For the first time ever I have had a woman leave me after one dance; my crime? Apparently I held her too close; she said she did not have room to breathe.

This, I think was not just a cultural thing. Those who are taught “moves” think that they need room, in order to perform them. Often when I am dancing, I feel the woman pull away, because she needs room to do her pivot, or just to step through. Even those who are taught salon tango here in The UK are unable to maintain contact with every move.

While doing a Kizomba class with Clan Cuban it was explained that there is nothing sexual in the contact, because you are not rubbing against each other. Surely then, this constant disconnection and connection is more sexual than a constant hug. If you don’t want to get jiggy with me, then just stay close.

So, no, I no longer think it is just a cultural thing, women really believe that they need space in order to move. In the UK, almost without exception, people are taught moves using “The practice hold”. On the face of it this looks a good idea, it gives you the space to do what you are taught without worrying about where your feet are. Is this not though an oxymoron? To dance without worrying about your feet.

I believe we should start as we mean to go on, if you are to dance close hold, then that is how you should learn. I recently had the pleasure of some private time with a relatively good dancer, but she would loose contact every time I led a giro. I discussed this with her and she assumed that she needed the space. The next dance I took her in a bear hug and when I led a giro she still followed, did a perfect giro and never lost contact. As a side effect some of her other “faults” also disappeared.

As I have discussed before, nobody is perfect, and we all have faults. My biggest fault is that I always look down. This, I am convinced all started with “practice” hold. If you are body to body, looking down will do no good, all you can see is the woman’s cleavage.

While this may be quite a good view, most women will not look kindly on you staring at their boobies, and you may suddenly become very unpopular. Separated you can watch the feet, but, the point is, you should know where your feet are, both partners will have their feet underneath them. Joined body to body, you cannot see your feet, so why look down?

Another fault that regularly occurs is the sideways lean; you try to keep the bodies in front of each other, but the feet need to move to the side. So the body gets all twisted up in an attempt to be really “Tango”. In close hold this is almost impossible, if either of you lean, the other will be pulled off balance and you will know, what you are doing is wrong. You cannot look down, because your head will push your partners head back, and your legs will always be underneath you.

Back to my original lady, I have been told that my embrace is not firm enough (in Buenos Aires) and even Viv complains that I do not hold her tight enough so I find it hard to understand when I am accused of holding too tight. I wonder if perhaps my embrace is flexible and changes with the partner, if I am confident and can be sure that my partner will not escape, then I can use less tension. If however my partner is trying all the time to create space then maybe I will try to keep them close. I do not know if this is true, but it is something I may explore and may explain why occasionally, I get complaints for holding too tight and at other times for not holding tight enough.

Private classes give you time to explore dynamics, fine tune posture and work on the individual. I realise that it is a world away from the group class, this, apart from my shifts, is one of the reasons I have not run group classes. I simply do not believe that I would do group classes well. I leave that to others who I believe will do them better, I offer only this advice “Consign the practice hold to the bin, or at least use it very sparingly. If your class cannot yet do, what you are asking in close hold, then they are not ready, and in doing it miles apart, they never will be”


Filed under Tango

5 responses to “Connection

  1. Isn’t there a difference between a nice caress, close and warm, and a squeeze? I like to be held close but gently, it makes we want to stay (not escape!) . When holding a baby, or any loved one, we never have to hold very tight…anyway, that’s the way I think about it.

  2. jantango

    You will never hold me too close or too tight for comfort. The woman who walked away after one dance doesn’t know what she missed.

    I agree with you on the practice hold. It’s useless. If dancers don’t know where their feet are, they shouldn’t dance.

  3. Arlene

    Ha Bob! It’s almost a no win situation over here. I have had a Latin man squeeze me to death and when I asked him to loosen up a little, he told his wife and she complained to me! Really, I couldn’t breathe, but that is no reason to leave after the first dance! Jeeze! I have been held in a firm yet gentle manner, by Argentines, and there are only a few people here that I have danced with that have that similar hold. Because the moves are not large, it is easy to do everything. I can’t bear this ‘fluid’ way of dancing in open and close embrace. I get distracted.
    You may no longer think it is a cultural thing with your followers, but I still think it is a cultural thing with leaders. A woman can tell Bob. 🙂

  4. tangobob

    Of course you are right, I was pointing the finger at teaching methods rather than the women. I have (obviously) far less experience dancing with men than women so I cannot judge the same, but I too probably still pull away to some extent.
    I hope I am not being accusatory, my aim is to improve generally the level of dancing (my own included). Pull me up by all means if I point the finger too much.

  5. In defense of the women, let me just say that many men (especially those who learned outside Argentina) also “pull back” to make room for the lady in cross-overs, giros, and especially, in sandwiches. And in leading the latter, some men also tend to stick their butts out for the same reason.

    If the woman can disassociate well, and pivots before she steps (for example in the cross-over or front ocho), there is plenty of room because her legs and feet go to the side, not forward.

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