22T 5 | Tango Embrace


In any partner dance, certain things need to be agreed upon and adhered to for there to be a partnership and for that partnership to operate and function gracefully and harmoniously. In tango, the foundational element of the dance partnership is the embrace, which connects the leader and follower. In today’s show, Linda Sutton gets down to the core elements that make up the anatomy of the tango, starting with the embrace, helping us understand the embrace at a new level and showing how we can draw parallels from that to our relationships off the dance floor.

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The Anatomy Of A Tango: The Secrets Of The Embrace

Creating Instant Intimacy In The Dance

We’re going to talk about the embrace in our series on the Anatomy of a Tango, subtitle, It’s The Intimacy. We have been doing a serial that has been designed to introduce you to the core elements in the anatomy of a Tango. It is designed to help those who are non-dancers to have a fundamental understanding of the structure of what makes up a Tango and how that governs the interaction between the man and the woman in a dance and how we can draw parallels from that to relationships off the dance floor. Equally, the serial is designed for those who are dancers to have a new context and a new understanding of the elements that they have been working with. Develop strategies and tools from that body of knowledge that they can also use in their interactions with others in the dance or relationship.

We have started out this serial with an understanding that there are six elements that make up the six core elements that make up the Anatomy of the Tango. That is leader, follower, the embrace and the principles, which is the rules that govern the roles, my favorite phrase in terms of that, the environment, the place where the dance occurs and the music, the rhythm that governs the entire environment, the entire neighborhood and the entire community of dancers as I like to call them.

The Embrace

First, we’re going to talk about the embrace. We talked about in previous episodes what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a follower. You definitely want to go back and read those so that you have a clear understanding of the roles and the responsibilities of those two corresponding elements because the embrace is where those two elements are opposite, complementary, interdependent and equal. The embrace is where they come together. The embrace connects the leader and follower. It is what joins them so that the principles can operate in between them.

I’ve been partner dancing for years now. It’s always been an interesting journey to transition from doing dance forms that are solo in nature, where it’s you dancing by yourself or you dancing with a group but each person is doing their own thing versus dancing in a partner dance. A partner dance requires certain things to be agreed upon and adhered to in order for there to be a partnership, secondly for that partnership to operate and function well or gracefully or harmoniously.

My first experience with understanding the embrace at a new level occurred when I was in Buenos Aires. I’ve been dancing a little bit a little while but I’d gone down to Buenos Aires for CITA. It’s an international congress. Before COVID, it was held once a year and was sponsored by an organization called Cosmotango. It was sponsored once a year, every year in what would be the end of summer there were dancers from all around the world would converge for this international dance congress. You had this wonderful opportunity anywhere from 7 to 10 days where dancers would come together. They would train and would have masterclasses with the master instructors in Buenos Aires and globally.

They have wonderful shows or spectaculos in the evening and milongas that went from the evening all the way until dawn when the train started again, which was usually around dawn. You can imagine dancing all night long in part because at that time, the milongas would go until the train started. The train would stop at a certain time and then it would start around sunrise. People would dance and hang out and then maybe go to a cafeteria and hang out until the trains began to run again and then go home. That was the setup. Here we are at Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino, CITA, and it was a wonderful exquisite experience.

On this particular time, this particular evening while I was in Buenos Aires, I was at one of the milongas. It was a beautiful setting, an Italian Mediterranean-inspired architecture, old architecture, and an old ballroom. Everyone was dancing dressed in their Tango finery. The dance floor was packed. Because it was held at the end of the summer there, which is February and March there, it was a little bit muggier. Because it was older architecture, there wasn’t the same level of HVAC. You had fans but it was a little bit muggy. The dance floor was a little bit muggy, so it was a little bit stickier than normal. Definitely, you had an awareness that there were a lot of people on the floor but it was still an exquisite and magical affair. You had DJs, sometimes you had an orchestra. This is what was going on. We were having a good time there.

The embrace is the foundational element of the dance partnership. Click To Tweet

Normally the men and women that are not partnered, meaning that you’re single, you would sit across from each other. Men would be on one side of the room and women would be on the other side of the room and then there would be an entire section for couples. That and then the DJ is sitting across from the couples. I talked about that context before but because it was so crowded, you had a lot of people that did not have seats. You had men and women that were mingling against the walls and hanging out and inviting each other to dance in an atypical way. Normally people are very respectful of the rules but because of the presence that was there and there were many people on the floor, there was some bumping into one another.

