Tango Argentino > Open or close embrace to start?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Light Sleeper, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Hi tangueros, newbie here :) Have recently browsed Paul Pellicoro's book on tango and I think he said that he believes when first learning tango - close embrace allows you to get a good grounding in technique. Now, I've not had time to fully digest this but my initial reaction is exactly the opposite - but I'm often wrong ;). Wondered what the experienced brainy tango chaps and chapesses on this forum thought about this?

    best wishes
    L S
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I was started with close embrace. Worked for me. *shrug*

    I think that if you're starting with a teacher (as opposed to in a group class where you're with other beginners) close embrace is a very good way to go. It's so much easier to feel the weight changes, or lack thereof, in close embrace which is so fundamental to the dance. And, when you don't have the fine control of your axis yet that you need, there's some compensating that can be going on. Not that compensating is something to rely on, but in the beginning it WILL be going on regardless, with just about everything.

    Edit to add: One other thing is that some of the technique that you use is different between open and close embrace. Just something else to keep in mind. Truly, though, technique can be developed in many ways. And what works for one student, or one teacher, or one student-teacher combo may or may not work for anyone else. That's got to be (I imagine) one of the toughest jobs as a teacher--finding out how to teach so that different students can all learn.
  3. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    OT: Cool! Another "Rome" fan!

    Interesting. The owner of my studio lets the ladies choose the embrace no matter what their level, so you see all types at group classes. I think he's more concerned about the students' personal comfort.
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I think group classes are a whole 'nother ball of wax. Given my choice, I much prefer close embrace. But in a group class, it's open all the way. It's easier to deal with another person's problems, without having them become my problems, in open embrace. If the guy hasn't gotten his balance, and doesn't have basic control of his own axis, and hasn't yet figured out how to move from his center and not fling me around...I'm not dancing close embrace with him. End of story.

    But with a private lesson...close, please. And my experience isn't typical, I'm sure, but I was "forced" to learn in close embrace. No dithering about what I was comfortable with. It was all so matter-of-fact, and treated like there was nothing to be treated, that it was just another thing to get used to. Nothing weird or uncomfortable about it...it just...was.
  5. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    You speak sense! When I started learning tango close embrace was just not done, I am very new to close embrace and sometimes I like it sometimes I don't. My first experience of it was in a dance and I insinctively adjusted my posture and made more room so I could do ochos but I don't think the leader made enough room and I felt like I was tripping over myself. Another occasion the chap danced with a merged axis and I didn't like that at all. I think unless I'm on my own axis I feel insecure, I like being in control of my own balance.

    After doing some research it seems close-embrace is more typical than open - in Argentina, that is?
  6. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Letting the students choose sounds sensible - though one would presume they would've had to have experience of both techniques?

    OT: Rome: Salve citizen! both series were very different animals - I preferred the first one hugely - but both were fun.
  7. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I think I'd agree with Peaches for the most part (at least at beginner and Beginning-Intermediate levels) while people still have a lot of their own personal balance/posture/leading/following issues.

    Once people have been in classes a while, and so also probably to dances too, and their dancing becomes more solid, I'd say pick and choose is fine.

    For my own part, when I first learned, we started with open embrace and the teacher was always telling us to close it up, yet most people never really had any sort of experience with the adjustments that need to be made to do that, so it was kind of a pot-shot.

    I think in my ideal world, the teacher would guide a group class through those first steps of dancing close embrace at some point when they've seen a few basic ideas, but before open embrace becomes completely ingrained, and show them ways to get a comfortable close embrace, instead of people just being either thrown into it at a milonga (how I learned it) or just being told to "dance close" with no other instruction about what to do. Then at least they have a choice once they get used to it.
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Letting the students choose sounds sensible - though one would presume they would've had to have experience of both techniques?"
    Many people teach that the woman determines the embrace mostly, I think, to acknowledge that they get to decide if they want to dance with their chest against the man's chest.
    And frankly, if she doesn't know how to do it (dance in close embrace), it really isn't much fun for the guy.

