Too Close?

How close is too close? One of the complaints I get when I am in Buenos Aires is that my embrace is not firm enough. During my time there it gets better you could say, at least that is what I thought. Imagine then my surprise when I come back and I get not less than three complaints that I am holding too tight. Viv wondered if perhaps I was trying to prove a point, but in truth I never thought about it here. I was not trying to hold any different or making any special effort.

We came across another guy who spends a lot of time in Buenos Aires, so we compared our holds on a “neutral” woman. She could feel no real difference, so I wonder: Do both of us hold too tight? Or was I being pedantic that night? Or is it as I always believed, that the preference here is for more distance and our long standing inhibitions hold us all back from a full tango embrace?

Janis gave us an amusing description of the various embraces; we can have one tit embrace, or two tit embrace. The two tit embrace is fully on so that the whole body is pressed together; the man gets two breasts pressed against him. This to me is how the tango embrace should be. If you cannot feel the woman’s right breast against you, well then you are too far apart, this then becomes a one tit embrace and something is lost. There is less contact, less connection, and much less of a hug.

I attended a Kizomba class this week. It is sold as an African dance similar to Tango, fairly simple with a very close hold; in this way I suppose it does have some similarities to Tango. The thing that struck me most was the embrace, just as in tango the man’s right arm is wrapped right around the woman’s back. This seemed to cause all sorts of problems; nobody wanted to get that close. Of course as tango veterans Viv and I were well used to being this close, but when we changed, men would not hold Viv close enough and the women all resisted my desire to get in close. Again it is the cultural thing. English people do not get this close, simple.

It takes time to change, it is happening slowly in the tango scene, although I doubt we will ever reach the level of closeness achieved in Argentina. As for the Kizomba, well it was the first lesson.

On the Kizomba; I was told it is from Angola and derived from the tango. I did wonder however, which really came first? The roots of tango are lost in time and it is widely believed that parts of the dance derived from African dancing. Africa has a long history of dance that again is largely unchronicled. Could this dance have arrived on the shores of the New World and been adapted to the music that was being played on the newly imported bandoneons? I am only speculating of course, but if anyone has any theories or facts I would be interested to hear them.

I am glad to see that Tango in this area is now starting to take off, but for me it is still not enough. I work shifts and that means that when there is a tango event more often than not I cannot attend so for me there can never be too much going on. We (I) need more tango here and I believe that a connection to Buenos Aires should be maintained. So after many years I have decided to start offering private lessons.

Absolutely the last thing I want to do is cause another rift or factionalize the scene here, so I am taking care to advertise away from others and operate at other times to any existing classes. My aim is to expand the scene, not cream off existing dancers, although I, will of course, offer help to any that want it. I will continue to advertise the existing classes and hopefully bring new people in. The money will be nice, but that is not, or ever will be my motivation, I want to expand the scene, and hopefully throw in some practicas as well.

I believe that if the scene expands then those who are trying to make money from tango will have a bigger pool on which to draw and will have a larger more reliable source of income. For those, like me, who just want more venues, of course a bigger scene will fit the bill. But apart from a bigger better scene I would like it to be more authentic; this is not to say there is a problem with the teachers we have, but only someone who regularly visits Buenos Aires can claim the label “authentic” and I know of only two other places in The UK where this is true, Tango De los Amigos in Sheffield, and of course Carol from Leeds, who regularly brings us new dancers from Argentina.(I would love to hear of any others there are).


Filed under milonga, Tango

6 responses to “Too Close?

  1. tangobob

    Arlene, thanks for the wishes. It has taken me many years to reach this point, hopefully I can get together a bunch of real milongueros, who apreciate the music and respect the floor. I read your post and agree, too many teachers, not enough real dancers. Anyone who thinks that the “teachers” in Buenos Aires do not prey on “rich”tourists is either blind or has never been. That is why it has taken me nine visits before I found someone who I thought “That is who I want to teach me”.
    I have never heard of Zouk, but to be honest I have enough with tango and sort of just fell into the kizomba.

  2. Arlene

    Good luck with the teaching Bob. My recent rant about teachers not withstanding, there was a particular point to that which doesn’t include you.

    I looked at Kizomba and think that looks like a lot of fun. I listen to a lot of Zouk music which is an influence to Kizomba. I don’t have a problem dancing in a close embrace, but I have to admit to drawing a line about dancing crotch to crotch, which is famous in Zouk dancing, unless it is with someone I am already intimate with! Would like to hear more about how you get on with that.

  3. Best of luck with your teaching! I think you are approaching it with the right idea. Too many teachers think about the money and simply don’t do their job for fear of losing people.

  4. That’s an amazing post. Thanks a lot

  5. jantango

    You forgot to include the limerick you composed on the spot after talking about the differences in the embraces.

    Tango: The Art History of Love by Robert Farris Thompson is recommended reading for learning about the African roots of tango and milonga. It’s the book that Carlos Anzuate shared with me to read.

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