Tag Archives: embrace

Milena Plebs

Occasionally I find something that simply must be passed on. I read this article by Milena Plebs and thought I simply must pass it on to my readers.

So after seeking permission, here it is in its entirety.

Tango and embrace…

What women want: In most cases, an embrace that provides good support is much more important to them than many complex steps. The magnetism generated between the two torsos is all that is needed for dancing. Women are focused on being a foil for the man. They are thankful when he is careful, and does not lead steps that require movements larger than the room that the couple has available at any given moment. They do not need the man to show them all the steps that he knows. For many of them, just to travel through the dance floor in an embrace is enough.

What men want: They celebrate being trusted and allowed to lead. They expect that the position of the woman’s arms will not block their lead and that, in spite of giving themselves to the embrace, women will not lose their axis; that when they do embellishments they will continue to be aware, and not take too much time. Since men have to handle an infinity of situations at the same time, above all they have to calculate the movements of those around them so as to flow with them and continue to advance.
By Milena Plebs

Copyright © El Tangauta 2007
Read full article: http://www.eltangauta.com/nota.asp?id=674&idedicion=0

Milena Plebs is a world-renowned Tango teacher and choreographer. She set up the Tango x 2 Company together with Miguel Zotto. They are jointly responsible for the creation choreography and production, and both star in the shows.

As well as all her other talents she has written for El Tangauta La Revista del Tango since 2007.


Filed under Tango


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

Basic eight and more

OK so last night I took the Chester class. I had planned to do something about the lead and the embrace, but Sharon had asked me to go over the basic eight in preparation for the coming year.

There was one guy who was fairly new, but in general everyone including the new guy was very soon doing the eight with no problems. We went on to make it a seven, leaving out the back step, but this was never going to fill two hours.

I decided to ask if anyone had anything they wanted help with, and everyone either said ochos or giros.  We spent some time going over the steps of the giro, until someone asked the killer question “if tango is improvised then why do we learn steps?” it was as if I had planted the question. Now I could break the moves down into their basics and show that any ocho or giro could be started or finished at any point. The lady must wait for each lead, because the man may not go the way they think he will go.

I then gave them something of a demo; I chose a fairly new partner and asked her forgiveness for what I was about to do. I played Poema by Canaro, I think one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.  I then proceeded to ignore the music and do every move I could think of, it was horrible, she hated it, and every one could see that she was struggling.

I apologised again and asked how it was for her. Now I asked for a second chance, Poema again, but this time I listened to the music, we did nothing but walk, but changing speed and direction as the music dictated. She was happy, we looked good, our audience enjoyed it and I did not even lead an ocho.

I set the class back to their tasks, telling them not to lead just giros and ochos but fill in with walking and feel the music. I picked my drink up as my mouth was dry and when I turned back everyone was dancing, not as in a class, not practicing , but just dancing.

At this point I gave up teaching and just left the music on. I no longer had a class, but a group of Tango dancers.


Filed under Dance Venues and Schools

El Beso

El beso or the kiss, is one of the most difficult Argentine customs for the straight laced English.

I find as the years go by men more often kiss women acquaintances goodbye, but rarely hello and never ever other men. Is this a result of  a society that has repressed homosexuality for so long, or perhaps the macho society that has for so many centuries conquered the world.

Whatever the reason, contact between men has been frowned apon to the point that when we shake hands with someone we have known for years or even a relative, we stand at least eighteen inches apart.

My first experience of El Beso was when I met my Argentine dance teacher Juan. We had been introduced, organised classes for the next two weeks, and chatted for about an hour, when it was time to go he stood up and moved towards me, I of course stuck my hand out and shook his. I could see a look of suprise on his face.

When he had left Luba explained to me about the kiss, I never kissed my parents let alone strangers.

It took some time for me to get over my reserve and actually kiss another man, now I do it all the time, it just seems natural and in no way sexual. I even kiss men at home although I must admit it is more for the shock effect.

Is contact such a bad thing? When I dance as a follower I can feel that the men are uncomfortable being so close to a man, and in the most part are glad to get away. Next time you shake hands grab the guy with whom you are exchanging greetings and give him a slap on the back. I guarantee that after the suprise he will smile. From the back slapping it is only a small step to a full hug and your heads are side by side. Even if you cannot bring youself to actually kiss, this embrace would be enough for most of our Latin friends.

We are naturally tactile animals and our fear of sexuality and repressed upbringing drives away this desire to touch. If it all sounds just a bit gay, then look at it this way. Since I have learned to kiss men I find contact with women much easier and think nothing of taking a women into a full embrace on our first meeting. I see couples dancing and you could get another couple between them, not strangers, old married couples. I dance with their wives and take them in a full close embrace, although at first uncomfortable they soon learn to like it. Kissing is just a natural extension to the embrace.

The world will be a better place, and we will all be a lot happier when we can all just kiss and hug. Forget Fathers day, and Mothers day giving an insicere present and a handshake Let’s have a national Hug and Kiss day. Who knows you may like it.


Filed under Argentina