    "I think unless I'm on my own axis I feel insecure, I like being in control of my own balance."
    My experience was that whenever "close embrace" was covered in class, I felt even less connected to my partner than in an open embrace. Then I learned about apilado, which is based on sharing weight with your partner and creating a common axis. For me it was quite a revelation. Even now (2 1/2 years of lessons, five years of dancing tango) when the woman just stands very close to me, but doesn't share weight with me, I find it very unsatisfying.

    "Another occasion the chap danced with a merged axis and I didn't like that at all." I'd be interested in knowing how he made this happen. Most women are both shorter and weight less than I do, and I can only accept their non verbal action of bringing their weight to me. I respond to it by giving them an equal amount of my weight. I would not intentionally pull someone off their axis to share weight with me.

    "it seems close-embrace is more typical than open - in Argentina, that is?"
    People write that it is most common in the crowded milongas in the central city, a natural response to crowded conditions. (I really enjoy dancing when their are more people around; at least when my partner is good enough to stay with me, and stay close (including keeping her feet mostly under her body)). Portland, OR is known as a "close embrace town". Denver, CO is too, I think.

    After taking a series of classes in the apildao sytle (a term never used by the teacher), it felt like I was learning a different dance and (after having taken a year of lessons in mostly open embrace with some "close embrace" thrown in) I took that teacher's "Tango from the Ground Up" beginner class series.

    I think close embrace with weight sharing really sensitizes you to the other person and how they hold themselves and how they move, and by extension, how you do the same things. It looks so easy. And as long as you stick to basic stuff, I guess it is, or can be.

    Without the weight sharing, however, it didn't work for me.
  9. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    As somebody who likes dancing close embrace i believe that starting in close embrace is the better approach, but only if you want to be proficient in dancing close embrace. As Steve Pastor pointed out there is a different technique involved in dancing close embrace vs. open embrace.

    There are a lot of dancers who dance "close embrace" as "open embrace while standing very close to each other", which imho kinda misses the point. The whole concept of a common axis/sharing at least some weight is crucial for close embrace, and as a leader it is sometimes a big surprise to me when i start dancing with a follower who tries to achieve the "look" of close embrace without using the technique. Similarly it is quite difficult to dance open/nuevo with a follower who uses essentially close embrace technique in open embrace (and yes, shared weight and common axis is quite possible in open embrace).

    This is a bit hypocritical, as i started in open embrace, but i experienced something similar to what Steve Pastor describes: I had been dancing for a while, and i was gravitating more and more towards close embrace, and when i took an intermediate close embrace class i noticed that i didn't understand the mechanics at all. I also then took the beginner class. And besides learning how to actually do close embrace tango i also realized that followers who activly learn close embrace from the start are much better at it than followers who "make it up". In close embrace the follower has complete control of the shape of the couple, and it is to a large extent her responsibilty to create space for our feet by connecting with the chest and creating space between the hips by sharing weight - not much i can do about it. (Alternatives are dancing offset, bachata style, or in a V, cayenge style - both valid approaches, but i often wonder if the follower really wants to dance that style, or if it is a habit that has developed to avoid being stepped on by over enthusiastic leaders - the same way that dancing outside partner, doing sidesteps or even backsteps (sorry :oops: ;)) is always much safer for me as a leader, and something i revert to when lost and confused)

    In my perfect world i would have learned close embrace, open embrace and milonga as three seperate dances, and after one year my teacher(s) would have told me the secret that everything between these three dances is pretty much interchangable.

    Of course thats what i think retrospectivly - i am quite sure i wouldn't have had the patience to learn these three dances. :).

  10. spectator

    spectator Member

    may I gave another followers point of view on this?
    I want to talk about what's actually going on in the embrace. Now before people start crafting a massive reply telling me that I am completely wrong and talking rubbish I'd like to make the point that this is my own perception and experience and I'm not making declarations on behalf of the tango world.

