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Abrazo – The embrace

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Abrazo – The embrace

The “abrazo,” or embrace, is a defining element of Argentine tango, essential for the dance’s emotional and physical connection. The embrace facilitates communication between partners, allowing them to move in harmony and interpret the music together. This glossary explores the different styles of abrazo in tango and their foundational principles, highlighting how each style contributes to the dance’s unique expression.

The Importance of the Abrazo

In Argentine tango, the abrazo is not merely a physical connection; it is an intimate, almost sacred space where dancers share a silent dialogue. The embrace’s significance extends beyond technique, encompassing the emotional and psychological aspects of the dance. The embrace creates a container for the dancers’ feelings, much like the holding environment in psychoanalysis, offering safety and support for self-expression.

Styles of Abrazo

  1. Close Embrace (Milonguero Style)
    The close embrace, often referred to as the milonguero style, is characterized by a very tight, chest-to-chest connection. This style emerged in the crowded dance floors of Buenos Aires, where space was limited. Dancers maintain upper body contact while allowing slight flexibility in the lower body for movement. This embrace prioritizes intimacy and subtle communication through torso movements, requiring dancers to rely heavily on their sense of balance and connection.

    Base Recognition: The close embrace is recognized by the lack of space between partners’ chests, often with the leader’s right arm wrapped firmly around the follower’s back and the follower’s left arm resting on the leader’s shoulder or upper back. The heads may touch or be very close, emphasizing the intimate nature of this style.

  2. Open Embrace (Salon Style)
    In the salon style, the embrace is more flexible, with a slight distance between the partners’ upper bodies. This allows for greater freedom of movement and the execution of more elaborate figures. The open embrace is often used in tango performances and social dancing in more spacious venues. It combines elements of close and open positions, adjusting as needed for various steps and turns.

    Base Recognition: The open embrace can be identified by the visible space between the partners’ upper bodies, typically around the chest area, while still maintaining a connection through the arms. The leader’s right arm and the follower’s left arm create a frame that allows for dynamic movements.

  3. V-Embrace
    The V-embrace is a variation where the dancers stand at a slight angle to each other, forming a ‘V’ shape. This style provides a balance between the close and open embraces, offering both intimacy and mobility. The V-embrace is particularly useful for navigating crowded dance floors while allowing for some individual freedom of movement.

    Base Recognition: The V-embrace is recognized by the angle at which the dancers stand, with their torsos forming a ‘V.’ This embrace often involves the leader standing slightly to the left of the follower, creating space for leg movements while maintaining upper body contact.

  4. Nuevo Tango Embrace
    The nuevo tango embrace is a modern adaptation that incorporates elements from other dance forms, allowing for greater creativity and improvisation. This style often features an open embrace, with a more relaxed hold, enabling dancers to experiment with non-traditional steps and figures.

    Base Recognition: The nuevo tango embrace is identified by its relaxed and often variable hold, where partners may switch between close and open positions. This style is marked by its innovative and fluid approach, often incorporating unconventional movements.

Psychological and Emotional Dimensions

The abrazo in tango can be likened to the psychoanalytic concept of the holding environment, where the embrace serves as a container for emotions and experiences. The physical closeness in the embrace facilitates a deep emotional connection, allowing dancers to communicate non-verbally and share an intimate experience. This connection is not only a dance technique but also a form of emotional expression and mutual understanding.

The abrazo is the heart of Argentine tango, providing the foundation for the dance’s unique blend of intimacy, emotion, and movement. Each style of embrace—whether close, open, V-embrace, or nuevo—offers different possibilities for connection and expression, reflecting the dance’s rich diversity and adaptability. Understanding the nuances of the abrazo enhances one’s appreciation of tango and its profound ability to connect people on multiple levels.

Andreas MaierA
WRITTEN BY

Andreas Maier

Researcher in Love with Tango!

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