That’s usually frowned upon but here we are in this gorgeous venue with hundreds of people on the floor so you had a little bit of that going on. Even though we were enjoying ourselves, you could feel the bodies in the room. As a result of this, during one particular break, I decided to go into the ladies’ room in order to cool off. In this particular environment, because it’s the older architecture, the ladies’ room is set up differently. Usually, there’s a parlor or sitting room that is large, almost like a parlor/sitting room/dressing room in the area before you can get into the actual restroom area where the ladies can sit, cool off, take care and freshen themselves. Maybe change clothes, tend to their feet, change their shoes and freshen up their makeup or whatever they might want to do.

This is what was going on in the ladies’ room. It happened to be a little bit cooler there because they weren’t as many people. While I was there taking a break in the women’s parlor, I heard this little buzz going on and there was this conversation going on about this gentleman named Dave. The reason that it got my attention is because you don’t usually hear multiple women speaking about a dancer in the parlor. We might refer to a dancer or two, but in this particular circumstance or situation, there were several women who were making mention of Dave and chiming into the point that it got my attention. I was like, “I wonder what’s going on?” They were talking about his dancing and his skill and experience of dancing with him.

I was like, “That got my attention. This Dave guy is creating all this buzz in the ladies’ room.” It was enough for me to keep track of the name. I finished and after a while, I returned back to the floor. I believe it was about an hour later there was this gentleman that was standing not quite three shoulders width apart from me. Once again, we were all standing up because we didn’t have seating. One of the things that I noticed about him is he was tall. He’s got the Asian features, had a long ponytail, but he was a taller gentleman. The way that his blue jacket was fitting, it was very fitted across the shoulders but much wider in the ways than I expected for his frame. I took notice of him because he made eye contact with me and gave me the cabeceo, which is the way that the man invites a woman to dance. I accepted and he led me out onto the floor and he said, “My name is Dave. What’s your name?”

In my mind, I’m like, “This is the Dave that all the women were talking about in the parlor.” I say, “My name is Linda.” What Dave does is that as the music starts and proceeds, he takes me into the embrace. As he takes me into the embrace and into his embrace, I felt the world around me dissolve. He took me into the embrace and set up the embrace. As he began to dance, all of a sudden, it felt like we were the only two people in the room dancing. It was exquisite and eerie at the same time because the room had been crowded before. I remember the experience of feeling the presence of many bodies in the room. All of a sudden, as soon as he closed in the embrace, all of that dissolved away and all I could feel was his presence. It literally felt like we were the only two people dancing on the floor.

As we proceeded to dance, I had this experience of almost emerging with him. I got to a point where I could feel his thoughts. I could hear his thoughts. It was like I was hearing his thoughts and I knew what he was thinking. I knew where he was going to go. It was like that moment in Tango where they say two become one. It was like the distinction between his thoughts and my thoughts ceased to exist. It was like, I knew what he was thinking. I knew what he was going to do. I knew where he was going to go before he even initiated in that direction. It was a knowing. I had that experience of complete oneness. It was for about a minute. After about a minute, it began to fade.

After it began to fade and dissipate, I still felt that connection, but that sense of oneness that me knowing his thoughts had taken on a new dimension. After we danced our Tango dances, he led me off the dance floor and we both proceeded with our evening but I must say that for the rest of my experience there and my time there at CITA, that experience stayed with me. As you can see all these years later, it’s still with me. I tell gentlemen, the fact that we’re still talking about Dave all these years later, it tells you a lot about the impact of his embrace on me. It should tell you that you want to have that impact on the ladies that you’re dancing with. That experience has lingered with me. That sense of oneness was a question that kept coming to me.

As I thought about that, this question kept coming to my mind and I said, “This idea that two become one in Tango is not just the metaphor. It’s not the cliche. This is the experience that people are having when they come to the dance.” There’s more in terms of how that experience and exploration explore to me. It sent me onto my journey of Tango. I wanted you to know that Dave story again. It’s a part of my origin story in terms of why I started doing this and what drives me and motivates me in the show. The thing I want to bring to your attention was his embrace. In this particular story, in this experience, there was something that he did when he set up the embrace, took me into his arms, closed the embrace, and he closed me into his embrace.

22T 5 | Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace: As a follower, there’s nothing worse than dancing with a man who doesn’t want to dance with you but is doing it out of obligation.


