When we talk about the “abrazo”, we think of the connection we share with our partner. First, it is a technical connection in order to have a frame, where lead and follow can communicate with each other. The embrace can be open or closed ( abrazo cerrado ) or even some positions in between. While the physical distance in an embrace is getting less and less, the emotional aspect is growing until it reaches a peak in the abrazo milonguero.
All starts and ends with the embrace. The embrace does not judge, but demands respect and acceptance. The first moment is the most important part to establish perfect connection, therefore worth to explore. Some important facts need to be recognised in order to have optimal conditions. We shall be aware about our resposibilities in the couple.
The Resposibilities for lead and follow
The couple has some responsibilities in common. Those are:
- respecting each other in their specific role which is each 50%,
- being there for each other in the present moment 100%,
- to keep a soft embrace and connection.
Beside of these aspects, lead and follow have others responsibilities, which are different from each other.
The leader has to;
- lead the follower with confidence,
- guide her savely through the dance hall,
- protect her from other dancers to run into her,
- respect and to protect her axis .
The follower’s role is to;
- trust the leader,
- totally let go of control and surrender to the leader,
- follow well in all minds,
- keep her balance.
While we dance we have the option to switch between all 4 possible frames.
We differentiate 4 main embraces.
- the open
- the semi close
- the close ( modern ) V – frame or abrazo cerrado
- the frontal close ( traditional ) abrazo milonguero
In general, beginner start with the first option. The open embrace (1). Once they are confident, they usually explore further what tango has to offer. The idea is to reveal all options.
Our aim is to become comfortable with all techniques, that we can easily switch between close and open.
Weather conditions, different dance levels, hight differences, hygiene levels, changing dynamics or figures demand the best option. We find the most suitable embrace for the right moment.
A good dancer should be able to switch between 1,2,3, easily.
The frontal close embrace (4 ), the abrazo milonguero , which is used often in the traditional milongas in Buenos Aires, is the most difficult to dance, technical wise but also emotional wise.
The abrazo milonguero allows the closest contact, chest to chest. This enables you to feel the essence of tango most easily. The reason for its popularity in Argentina but also in many traditional tango communities all over the world.
It is a special achievement in your tango life, when you have managed to dance comfortably all embraces, including the frontal close embrace, the abrazo milonguero.
All aspects in detail.
To understand all aspects of the different embraces, we explore about their application. Divided in 3 technical implementation ; posture, weight and frame,
And Furthermore, I would like to introduce the emotional aspect.
1 The open embrace
It is quite common to start a beginner classes with the open embrace, as it gives you more space to learn basic routines. The open embrace allows the student “to cheat” in technics, as leading with the arms is so much easier. Further, as there is distance between the dancers, newcomers to tango are not surprised by to much closeness.
It is highly recommended not to make it a habit to dance in open embrace only, as you will just miss out the point in tango dancing.
The open embrace is perfect for dynamic turns and complicated figures, but you will not use this frame for walking or simple turns.
The emotional aspect is relatively limited in the open embrace. Similar to other partner dancing the focus is more on having fun: moving to the music with someone, acrobatic actions, enjoying company.
Stand straight in zero, not arching the back or bowing forward. Shoulders relaxed .
the weight is in your heels.
Imagine holding a big gymnastic ball.
Leader offers his left hand, palm facing. Follower places her right hand inside the leader’s palm.
Right hand holding the left shoulder blade of the follower.
The frame is built through the arms which are stable but not stiff (like spaghetti al dente 🙂 and still. No movements with the arms.
All movements are indicated by the torso of the leader, not by his arms.
The follower always seeks for contact in her back with his hand.Put energy in this point. When she looses this contact the leader cannot control her movements anymore.
points of contact for the leader :
left hand, right hand, upper arm
Points of contact for the follower:
right hand,left shoulder blade left hand or upper arm,
the open embrace
2 The semi close or semi open embrace.
This frame is mostly used as a transition embrace from open to close to open. Furthermore while you are dancing in the abrazo cerrado some positions might need more freedom to move. The leader might chose to semi open to give the partner more space by simply sliding his hand to the middle of her back.
