Soltadas and Breaking the Embrace

Part I - The embrace is everything

During Spring Tango Festival this past March, I had the opportunity to dance to one of my very favorite milongas with a visiting tanguero. I should say that there are few things I love more than milongas in close embrace. The sensation of having to be completely in synch, throwing ourselves into the music and at the end, hearts pounding against each other's chests - it's like the best ride at the carnival! I was loving the milonga tanda with this stranger and so happy that I had been brave and come to the milonga, even though I had been so very intimidated beforehand.

The second song of the tanda came on, and it was another favorite song! But about half way through the song my partner started to pull away slightly. Many followers I know call this feeling "the set up" - the feeling that a move that requires some space and/or some planning is coming up. I was ready, I thought, completely in synch in his embrace. And then abruptly, I wasn't. He broke the embrace, pulled back/pushed me slightly forward and away from him, to spin me in an awkward soltada (under arm turn). I don't know if it was in the music or not, honestly, I was to busy thinking to myself, what was that for?

He took me immediately back into a close embrace, but I couldn't settle in again. Now I was constantly wondering, is he going to do that again? (He did.) Maybe I should have given him an early thank you to give him the opportunity to find a follower who was more excited by that style. I didn't think to do that at the time. After I sat down for a bit, I kept thinking if I'd wanted to do swing type moves, I'd be learning and dancing swing. For me, and I know I how much I'm in the minority I am on this, the embrace is the point of tango (after the music). Breaking the embrace for showy display moves is just really not my thing.

So when I saw an upcoming workshop on soltadas, my heart sank a little. I think I had the same reaction some leaders I know have when they see a workshop labeled, "All Levels Follower Technique Class: Sexy flicks and kicks!" A small amount of apprehension sets in. I was especially disheartened because these are teachers I really admire and have taken with in the past. I use things I learned in their classes a year ago - every single time I step out on to the pista. And I know the class makes good business sense. It will almost certainly be packed, because most people do want to learn precisely that kind of thing. It's pretty and sexy and fun, right? So why can't I get excited?

It's not just that it breaks the embrace (and not just a little, but turns me completely away from my leader), but moves like that seem to conflict with the feeling, if not the rhythm, of the music.

More rambling to follow in Part II - Knowing the Music.
(Picture above from eHow article on How to Do Underarm Turns.)


Anonymous said...

I hate when that happens! Just when you are all comfy and in the moment too! If they want to do turns, then they should dance salsa!

One way of avoiding any break in the connection is to make sure your arm really is in the right place for a close embrace, and that is right around his neck. (Not on his shoulder blade as seems to be the fashion these days.) Very difficult to do tricky moves in that position. ;)

I did that with someone on my last trip to London as I stupidly said yes to someone I had seen dancing large. He tried, but just couldn't do it. And I wasn't even holding on tight.

David said...

I cringe when just watching someone do those things. I couldn't imagine ever leading one of them.

El Ingeniero said...

As a leader, I hate soltadas. Maybe they look nice and are fun for a performance or a show, but why do it on the dance floor?? Also, they might make some sense for a nuevo song (one nuevo tanda every once in a blue moon is fine, but no alternative milongas for this leader!), but to break close embrace to do a soltada? WHY!?

Marika said...

@Londontango - heh - very sneaky idea. I like it. My teachers tell me I need to be keeping my arm there anyway so that works out pretty well, though I feel a teeny bit subversive lol.

@David - Ditto. With what little bit of leading I have had to do, I can't imagine trying to coordinate my position/steps, my partner's position/steps, navigate the floor, and keep the move in the feeling and rhythm of the music. Why would I break the connection and go through so much trouble?

@El Ingeniero - agreed. I also (finally) added your blog to my blog list. I meant to do it ages ago, but it got buried under my "List of Links to Add" pile. Thank you for your comment!

AlexTangoFuego said...

All of my teachers over the years said never, ever, never break the embrace. It's common sense that if a woman is snuggled into your embrace that you don't shock her by breaking it. It would be like being snuggled up together watching a movie, and throwing her on the floor to go get another cookie.

I will make a solemn vow here and now. I will never, ever do a soltada whilst dancing tango, in this lifetime, nor the next.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure what soltadas are, but I can tell you that I'm ready for them, as I would be for any other maybe less "woohoo" technique. Within the music and feeling your partner in what he/she wants any style gives joy, so it's welcome.

Mark Word said...

I hate to break up this party of total agreement, but tango does include milonga, and especially as a nicely timed ending una "vuelta" is very nice and playful. (Vuelta= "Turn" not "under-arm turn.") And Mari, you will have to speak up in my behalf (before being criticized)... the embrace is everything in tango -- isn't this true? So I speak with some authority, I hope. Consider a cognitive reframe: Vertical AND horizontal milongas have this in common: A turn at the right moment is a lot of fun. Having said all of that, your statements and those of your readers will certainly temper any future use of "la vuelta."

Marika said...

@Alex - somehow I didn't think a soltada would be your cup of tea. :)

@Simona - I like your phrase "woohoo" moves - that made me giggle. And I know from watching you dance, you're always ready for anything. You're a very versatile dancer - far moreso than I am - and you also keep your axis better than I do during turns, which is probably another part of my bias. Our job as followers is to follow what is led and I try my best to do that. But I have preferences and things that make me tend to feel less "safe" on the pista - opening the embrace for solo turns is one of those things.

@Mark - thankyou for commenting. I knew you'd weigh in on this and I welcome your opinion on this subject. I wouldn't worry about everyone agreeing with me. Readers save the juicy criticisms for email - so I'm sure I'll get an earful.

Now, if you're talking about an open or broken embrace turn at the end of a song, it's not really the same thing - since it's not disrupting the continuity of the musical piece. So I agree that the timing is everything - and you've always had an excellent sense of timing (and have always made me feel safe on the dance floor).

I also wouldn't worry about my posts tempering anything's use. If it did, I wouldn't see so many linear boleos, for example. My opinion is just that, my opinion. Truly (and maybe I need to make a separate post for this), I don't care what other people do on the pista if it doesn't affect my ability to dance in safety with my partner. I've had beautiful, connected, blissful open embrace dances as well as dynamic embrace dances. I'm game for all sorts of things - as long as feel safe and looked out for.

I don't care if people dance open or close, nuevo or milonguero - I have no authority to judge anyone's dance as more or less authentic than anyone else's. I'm too busy dancing. I hope I always remain so.

Mark D said...

I like soltadas but use them only occasionally and only with someone I dance with regularly who likes them as well. Im surprised to see this much dislike for a rather nice move.