    To start off some definitions to aid what I will say, If you don't like the definition i'm sorry but you will have to put up with the misuse of the odd word. I haven't time to make up new words like "frcnuhg" so i will misappropriate some. I'm not an engineer or a physicist so don't go Wiki on me.

    energy= a forward force. some might call this presence or resistance. I don't like those words so i will use energy. this is what is being given and recieved.

    lean= an overwhelming transfer of weight on to something. You no longer need your feet because your weight is entirely on what you are leaning on. Whatever is supporting you is using all it's own strength to hold you up.

    axis= an invisible line going through your body from top of your head to feet.

    In my experience there are two types of leaders who dance close embrcae and followers must adapt if they want to dance close embrace.

    1. the style Steve dances where he gives you a lot of energy and you balance it right back. from the outside it might look like a lean (see def above) but this is not what it is. you are both balanced. you are not clinging or hanging from him because you are connected. If you have large breasts you might connect only at the chest. If you are smaller you might connect all the way to the stomach. What matters is the sharing of energy.
    A follower can be very light on her feet and responsive but this forward energy allows the leader to feel her feet. You may be balancing each other to the point where if one of you steps away suddenly out of the embrace the other will stumble. I don't like to call this weight sharing because I am 7 stone and when I dance with a 6 ft or fat man there is no way in hel I could be sharing his weight. but this is semantics so I will stop.

    2. close embrace with very little forward energy or none. This one is harder because as GSSSH says, you are just standing very close. This is different but depending on who you dance with, not worse. I have danced with argentine guys this way and it was very nice.

    The problem here is that followers when you agree to dance close, you must work out which of these your leader is intending to go for.

    In the first catagory if you do not give enough energy forward, they will complain that you aren't connecting.
    In the second catagory if you give them too much enegery they will complain that you are leaning on them.
    Can't win eh?

    A good answer to this is when the music starts adjust your energy so if the come forward to meet you more give them more energy. If they stay still or go back on to their heels take the energy away.

    There is also another problem. Some guys will expect you to give them energy but will give you back none. Do not pander to this. unless your pelvic floor etc is made of steel as the dance goes on you will find your self sticking your bottom out as you try to maintain the one sided energy.

    This is a problem I have observed happening in a lot of couples where the man reckons he's dancing apilado. He starts off giving enough energy and then forgets and it fades.

    Something I think helps with all this is if you find someone to correct your posture. It is easy to maintain a forward presence without resorting to the cartoon tango posture.

    Maybe this is what made the "merged axis" stuff uncomfortable? Maybe the energy wasn't balanced or perhaps either you or the leader was slightly arched of back because that does make a massive difference. When I satrted dancing close embrace I used to make space below my ribcage because I didn't want to make whole body contact, in short, it just made my back hurt. I'm over that worry now and my dancing is much better for it.

    2. another style where
  11. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    Salve! :D

    The instructor often reiterates that the man should wait for the lady to move to him. And he reminds the men not to pull the lady into close embrace. The instructor often demonstrates the embraces with different students for the class but I don't think most students have much experience dancing in close.
  12. spectator

    spectator Member

    To some extent this is true, but I'd like to point out that the space created in order to do things like giro or forward ocho comes from the dissociation (cintura?) I don't dance close with people who don't dissociate because I am not going to put my back out to make space. the dissociation is in the lead and the follow, you both need to be able to do it. This, again, takes practice. Most people can do it but they don't always realise that they are doing it and they think the other person is doing it all.
  13. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I personally liked your post. I do agree that if they guy isn't applying enough energy as well you are just spinning your own wheels and end up hurting yourself.

    I have always been under the impression that, as you say, there is close embrace and then there's apilado (with the shared axis), which I have always thought of as a special subset under the category of "close embrace".

    I feel like somewhere along the line people (in general) have begun equating close embrace and apilado to mean the same thing, but they aren't as far as I know.