Specially when the leader senses the follower is not able to dissociate properly, or she feels other kind of discomfort, he will chose this option.
The semi close frame is a good start on your way to slowly getting closer.
When a man dances with a women he has not danced before, he will not know how she reacts about his presence and the way he dances.
A frame for learning to know each other. Leader may use this embrace to find out about the partner. Followers have the chance to transmit with subtile acceptance if they would like to dance closer.
This embrace offers already some little insights how it feels to come a bit closer. The emotional aspect is still limited, as no contact in your torso yet happened.
Stand straight in zero, not arching the back or bowing forward. Not sagging. Shoulders relaxed .
the weight is in the balls of your feet 70% and 30% in your heels, and you are in control of your own axis.
Leader’s left hand glides to the middle or right shoulder blade while the followers left hand glides around his shoulder.
Your upper body is now slightly in front, but your chests are not touching each other.
points of contact for the leader :
left hand, right hand, upper arm,
Points of contact for the follower:
right hand, right shoulder blade or between shoulder blades, upper arm,
Semi close embrace
3 The close embrace – V frame. Abrazo Cerrado .
Sometimes also called the “fake” close embrace, it is an abrazo cerrado, where intimacy and stability is in good relation.
The V – position offers a little more freedom and as both dancers keep their own axis, which gives more stability for the dancers than the frontal close embrace.
It is a new style of close embrace dancing, seen in all Salons over the world today.
The abrazo cerrado gives you enough intimacy to dance in a close embrace and enjoy beautiful music together. However the emotional aspect is to be rated medium to medium high, because of the missing contact of the heart chakras. Therefore it offers less possibilities for the tango bliss.
Stand straight in Zero, not arching the back or bowing forward. Shoulders relaxed .
Follower upper body is slightly twisted, building together with the leader a V- position. Her left side and his right side connect to function together as a hinge.
the weight is 85% in the balls of your feet and in your toes and 15% in your heels, and you are still in control of your own axis.
Leader’s left arm glides to the right shoulder blade with contact of all her back ,while the follower’s left hand glides further around his shoulder.
Upper body is now even more in front but you still keep your own axis ( keep the distance of your feet like before, just the upper body is getting close).
The upper body of the follower is always slightly twisted to the right, which might not be beneficial for her spine.
Her face is aligned to his cheek.
points of contact for the leader :left hand, right arm, upper arm/shoulder, right side of torso
Points of contact for the follower: right hand, back, left arm, left side of torso.
4 The frontal close embrace . Abrazo Milonguero
I often hear this complain from foreign women about their experience dancing in Buenos Aires:
“I don’t like to dance with the Milongueros in Buenos Aires, they have such a squeezing embrace. They take my breath and freedom to move” The reason is a discrepancy in the differnt techniques they use.
While traditional Milongueros are so used to the “abrazo milonguero”, in their understanding the non plus ultra, women from other countries are often used to a little more open embrace, the semi close or V-position.
Both types of embraces are fine, but they are not compatible with eachother.
There are dancers with more capabilities to adjust their connection in different ways, and they can easily adapt to the woman. But strict traditional dancers often don’t have this ability, or they simply don’t want to embrace differently.
While you would like to discover the traditional tango scene in Buenos Aires, it is beneficial to learn the abrazo milonguero. You will not only widen your experiences, but also enjoy the most beautiful connection in tango.
Let’s see what is all about.
In argentine tango, the “abrazo milonguero” is the most suitable embrace for the walk and simple turns.
While you might have the desire to do more fancy movements, you will change to other types of frames, but always you will come back to basic walking and then, you apply the frontal close embrace, the abrazo milonguero.
