The Right Side of the Embrace

9th June 2010

"End gaining is the tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means whereby the result is achieved." ~ F M Alexander


I've noticed that explanations on how to do the close embrace come in roughly two types.

A: The hug

The phrase "Put your right arm around the follower" and analogies with hugging.

At face value there's nothing wrong with it. In practice though, most people don't really know what the mechanics of hugging are. It's just something that you do. One the whole it seems to only work so well. Invariably the right side of the embrace will be slightly off in one way or another.

Beyond a certain level, tango requires a greater level of precision than that. Which leads to ...

B/ Precision

More precision on where to put your hands - for example, instructions to put your right hand on her right shoulder blade.

However there's another problem I've observed. If you actually try to do this ie put your right hand on the lady's right shoulder blade, the natural thing for you to do is to lean to your right to try and get "under and around" her. This mucks up your posture.


Now think of one of those people who on seeing you, comes running towards you at full speed for a hug. The sane thing is to hold your arms out open wide, let them semi-crash into you, let them put their arms around your neck, then you put your arms around them (or you could just run away, but that's less helpful in a milonga setting)

So for a moment forget about putting your right hand on her shoulder blade. Instead simply open your right arm like you were preparing for the aforementioned hugger. (Note your arm is actually going in completely the wrong direction to her shoulder blade at this point). And wait.

It's now her role to complete her part of the embrace on your right side. (In doing so she'll probably deflect your right arm even further out to the right). Once she's done this, then put your right hand on her shoulder blade.

Just to belabour the point, during this stage you don't care about her shoulder blade. If you start thinking of this first stage as a set-up to getting your hand on her shoulder blade you can easily find yourself leaning again.

Because your right hand is now in a different position when you start to move it to her shoulder blade, it no longer makes any sense to lean. This has the added benefit that you can simply let your arm come across to where it goes naturally. Your right elbow basically stays put. In the original version, because you don't know exactly where this point is you have to guess which is probably going to be slightly wrong each time.


Once you can do this comfortably, the one small tweak you can make is how high you chose to lift your right arm in the first part. This will position your elbow and so will effect how high or low an embrace you end up with.

~ Christopher O'Shea, 9th June 2010

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