So what do followers want in a tango embrace? In my experience most want a clear, present and gentle embrace that enables both the emotional and bio-mechanical possibilities of the dance. We want to move freely and confidently without feeling "compressed". This means that our spine and heads should be in natural positions. From my perspective, an embrace which inadvertently changes these positions will most likely lead to pain or discomfort, especially if this posture is held for 10 - 12 minutes.
Here are just a few tips on the embrace for leaders that I share from a personal perspective. Of course, there are tips for followers as well, but I will cover these in another article:
- The Right Arm of the Embrace- This is the arm that connects with the follower's back. It is really important that the follower feel the presence the right hand of the leader. However, this arm needs to be flexible and should be able to expand according to variation in the movement, whether it be in longer steps or turns. The position of the hand should not be fixed but adapt to the rotational movement of the follower, so that she can move comfortably inside the embrace. A big challenge for followers happens when the leader unconsciously presses on the mid or lower back in the embrace. In this case the follower needs to work extra hard to keep her hip and head in the right position, leading to discomfort. If in doubt, use the tango salon posture of maintaining your right hand on the scapula (shoulder blade) of the follower, thereby allowing her spine to be free. Think of your right arm as present and flexible and as an extension of your back from which the circularity of the embrace is generated
2. The Position of the Head
How you hold your head as a leader makes all the difference to your dance. Any pressure via the head, from the leader or follower can cause discomfort as this unnecessary force affects the neck and upper back. In this picture on the left , the leader's forward head posture is probably causing the follower to twist her head to the left. A few tandas with this head position would send me packing for the phsio. If the follower was forced to make forehead -to- forehead contact with the leader it would also likely lead to pressure on the neck. In an embrace try to lengthen your spine through to the top of your head and ensure that the follower has a comfortable space for her head. Remember that if the heads touch during dancing, this should be as a consequence of the proximity in the embrace rather an than an intentional component of the lead.
Sometimes, the most lovely embrace gets awkward during movement. One of the best tips I can think of is to constantly be conscious of adjusting your embrace, using pauses in the dance to check in on your connection and comfort with your partner.