When he closed the embrace and brought me truly into his arms, the experience for me was that everything dissolved around me. Normally, when a woman dances, the more skilled she is, the more she dances with her eyes closed. I dance with my eyes closed about 95% of the time. That allows me to hear the man carefully but not only to hear him but also to hear the environment with my body as opposed to being misled by my eyes. In this situation, the way that he set up his embrace created a completely different environment for me, not only within his arms but in the room as they pull. I wanted you to have that and you picture in your mind, that sense in your mind and your being about what the embrace is in terms of how it could and should feel.

Most people think of the dance. When they think of Tango and of the dance, they think that the dance occurs in the movement, in the figures. The combination of steps that you see that creates some dynamic like boleos and ochos and volcadas, these are the different figures of Tango. Most people think of Tango in terms of the steps or the movement, but the secret of the synergy of this dance occurs in how you set up the embrace. Particularly the man, how the embrace is set up before the dance begins. It is like 80% of the dance that makes the dance work. The embrace is the foundational element of the dance partnership. You have the leader and the follower and what brings them together and connects them is the embrace. It is a physical mechanism that establishes the connection and the interdependence between the couple.

Once they use the embrace, it attaches them to one another and therefore connection and interdependence is established. Also, in setting up the embrace, it also establishes and sets up their roles and positions at this point. It sets up a sharing of three things. It sets up a sharing of their access and we’ll talk a lot about that in the future. In other words, your alignment where your center of gravity is. It sets up a sharing of energy. Meaning the dynamic is no longer you’re propelling yourself, she’s propelling herself. The energy that you all each have is shared now. It flows between the two of you and within the two of you within the dynamic of the couple and the dynamic is shared.

You share the axis, which is the center of gravity. You share an energy and then you share the dynamic. What I mean when I say share that dynamic is you share the energy whether or not you’re moving through space. Even if you stand still, stand there, breathe, and hold each other in the embrace, you’re sharing an energy. Once you take the couple in motion through space, then that becomes a dynamic. It becomes momentum that has to be increased, decreased and managed through space and time. You have a shared dynamic, meaning that you can’t move any faster than you can move her. She can’t move any faster than is within her capacity, so that dynamic is shared.

Setting Up The Embrace

Getting into exactly how to set up the embrace, some of the nuances require you being physically present. Especially for my non-dancers, you would have to see physically in a way that it would make even more sense to you but I’m going to walk you through the elements and tactics that are the secrets that make the embrace work that you can still glean an understanding of it, that things that can apply off the dance floor. One of the first secrets of the embrace that creates this connection and this instant intimacy is for you, especially the gentleman, the leader, to establish your stand, your state and your stance.

To back up a little bit from that, I’m going to remind the gentlemen that you are the one who initiates the dance. We talked about how the leader initiates, the follower inspires. The follower inspires the gentleman to dance. He’s like, “I like what I see. I just want to be close to you.” That’s what’s going on. The gentleman sees her and he’s like, “I see that over there. I’d like to be in closer proximity to the said young lady over there.” That is the dynamic that starts out.

This is important because of her inspiration, that he initiates the dance, first and foremost by a technique called the cabeceo. That’s a whole conversation by itself. We’re going to talk primarily about the embrace right now, but the cabeceo is the way that the man invites the lady to dance before he approaches her. There’s a lot of unspoken etiquette in the dance of Tango and a man in Tango doesn’t just walk up to the woman and ask her if she wants to dance. Number one, they’re usually sitting across the room from each other. What he does is establishes eye contact with her. Once she accepts his eye contact, meaning she returns his eye contact, he uses a slight of the head, the cabeza is the head. He uses this gesture in the slight of the head to signal to the woman the invitation, “Would you like to dance?”

A lady wants to feel like she is the one that you are choosing to dance with. Click To Tweet

Establishing Your Stance

She in kind, uses her gesture, usually through the head and the hand to let him know that yes, she accepts. At that point, the gentleman gets up and then goes over or walks over to the woman to start the establishment of the embrace. He’ll take her onto the dance floor. Once he finds the position on the dance floor for the two of them, then he will start to set up the embrace. There’s all this other stuff that’s happening prior to the point that he gets onto the floor. That is important but we’re going to focus on the embrace part of it. We will talk about the invitation to dance in a subsequent episode and discussion because there are a lot of nuances energetically that are important for the gentlemen to understand. One of the first secrets from the embrace, the tactic is for the gentleman to establish his stand, his state and his stance.

