None of those really require CE - or even am embrace at all.

    It probably depends on what type of tango she is studying - there are plenty of people who dance tango who don't actually use the embrace to form that much of a mechanical connection, but instead mostly use it as tool to sense their partner - and they would probably be able to dance together without any embrace at all.

    Overall i am somewhat puzzled by the OP - are you studying CE tango or OE tango? From my perspective CE tango and OE tango are not really that closely related, and if the style/vocabulary/techniques work using practice embrace/handhold it is probably mostly OE, then there is no problem with everybody being in their comfort zone, as the distance between the partners does not make a difference anyway.
    oldtangoguy likes this.
  12. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    Or ... she might find some people that are accepting of her limitations. She might find out enough about tango to want to try something that is challenging for her. She might find another student willing to work with/around her limitations. She might find a teacher that can help her through this stage. She might find it interesting to meet her classmates even if she is struggling with the content of the class. (And yes, she might find out that tango is not for her, and she might try something else.)

    Or she might only meet people who tell her she doesn't fit in, and to go away.

    I know which possibilities I'm rooting for, for her.
    Tango Distance likes this.
  13. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    I am currently teaching tango to a woman who has personal space issues. Her "embrace" only allows my right hand to be placed on her left lat - not even her spine. Her left hand grasps my right arm just below my bicep. By her paying close attention to her right arm - firm but not rigid, not extending, not contracting, I can communicate with her, and we are able to dance well together. Although she has been dancing only a few weeks (2-3 days per week), there are very few "traditional" movements that she can't follow. She walks front, back and side very well. She does weight changes, molinette, walks to cross, does ocho cortada, etc. I can lead her in follow sacadas and I can sacada her. Rock steps are easy. This is plenty of 'steps' to allow a very musical dance which she finds quite enjoyable. Traditional close embrace? No way. But don't be too quick to judge the woman just because she has issues.

    Perhaps it is the case that the leads need to improve. Gentle but clear leads, with her following your chest motion through soft hand and arm connections, are all you really need.
    raindance and Tango Distance like this.
  14. JTh

    JTh Member

    I thought whether ce or oe..it has the same fundamentals of connection, balance, synchronisity, etc. Therefore they are more similar than not I would think.
    In class, the instructor does not mandate either ce or oe. From a purist form, yeah I'll agree that you probably don't need any embrace at all to have the balance, synchronisity, connection etc..but looking at it from a class/learning, practical, getting more competent, and most of all an enjoyment point of view, you definitely would want the 'e'..holding hands and at most fingertips on back does not constitute much of an embrace in my view.
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    IMO, I just don't see a scenario where this will work out well for her, unless either she is able to eventually get over her issue with contact, or finds a tango community that is more in line with how she wants to do "tango".

    I do think the teacher(s) should explain it to her, but maybe they are more concerned about simply getting paid? I'm not there, so I'm not qualified to say what it is, but something seems to be amiss.
  16. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Okay. This is unclear.

    Does she make contact with her right hand, allowing for the open side of the connection? If so, that's half the battle.

    Is she willing to make contact, her hand on the lead's arm, say holding on gently below the bicep, on the closed side of the embrace? If so, that is the other half of the battle. In dancing oe, I try to never lead with the hand on my partner's back. That is not necessary to communicate what my chest is doing. In oe, my hand essentially rests there because it is conventional. If she is too far away to rest my hand on her back, no big deal. I do, however, expect her to manage the closed side of the embrace by holding my arm sufficiently to sense both rotation and linear motion.

    So. If she is willing to connect hands on the open side and gently hold the leader's arm on the "closed" side, she can dance and have fun if the leads are accepting of an oe. The lead certainly does not need to hold on to her.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  17. Someday

    Someday Member

    So speaking of embraces...there is a woman I dance with and she is a good dancer but has a habit of letting her right hand go completely limp and slide out of my hand. After dancing with her a while and getting to know her a bit, I asked her why her hand was going limp. I thought perhaps I was holding my left hand too high (somewhere around her shoulder height) because sometimes followers do have a preference for a variety of reasons (hand grip too tight, want hip-milongero style, a hint to adjust arm height...). I thought of a bunch of different reasons why she might go limp (and she does this with other dancers too) so I asked her and she said it was unconscious. I guess the good news was that I wasn't doing anything to her specifically to warrant this behavior, but I was a bit dumbfounded as to how to proceed in the conversation and even if I wanted to. We have a cordial relationship, she's not one of my favorite dancers in part for this reason and while I'd like her to get some feedback on this trait, I don't want to impose my 'analysis'. I was thinking of talking to a couple of my dance teachers about it but ideas are welcome.
  18. SoAndSo

    SoAndSo New Member

    Not coming from Tango, but knowing the distance Problem too well, I'd say: if she likes the dance and the music, make it a game of finding ways to have great dances without forcing your body on her. And over time help her develop herself without forcing yourself on her. It tells a lot about you as a dancer, if you can make a close embrace being something positive to someone, who is neither really used to it nor physically attracted to you.

    When I started to dance my partner teased me with moving too close for me. I.e. backwards into full body contact and then doing body waves. Well, with a problematic relation to women and being actually afraid to touch them - strange childhood indoctrination - that was troubling for me. Specially because I liked it. Took me 2 years to get mostly rid of it (still sometimes comes back) and then another half year to learn respectful distances again. (And another half year to mostly get rid of the bad reputation ...)

    While I have won that battle, a friend is still fighting her's, which I am accompanying her with.
    She also has that mixture of insecurity and relict of harmful religious indoctrination - which troubles her in more than just dancing. Took me half a year to get her from "moving a lot and in open hold only" to "she starts to cuddle in Bachata". And here comes another problem, women could be scared of - rightfully. While she looses her fear of closeness, men are starting to take advantage of it (she is very pretty). While for me it was me, misinterpreting the closeness and taking wrong actions, now it's her naivety that prevents her from stating the guys clearly, that they are pressing the boundaries. Boundaries she hasn't ever learned to establish. It probably will be a shock for her, when she really realizes, that some of the nice guys, that suddenly dance with her, are simply trying to hit on her, now that she doesn't tell them "stay away" all the time anymore.

    Well, during this half year I have developed myself a lot.
    While I could enjoy getting close to a woman before already, I couldn't make women really enjoy it - unless they were simply used to it. (I am not the attractive guy.)
    I taught myself an aura of warmth and being welcome with a certain bit of flirting, that many normally rather distanced women cannot get enough from it. Now I am the guy, the people standing at the side of the dance floor start asking: How does THAT guy get THAT woman dance with him THAT way?

    And this is probably something you want for dancing tango: the women shall not get into close hold, because that is the way it is done, nor because they are hitting on you. The reason should be, because it feels great to dance that way with you.
    Mladenac, JTh and Tango Distance like this.
  19. JTh

    JTh Member

    An update..she is getting a bit more comfortable with an embrace. Still won't go anywhere near a closed embrace..but that's ok..at least she is forming some kind of open embrace.
    Personally, I think she has saw me with other followers just how close the embrace can get..:) and she wants none of it. Thats fine as I said..she is realising that some form of embrace is greatly beneficial in this dance and she has to get around this fear yo get better.
  20. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Is she still uncomfortable even in the open embrace?
    Many of us have some emotional barriers and a teachers need to know how to break them.

    I did a workshop about non-verbal communication in tango and people "danced" 3 metres apart.
    And people who didn't have much interaction with each other smiled for the first time after a few months going to a communication group.
    Since people were on the safe distance and felt some emotional connection later interaction was really easy.
    I hope it helps.

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