Hold me like you mean it.






“The great living experience for every man is his adventure into the woman. The man embraces in the woman all that is not himself, and from that one resultant, from that embrace, comes every new action.” -- D. H. Lawrence

(Photo credit: New York Times article "Argentine Nights" by Denny Lee back on March 16, 2008.)


Over at J'ai mal aux pied, Stephanie has written a thought-provoking entry asking readers what it is that they most want to feel in an embrace. Johanna, at Tangrila, author of The Tao of Tango, sums up what does it for her with her post, "I'm so easy to please."

What feels best to you? How do you want to be embraced? Is it different with different partners? Different music?

The picture above, from Tejastango.com shows the most obvious characteristics of my favorite embrace. I like to feel the man's right arm all the way around my back - and I like it pretty firm compared to some followers I've talked to. One woman who shares my love of that sensation describes it as, "hold me like you mean it." Good description. In a way it doesn't matter how you hold me in the mechanical sense - but hold me like you mean it. Hold me like it's personal. That's not to say that I don't want the leader's arm doesn't move, or lift, or slide as we move, as we change our positions to accommodate the dance itself. And I'm not fond of the boa constrictor embrace - I do like to be able to breathe. The embrace can feel slightly fluid, but it always comes back to that all encompassing feeling of safety and warmth.

How do you like to be embraced?

A tango story . . .

This experience I'm about to relate sounds like such a tango cliche. . .

A small group of dancers from out of town visited a local milonga. The oldest of the group, a man in perhaps his late 60's or early 70's invited me to dance after quite a smoldering cabeceo. I had never seen him before, but as I'd only been dancing a few months, I wasn't especially surprised by that fact. He didn't say a word as we walked to an empty space on the edge of the floor - only nodded and smiled very slightly. I was nervous and tried not to show it. He held out his left hand and as I took it, I wrapped my left arm around his shoulder. His embrace took me completely by surprise.

He embraced me as if he'd known me for ages - as if we had history. No hesitation, no fear. His arm reached around me, his fingertips applying soft pressure to the right side of my ribcage. He waited - the music had started, but he hadn't moved - he was just waiting. How can it feel like he's waiting and yet not hesitant? I can't explain. A question waited on his fingertips - are you going to let me give you this embrace? Was I going to fall into the abrazo - or maintain pressure against his arm?

I leaned in. Fell in. I took a deep breath against his chest. His hand flexed slightly against my side and we took off with the next phrase in the music. I don't know what he led or if I followed it all correctly. If mistakes were made he just worked with it and moved on. I felt him breathe in and out with the music. Between phrases occasionally he would take in a deep breath and his arm would lift slightly, settling back in as he exhaled and propelled me down the line of dance.

I don't think we said more than a few words to each other between songs or at the end of the tanda. And I don't remember what those words were. I forgot them instantly. At the end, he let go of me as one lets go of the past, of paths never taken. I let go of him the way I let go of a daydream - shaking off wisps of imagined futures. I don't know his name or where he was from. Asking seemed at once irrelevant and at the same time, too personal. I haven't seen him since.

We aren't precisely ourselves when we dance - or not only ourselves. We are all of the things we need each other to be in those few moments. At once strangers, whole new worlds, to each other and yet infinitely known, recognized. In the perfect embrace of our imperfect souls, we can feel all the possibilities in our past and our future.

So, I'll ask you the same question with my fingertips resting on your back - will you let me give you this embrace?


11 comments:

Unknown Tango Theologian said...

pMari... great entry into your "diary." In a discussion on the phone with Zen Tango author, Chan Parks, we talked about this willingness to be entirely with our partner and the embrace. You summed it up so well. On the other hand, I too often experience a pushing away, as if a warm, loving embrace can only be earned -- some day. If not now, then when? -- con cariño, Mark

Pete | The Tango Notebook said...

Was I going to fall into the abrazo - or maintain pressure against his arm?

Mari, I feel this a lot when I embrace a partner. It feels like sometimes the women are doing vertical pushups!

What I mean by that is when you do pushups, there are 3 phases of the movement: top, middle, and bottom.