What am I saying when I talk about stand, state and stance? Stand has to do with you understanding why you’re there. What do you mean when you take a stand? To take a stand is to be firm in your position. In this dance, the man wants to be very clear that when he asked this lady to dance that he really wants to dance with her. Usually in Buenos Aires, it is a different dynamic. The men usually ask women to dance that they aren’t interested in dancing with. In the American culture, it’s a little bit different because communities are structured in different ways. A man might dance with the lady because he wants to give every woman in the room an opportunity to dance. There might be a more obligatory nature in American dance communities that don’t exist in Argentine dance communities. The gentlemen there, if they’re asking you to dance, they have picked you out as a follower and they’re genuinely interested in dancing with you.

This is important because it expresses in your energy and in your posture and in your body, that intention and that desire to dance with that woman. I always tell ladies, “We want to move away from the obligatory nature of dance here in the Americas.” The reason why is because as a follower, there’s nothing worse than dancing with a man who didn’t want to dance with you but is doing it out of obligation because they’re trying to make sure that everyone in the social gets an opportunity to dance. That’s a very noble effort but for me, from an energetic standpoint, when a man’s desire to dance with that woman is not present, then she feels it. She senses that. It does not give her a sense of power and empowerment that brings out the best in her in terms of her dance.

She’s going to feel a contraction because she can feel his reluctance. He’s not fully present. He’s not giving all of himself to her in a way that he would if he had a desire to dance with her. That’s important. The gentleman wants to be clear, what is his stand. He wants to take a stand. He wants to be firm in this position and his desire to dance with a lady. What is his state of mind? How is he mentally? Is he distracted? Do you know if he’s still not on the dance floor? He’s not there because something happened at work. Something happened in traffic and he was running late. He didn’t get the parking space that he wanted. He’s frustrated and all over the place. He’s a little tense or he was running late, so now he’s all sweaty.

It’s important that a man is clear about what his state of mind is before he asks the lady to dance, especially before he gets in the embrace, because the gentleman must understand that whatever energy he’s holding in his body, he’s going to transfer to the woman. If he’s stressed, he’s worried, he’s frustrated, if he’s not confident, if he’s unsure of himself and unsure of his step, any of these things, the energy that he’s holding in his body, he is going to transfer to her immediately. She’s going to feel them and sense them the minute she gets into his arms. He wants to be aware of that. His stance. I like to say that his stance is his posture. I always say to the gentleman, “What is your stance in the dance? What is your relationship mindset?” When you are focused versus scattered, then your alignment and posture will be a reflection of that.

I’ll say it another way. Your stance in a dance is not only your posture, which is your alignment, but it’s also what your posture is focused towards. You usually use your alignment, which is your posture through your spine to bring your sternum, which is your breastplate and your core towards the woman and thus what you would use to send energy to her and through her to direct her. You use your sternum and your core, like your belly button in your breastplate, your sternum, chest and belly button. You use that energy to send energy to her and through her so that you can direct her. You’re using your body to direct the woman.

When you’re focused and aligned, then she will receive the fullness of that energy. However, if you’re scattered, if you’re all over the place, if you’re thinking about another woman that you want to dance with, if you’re thinking about your boys across the room that you want to impress, your body is going to reflect that because your alignment and posture is going to be directed to wherever your energy and attention goes. Wherever your attention goes, your body will go with it. Therefore, you want to be mindful of that as it relates to what your stance in the dance is.

One more thought in terms of that particular tip and tactic of establishing your stand, state and stance in the dance. A tip or an insight for gentlemen, especially for my gentlemen or for my leaders, is that you want to prepare to embrace her before you invite her into your space or embrace. Always prepare for the woman. There are several different ways that you can prepare for the woman. You want to prepare for her in terms of getting your mind right. You want to prepare for her in terms of making sure that you’re choosing the right song and mood that you want to, in terms of and asking her to dance, depending on the nature of the message that you want to communicate with her.

22T 5 | Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace: The gentleman must understand that whatever energy he’s holding in his body, he’s going to transfer to the woman.


Let’s say you envision having a very playful interaction with her. You might choose an upbeat milonga or vals dance with her. If you have a more passionate interest in her then you may wait until I’m more traditional Tango show place or even a nuevo, which is a more modern or urban form of dance that you might choose that selection. Also, you want to prepare for the lady in terms of your hygiene. I know that’s something that’s sensitive and maybe challenging to address in the moment but I’d like to help you address that now. You want to be mindful of that in the dance of Tango as you choose to invite ladies into your arms and into your space.