    And I don't find anything wrong with just dancing close but maintaining my own axis and just presenting a forward presence to my partner. It just seems to me that the implication has been made that if you dance close with someone, but without the merged axis, then you have been assumed to be attempting some sort of faux apliado....rather than just dancing clase. But they are two different beasties. And I think it's fine if apilado is your preference, but it just seems that some of the postings here, to some degree, kind of imply that anything but apilado style close embrace is bad (and so many arguments go round and round on this point)....and since the person who originally asked the question is still new to Tango, I'd sure hate to predispose them towrads anything one way or the other. That's their own journey and it's my belief people should at least experience several types and they will naturally gravitate to what is best for them...just my two cents.
  14. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    And now I'll try for a direct answer to the question...Open embrace and close embrace use some slightly different techniques, as you can guess from all the posts, in terms of posture, axis and so forth, in addition to the fact that the leader has to make adjustments to some of his leads as well that he may not in open embrace so asking whether one or the other is better seems a moot point- it depends on what your interest is since you'll apply different techniques depending on which one you dance. My best answer is if open embrace is what your used to and you really want to learn some close embrace and it sn't actually being covered as a class topic, you might consider a private lesson or two and explore it more that way. Then you'll surely know if someone in class wants to try something close with you whether the embrace is working enough to do it rather than "guessing". And the added benefits are you already can see from the discussion that close embrace comes in varieties, so you already have questions to ask the teacher about, and you'll get some more experience with a another aspect of tango you didn't have and will be better able to decide if you like it or not.

    Good luck! I bet you didn't know you opened a can of worms!
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Have you considered the possibility that a lean doesn't neccessarily have an overwhelming transfer, but rather just a limited (or slight) transfer of weight. That's what I think most people mean when using the term, lean.
  16. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Bastet! I couldn't have said it better myself.

    You can dance apilado. You can dance close embrace while still maintaining your axis and maintaining good forward energy and connection and presence. Or, you can dance close embrace where you just happen to be standing very very near to each other. First two, good; last one, not so much.
  17. DancePoet

    DancePoet Well-Known Member

    I suspect it doesn't really matter. Technique is important to both.
  18. DancePoet

    DancePoet Well-Known Member

    Good points. :cool:
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Not meaning to go Wiki on you, spectator... I enjoyed your post, and agree with well over 99% of it. (Since I have been editing articles in Wikipedia, I have found the limits of its philosophy to create truly good articles. You are familiar with the lowest common denominator no doubt. Often, that is Wikipedia.)

    However, regarding lean...
    I've enjoyed the challenge of trying to understand what these terms mean, as you have.
    So, let's just say I'm sharing in the hopes that someone will get something out of this.

    The less you lean, the less "energy" you "project" towards your partner, or the less "weight" you share.
    The more you lean, the greater the amount of energy you project towards your partner, or the greater the amount of "weight" you share.

    Energy and weight are in fact synonumous.
    No matter how much you lean on something, the amount of weight that is on the floor doesn't go down to zero until your feet are literally off the floor, which doesn't happen much in AT. So we are always talking about more or less in discussing this.

    Being off balance, or leaning does have energy. As you write, when your partner moves away, you begin to fall in the direction you were leaning. This is why I now think about there being energy within in the embrace (and I'm sure I'm not the first one to think of this).
    Falling foward without your partner's support would be one way to define apilado.

    If you are sharing practically zero weight, there is practically zero energy within the embrace.
    It's possible to train yourself to respond to that falling / stumbling sensation as a lead or "invitation to step" in that direction.
    There is some (to me) interesting physics involved in this, and one day I may add to the apilado equation thread.

    Both men and women should do their best to dance the way their current partner dances, or seems to want to dance. It has always seemed to me that the woman can at almost anytime allow herself to get closer/share more weight with her partner. If I move forward with a lot of energy (for instance when the music surges) and I don't get anything back, I just don't go there again. There are songs I would love to dance to (and entire tandas), but after I look around to see who is available, I pass because I know I won't be able to express that part of the music (apilado or not). And not being able to dance to the music...
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "the dissociation is in the lead and the follow, you both need to be able to do it"

    Yup. In fact it's kind of fun to lead steps by moving your torso only while your lower body stays in place. Peaches once asked when you would want to do that. One thing I do with partners is a quick turn of the torso while standing in place. This feels like you (the leader) are doing a weight change once you get it down. Now you know how good your connection is, because now you have to decide if you can step forward without stepping on your partner. Why do this? Just another variation. But one that tells you a lot about your partner and your current embrace.

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