Open or Closed?

Original: 6th November 2009

Revised: 22nd January 2011

(More Unlocking the Milonga articles.)

"Wait a minute. I don't understand something here. I practice dancing all week until I have to limp home and soak my feet. I spend 18 dollars and fifty cents on a monkey suit. Two nerds come to my room, lock me in my bathroom and start calling names. Sherlock Holmes here chases me and starts yelling at me. Cunningham threatens me with physical violence, Shortcake kicks me in the leg and you all want to go home happy. We let me tell you something, you're not going anywhere lady. THE FONZ WANTS TO DANCE!" ~ The Fonz

Introduction

(As a point of clarity this article is considering traditional tango in London.)

If you ask new-ish dancers, particularly followers in, who decides whether the embrace is open or closed, they will usually tell you, quite firmly, that the woman decides.

If you ask experienced followers, they will usually tell you, quite firmly, that the man decides.

So who's right, who's wrong, and what changes with experience?

Well they're both right. The social mores of tango in London are frankly in a bit of mess at the moment. So if you want to state that something should be done this way and stick to your guns, congratulations; you've just added another ingredient to the dog's dinner. (You can get a whole variety of answers in different areas too).

But rather than try and lay down the law, let's examine how different people see the situation, then see what can usefully be taken from this.

The dog's dinner

"Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view" ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Why would a follower refuse to accept a close embrace? Or indeed why wouldn't a leader offer it?

Quite simply because they're human and we do things for a multitude of weird and wonderful reasons.

It's worth noting that there are degrees of close embrace.

Compare:

With:

They're both close embrace but to different degrees. Likewise there are quite number of variations of embrace.

So what should I do?

A simple solution is the cabeceo. If you like to dance in a specific embrace, then choosing partners who also favour that embrace is a simple and effective solution. Otherwise unless you know the person, there's no guaranteed way of telling.

- Christopher O'Shea, 22nd January 2011

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