Everyone travels their own path, and mine started with this. I have always been known as a good hugger*, and to apply my terrible spanish, it is due to Entrega: A good hug involves surrendering to your partner. Opening your heart, listening to their body, and embracing. I have understood this part of Tango, and people have always responded positively to me. Improving my connection to the music, to the love of the dance itself, has taken time, but understanding the connection with the other person has been there.
What made this difficult? Two things:
- Surrendering to strangers is harder than surrendering to friends -- I still have to work on opening up with new partners.
- Confidence in my ability. I have been confident about hugging for a long time. Less so with Tango. It is very difficult for me to surrender when I don't feel confident in my self. I did not go social dancing for about a year after starting regular tango classes (maybe 2-3 times in that year), and this lack of confidence was reflected in a stiffer embrace, too much thought about my own motion, and not enough listening to my partner.
Beginning the SongWith the above in mind, I was doing my best at really communicating with my partner. Interpreting the music, suggesting it, listening for a response, and moving together. Then, I happened to take a workshop on starting and finishing songs, and it added a very important piece for me: the embrace (not only the physical part, but the connection between dancers) is the most important part of an enjoyable dance, at least for me. If this is so, I should spend as much time as necessary to establish a good connection!
Therefore, I now almost always begin my dances in the same way. I offer my left hand, shoulder height, for the follow to take, and then move together for the embrace. I like to hold all the way across the back, just below the shoulders; this changes depending on the height of the follower, of course. I usually connect at the sternum or just below it; I have been losing a lot of weight recently, which has caused my point of connection to move upward!
This is the 'starting embrace', and I pause here, waiting for the music, or the right moment in it, to begin.
While paused, any adjustments necessary get made, and I like to close my eyes, to focus only on the follow. We are not moving, and may not have entered the pista yet, so I don't fear running into anything. I try to still my thoughts, until I can feel my heartbeat, and that of my follow. I try, for lack of a better description, to feel how warm the follow is, and wrap a little closer, or give more space, depending on it.
Having finished this, waited for the music, I now enter the dance. Usually with a side step. And now the real embrace is ready: somehow, despite all the above work, it is only after we take our first step in the dance that everything shakes out. We pause again, to adjust and re-affirm. Even though only one step, it lets us read whether the other person is in time with the music, and how responsive they are to a suggestion.
And then we go!
** Here is my advice for hugging:
- Connect with your whole front ('stomach', I often say, but it shouldn't be pushed out). Don't bend forward at the waist.
- Movement is not necessary -- no patting, shuffling, etc. A little rocking/rotation can be nice, but don't overdo it.
- You shouldn't squeeze them, but you should be able to feel the embrace. (Some people do like squeezing, but it imparts a different feel)
- Close your eyes.
- Hold the person until one of you has had enough.