Overall aspect is, that this frame is only a blessing when both dancers are comfortable with it.
In frontal close embrace you share axis together, which requires lots of experience. Alternatively you can always chose the abrazo cerrado in V-position.
But if you chose the frontal position, your weight should be evenly distributed between both dancers. As you can imagine this is depending on the weight and hight of each dancer.
A big dancer with a tiny follower will not lean much forward, while she can lean without even hesitating that she may fall. A shorter leader with a big lady follower will have to give more leaning.
Everything is relative in the frontal close embrace.
The extremes are seldom, but in some constellations between dancers you might want you to chose different options.
Dancing in abrazo milonguero enables you to enjoy the highest emotional level, because of the energy exchange via the heart chakra. You will sense the music more intense, you might sense the heart beat of your partner, which opens a totally new dimension in partner dancing.
Many people have emotional barriers to get that close to someone you do not know in person.The biggest problem is to overcome emotional barriers. In stead exploring more deeply what tango has to offer, they prefer to stay savely in the open embrace.
On the other hand exactly the opposite is sometimes the case: Some people have the tendency to misunderstand closeness and energy transfer with flirting.
These aspects mirror the transfer of good energy, universal love . At first instant it is not ment to be personal. It is the music we dance with. It is an universal love to all beings, to nature, to your neighbour.
Possibilities which develops further from this stage is not object my considerations.
Once you have achieved to dance comfortably in this embrace and have experienced the bliss, you probably will want to come back to this frame as much as possible.
While you stand straight in zero, do not arch back or bow forward. Shoulders are relaxed . Distance of the feet should be ca. 15 cm.
Always imagine, your energy is leaving your body in a straight line ( all chakras alined) through the crown of your head. This helps to keep your posture. Leader as well as follower.
Approach your partner by leaning forward , than connect in your upper torsos. Keep the distance between your feet.
Follower: position your head next to his head with soft contact. Do not panic and arch back in order to avoid contact with the head.
Further the frontal embrace demands a flexible torso (dissociation of the spine).
The reason that followers often feel uncomfortable or stucked up in the embrace rises less from the poor ability of the leader. It causes in the poor flexibility of the spine or a wrong technique of the follower. Often wrongly interpreted by ladies.
Leaders sometimes complain about heaviness , “sagging ” of the follower. Ladies often lack of sufficient strength in her core with the result of collapsing the spine.
But it can have its cause as well in the leader, when he is bowing forward (also collapsing his spine). As a result of misinterpretation of connection ( connection with the head instead of the sternum.)
While leaders often lean back with the weight in their heels, thei believe it would give them more stability. In reality it is the opposite: the lady will fall forward and she will lean heavy on the leader.
Apilado position in Abrazo Milonguero
Shall the leader decides to have more leaning, he will adjust his feet position to a much bigger distance to the follower. As a result an extreme version of the frontal close embrace happens, the apilado style, invented by Grandmaster Carlos Gavito.
As the weight is in the balls of your feet 100% , you are not any more in control of your own axis. You are building a shared axis with your partner. This demands trust and confidence in both partners.
Leader’s left arm glides to the right shoulder blade in contact with the whole back of the follower. The followers left arm glides further around his shoulder/back.
Upper body is touching frontal ( full contact) .While you keep the distance of your feet like before, just the upper body is getting close. Each partner needs the weight of the other person to be stable . One without the other would loose balance.
The dancers’ heads are positioned next to each other.
Other mistake leaders often do in the frontal close embrace:
- they are afraid to hold the lady to strong. Probably they have listened to complains and are misinterpreting those.
- Their arm looses contact with the back of the lady, or the arm touches to softly.
- In the frontal embrace the follower needs a firm contact .
points of contact for the leader :left hand, right arm, shoulder – back, chest
Points of contact for the follower: right hand, whole back, left arm, chest
Estilo Milonguero – frontal close embrace – apilado
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