One of my favorite leaders* dances at least half of the time with me in open embrace. We usually shift between a “V” embrace and an open embrace as we dance. What amazes me is how much we communicate as we dance. He has a fabulous sense of musicality, and I often find myself hearing parts of the music that I probably wouldn’t notice if dancing with a different leader. He dances and communicates musical energy, so that I find the texture of my dancing change throughout the song. And whereas I used to find it challenging and thus somewhat nerve-wracking to dance with this leader, now it is simply a joy. (Still a challenge, but a fun one!)
I think that, in the discussion about dancing in different embraces, we simplify too much. We talk about having that intimate physical connection in close embrace, but I think it exists in open embrace, as well. I am still intimately connected to my leader. I am still highly in-tune with his body – with his intentions, his energy, his movements. I can still feel everything that he is projecting as he dances. I think it cuts us off from a great deal of communication if we think that the communication only happens at points of physical contact.
One day several years ago, I saw a good friend of mine after spending several months apart. We started talking, and she was vibrant and energetic. Then I asked her about a mutual friend. It was like she deflated entirely. I could see and feel her energy plummet. I could describe her face falling, her posture drooping, and her voice getting quieter, but I did not just see it happen – I felt it. I did not have to be physically touching her to feel the intensity of the change. I think it can be like this in tango, no matter the embrace. If we are fully communicating with our partner, attune to his or her energy and responding to it, we do not have to be in a close embrace to be intimate, to really dance together.
*Just as a note, I think I use this phrase whenever I talk about leaders I really enjoy dancing with. I have never actually sat down and come up with a short list of my absolute favorite leaders – probably because it depends upon mood and context and all sorts of things like that. But rest assured I only say this about leaders who are consistently wonderful to dance with; I don’t throw it around entirely willy-nilly.