I've encountered Tango embraces that feel like I'm the floor and she's doing pushups on me.

Just relinquish the urge to keep your distance and genuinely embrace me. Don't go "Full Metal Jacket" on me :)

As always, very vivid writing. I can imagine it and feel like I'm there.

Thanks, Mari.

Mari said...

Mark and Pete - every time I accept a dance, I struggle to release myself into the embrace. I learned that waiting for a partner to "earn it" never really works (though it feels more logical) because if both partners are waiting, then neither relaxes. I can't manage it every time, but when I am able, I trust first. I don't wait.

We have only a few minutes to give everything we have and see where it takes us - or face an eternity of wondering if we should have offered more.

Alex said...

Hola Mari!

I'm glad to see you gravitating to close embrace/estilo milonguero. There are many tango communities where the overwhelming majority of followers prefer (demand?) this style - Aspen, Denver, San Diego, Atlanta, Portland. As I think of the places where I have danced, it's pretty much this way everywhere outside of Texas. Also, obviously it's this way in Buenos Aires as well.

For me (and you allude to this in your post), it' not "just" the physical attributes and geometry of the embrace, there is also the psycho-emotional-energetic aspect that I refer to as "the surrender".

Here are a couple of my posts on the subject. I've written more - this subject is the core tenet of my blog - but I can't recall/find it all - it's all buried so deep. Much of it is under "the perfection of the perfect connection".

"The Surrender"

"The Surrender [Follow-up]"

Also, the photo credit goes to Lalo de Almeida. The photo headlined the New York Times article "Argentine Nights" by Denny Lee back on March 16, 2008.

Lastly, here is another photograph showing the same type of embrace, with 'the surrender' in full force and effect. I know this because...well, you might recognize the leader...I was on the receiving end of it...

"Click here for a Flickr redirect..."

Hope to see you out dancing, and actually dance together, one of these days.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Alex

Marty said...

Hi Mari....to feel that type of embrace,totally surrender myself and get lost in the energy re-enforces my beliefs in mankind,love and myself and gives me hope
...embrace,clarity,focus,love...to be worked on in the moment and many lifetimes and that I can use dance as a teacher even better....you got me gushing Mari...Merry Christmas to you and your family!xo

Johanna said...

Your story may be cliche, but it is the Mecca for which we all strive - that nameless unknown who touches our core for a few moments and then disappears back into life.

Although I do disagree with "We aren't precisely ourselves when we dance". I believe the opposite is true: we are most our selves when we dance.

Johanna said...

Your story may be cliche, but it is the Mecca for which we all strive - that nameless unknown who touches our core for a few moments and then disappears back into life.

Although I do disagree with "We aren't precisely ourselves when we dance". I believe the opposite is true: we are most our selves when we dance.

Mari said...

Alex - look for my email and follow-up post. As usual, my response to your comment started to resemble a thesis.

Marty - it's precisely the feeling of hope the experience inspires that keeps us coming back for more and more and trying so hard to inspire it in others. We should gush about that sort of thing every chance we get! :D Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.

Johanna - you wrote: "I believe the opposite is true: we are most our selves when we dance." - I think you make an excellent point. I also believe the key may be that the experience of entrega breaks down the rigid barrier we're constantly drawing and redrawing between one another. We are certainly more true to ourselves within that surrender than we can be in our day-to-day culture of "rugged individualism" that makes us feel so isolated.

ad said...

This entry gave me goosebumps of pleasure - because it told a story of surrender, but also because it reminds me of everything we practice in yoga.

Surrender to your partner to achieve a higher state of connection is much like surrendering your ego to achieve a higher state of self.

Perhaps an idea to ruminate upon in my own ramblings. adxx

tangowords said...

A great post,Mari. Ideally, the embrace is at the heart of tango. Though offered by the man, I see it as always defined by the woman, and as necessarily fluid in response to the music and the moment. It is founded on trust, acceptance and sensitivity.

And I feel Johanna hit it truly when she said, "we are most our selves when we dance."

Mari said...

ad and tangowords - thank you more than I can say for your comments - not just on this post, but on so many others. You keep me dancing and writing. :)