Breaking the Embrace

Intellectually, I can get my mind around the usefulness of a fluid or dynamic embrace. It allows for more options in certain places - the opportunity to lead something a little bigger, or a little more complex. It can serve as a dramatic pause. I do sort of get it. Or at least I try to. It isn't my preference. .

There are a few dancers who open the embrace as part of their dance, for the effect of it. I'm not talking about opening the embrace because the step that the music demands is too hard to do in close embrace - sometimes that's just how it goes. I'm specifically talking about opening the embrace as the end in itself. Mostly for a dramatic pause. When I know that the leader I'm dancing with is prone to opening the embrace, I never really settle in. I'm always waiting for the warmth and comfort to be altered, or be taken away altogether.

I danced with a partner the other day who is doing this more and more. In a certain place in the music, he stops briefly, drops his right arm and lets go of me. We're connected only by our open side hands - his left to my right. I have no choice but to drop my arm as well. I stand there wondering what on earth I'm supposed to do during this dramatic pause. Am I meant to express something to the music? Wait solemnly looking lost in el duende? He steps forward and I step back, so that we don't impede the line of dance any longer than a second or two - but he still doesn't put his arm around me. We're still not connected. Does this look impressive to our tiny audience? I feel exposed. Cold.

I find myself getting irritable. This is something I associate with stage tango - the separation for effect. I'm impatient. I whispered, 'either we're dancing or we're not.' He gave me the look of mild exasperation, as if to say 'you just don't get it.' With that he put his arm around me again and we continued. I fell behind him constantly the rest of the dance - unable to stay connected. Some of it was my own stubbornness at that point - irritation. Pettiness. He led a boleo which I followed as an ocho. There was room. I could have lifted my foot off the ground for a quick arc. But I didn't. He noticed. How's that for expressing myself in the dance?

Like I said. Petty.

Other dancers can do this as part of their dance - other followers can work within that space and *do* something with it. I just can't. Maybe someday I'll be able to. I'm sure I can learn what's appropriate, and in the music, for that distance, that space. It can be a beautiful effect - expressive, emotional. A pause in the dance. But I resist learning because I don't like how it feels. I'm supposed to adapt to my partners - be flexible, versatile, accommodating.

Instead, I turn brittle. Unable to recover the suppleness I feel when I embrace my partner. I stiffen up. Close off. Our arms may have settled in around each other again, but for me, the embrace is still broken.


Anonymous said...

What's up with this non ability to copy and paste on the comments field? =S

I'll post a response in my blog at some point. It is long over due for a post anyway...


Mari said...

I've turned off the "embed" feature of the comments to see if that helps with some of the problems people are having. I'm not sure what the issue is with comments. A some people are having problems and others aren't - so it's hard to narrow down what's going on. :/

I'd love to read your response so feel free to email me if you'd like - or post/send a link to your blog. Are you already on my blog list?

Stephen Shortnacy said...

Bah! This is why I don't post on my blog too often. I take to long to write em. If the guy is pulling back to his heels or giving a surge of intention to break the connection and he drops his arm then take him by the deltoid (the 'V' in the arm). He could be amputated at the elbow and you could still connect to him this way. Otherwise, if he is staying forward weighted then draw yourself in closer and give em a little hug so he knows you don't want to let go of the close embrace.

Debbi said...

Am I understanding this correctly? He stops dancing and drops his right arm? But keeps the left up? Does he step away? Is he moving at all?
If he drops the embrace and is standing still, that is not musical. That is moronic. I believe in pausing, but not stopping unless the music absolutely without a doubt calls for it, which very few do. Even if one has no where to go on the floor, one can still move.
Sounds like an effect for the audience, not his partner.

Kirra said...

I have experienced this before as well.The lead drops either his left or right arm like he is too cool of a lead to bother with an embrace. If it is his left arm that he drops I usually keep my frame until he decides to go back into frame again. Then at least the other leads know that I am not cool with it. If it is his right arm then I just hold onto his shoulder. Then I ask if he is injured like that is the only excuse I will accept.

Mari said...

Stephen - good advice. Thanks for posting it.
Debbi - He doesn't stop long (it only seems like a long time to me) so isn't holding up the line of dance really (and he doesn't do it on a packed floor).

Also I don't think it's an affectation for him - I think he does feel the pause in the music. The trouble is I don't. And without a strong connecting embrace - I have little hope of feeling it through him as I normally would.

Kirra - asking if he's injured is a great idea! Also, thank you (and Stephen) for reminding me to keep my end of the connection.

Anonymous said...

In to the fray...

I am afraid I lean towards Debbi's conclusion, though I don't go as far as calling it moronic and I certainly don't think it implies musicality.

I can think of one lead in particular in the area who does this thing and is so far away from his follow when he does it, it's like he's about to lead an underarm turn and I think it looks silly, IMO. If it is who I am thinking of, you are also to far away from him when he does this to maintain a connection on your left, unless you fight him for it. I certainly hope it is not a growing silly fad amongst leads in the area.

There are other ways in which to invite extra participation from the follower that either call for maybe a lighter or slightly altered embrace, or not even an embrace change, but an awareness of the follows feet. Most of them also would entail a deeper understanding of the musical structure of tango, phrasing. melody versus rhythm and more than just "being on beat" (I think some teachers refer to this maybe as "in the music").

In terms of la pausa and musicality- no need at all to break the embrace. However, I don't really think that all that many people in the area are taught good places to put things. They certainly aren't taught musical phrasing, for the most part, and the few times that traveling teachers have seen the need and tried to teach even that basic musical concept, it usually sticks for a few weeks and then goes away, or the people who needed it most don't come to the class because they have "their own musicality" (read- excuse not to learn the musical structure since "feel the music" was good enough for them!).

As for breaking the embrace, I certainly have a preference. For me, the posture involved in open versus true closed is so different, I don't like to mix the two. But a few leads seem to be able to do it without too much "disturbance". Most just feel like they are leaving me "stranded".


Mari said...

Bastet - feeling "stranded" is exactly it. I have seen 3 leaders do it - so I don't know if it's a trend really, or just some new way for them to play with the music.

There is a follower that I admire a great deal who had an excellent response to this situation. When the leader let go of her, she smoothed her hair, backed up a step and gave him a look of, "oh, are we done dancing now?" The leader reconnected the embrace very quickly.

Anonymous said...

nice one...I'll remember that if anyone should try it on me...hopefully not...


Anonymous said...

I had this happen to me a couple of times recently, with very good leaders, and it mades me so angry, I almost walked off the floor. It feels like the leader is somehow either testing your balance, or just refusing to connect with you, which is just rude if you are supposed to be dancing tango to music _together_. Yuck.