“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?