Tango offers diverse delights for various tastes and fascinating paradoxes for debate, but it is uncontroversial that the best and most essential of tango’s gifts is the experience of what we call “The Embrace”.
Those who have experienced a real sublime Argentine Tango embrace are both blessed and cursed. They are blessed know that it is possible to feel two bodies as if they are one, and to know that there is a way to physically manifest unconditional love. They are cursed to yearn mightily for this precious experience, which they cannot make alone, neither by will nor skill.
Those who have never experienced this embrace are also cursed and blessed. They are cursed in that they cannot figure out what their teacher is so desperate to elicit or why they are less desired dancers than others who appear roughly equivalent. They are blessed in that they cannot miss what they have not savored, or cannot indeed imagine. They have never fallen from its grace.
I experienced it immediately when I began dancing in Los Angeles, and it was already familiar by my first trip to Buenos Aires. Living in New Zealand and Australia I starved, and my hunger drove me to try to understand it so I could teach it. After spending several years learning anatomy and biomechanics, I was ready to seize the next superlative exemplar who visited the Pacific. While all the local women swooned, I analyzed. He was unable to help me, offering only “I lead with my chest”. As he boarded his airplane, I went to work experimenting on my private lesson students and within weeks was able to produce an embrace in every one of them that made me swoon. I am able to produce this effect in every student I work with. The first time they experience it, almost every one them shrieks aloud. Usually there’s an expletive, which I can most tamely translate as “Oh! That’s Crack!”
Although what I described was that the partners seemed to collaborate in supporting with our abdominal musculature a radiant golden egg approximately 25cm in length, many of my students were averse to such hocus-pocus metaphor and abstraction. The students named our technique, describing it as an “Arch” created by our skeletons and supported by our muscles. The constant re-positioning of this arch throughout every step and movement approximated muscular-skeletal fusion. The mutual commitment to strive for it and not to leave it for an instant induced the emotions of rapturous attention to one another.
If you want this embrace, or more of it, please know that it can be taught and learned and you can be part of increasing its gracious presence in the world.