This is typically more an issue in dances like salsa, where they’re a little bit more cardio in nature. There is a more frequent changing of partners. In dances like salsa, you may change partners after every song. The songs may be a little bit longer but you change more frequently, the dance is more dynamic and a little bit faster. The gentlemen might get warm sooner or quicker and they may start sweating with greater intensity or frequency when they’re doing that dance.

In Tango, that’s less of an issue. You don’t see that as frequent because men tend to, in Tango, number one, there are more songs that you’re dancing with your partner but also gentlemen tend to be clear about who they want to dance with. They may not be going from lady to lady to dance with. Why is this important? Remember, the lady that you’re dancing with is usually wearing some beautiful gowns. It’s usually in delicate fabric. It could be silk or cashmere or something like that. It could be a delicate fabric in nature and it could be very form-fitting on her body or fluid or what have you. You want the experience to be delightful to make sure that you’ve taken into account your hygiene before you come into the space. Also, as you move from dancer to dancer, that’s important.

If you found that you’ve gotten warm in a particular dance, I encourage you and urge you to take time to cool off completely. Dry yourself off before you go to the next lady. There’s nothing more unappealing to a lady for a gentleman to ask her to dance who is sweating, who’s drenched with sweat, who’s going to get sweat all over clothes. Even if she’s been wanting to dance all night, she’s usually not going to want to put her body against a gentleman who sweated it out with another woman and then bring that to her. I know it’s very delicate, but I’d rather address it right now in the show so that you can think about that. Equally, if you think about that off the dance floor, it’s the same thing.

Posture, Position And Passion

A lady wants to feel like she is the one that you are choosing to dance with. Even though I know in some social circles, a gentleman dating multiple women or going from woman to woman might be an appealing thing, especially a lady that you’re interested in, that is not at all appealing to her. This is something to keep in mind. The next set of tactics in terms of the secrets of the embrace is to establish your posture, position and passion. The posture we talked a little bit about in the last bit but I want to take it a little bit further in terms of what is your posture, meaning what is your position as it relates to her. Your literal physical posture, your alignment, are you standing erect then straight? Are your shoulders back? Is your chest in a way where you’re able to provide consistent support to her with your body? All of these things you want to establish.

In terms of your position, your position is a function of inviting the lady to set the distance in the dance. The lady is the one who establishes the distance in the dance. When she does, it lets you know what type of embrace you are going to take on. The woman chooses the embrace when she establishes the distance that she is comfortable with in relationship to the man. This is important to pay attention to, my gentlemen, my future leaders and my leaders. The woman establishes the distance and when she sets the distance, that establishes the embrace that you will take her into and therefore the boundaries.

What you are doing is that you’re inviting her to decide what the nature of the boundaries that she has and you respect those boundaries. I usually think of it in terms of inches versus centimeters and that could help you. If you were inviting a woman to dance and she stood in front of you anywhere from 8 to 12 inches away from you, what she is saying is that she is more comfortable with an open embrace. That’s one of the three. That means that you’re going to be more open in your embrace. You’re both going to be on your access or your balance. You still share an access but you will be more on your own. You’ll be able to stand on your own two feet a little bit more. You are going to have distance in between your bodies.

One of the keys to your success is to set up your embrace and take the time every single dance to do that. Click To Tweet

There’s usually going to be a distance between your chest and your core, torso or belly button. There’s going to be some space there or as my elders say when I used to go dancing back in the day, “Leave space for Jesus.” That’s what we’re talking about. That is called open embrace. If she steps in a little bit closer to you and offers one of her sides, usually she’s going to dance and be a little bit close, like 6 to 8 inches in front of you. She offers her side and puts her side along your side then what she’s saying is that she’s comfortable with the second embrace, which is called salon. In salon, what you’re going to do is a portion of her body is going to be against yours but a portion of it’s not.

You’re both going to create a V, if you will, with your bodies. You will still be leading her forward and you will still be leading in the forward direction but what happens is that you’ll be more looking at each other in the same direction. You and the lady will usually be looking in the same direction in that embrace. The last one is called apilado, which is pecho y pecho or chest to chest. That is when the woman steps within the 6 inches in front of you. What she does is she offers her body to rest against your body. She usually brings her sternum or breastplate or bosoms to support on your body and some of her core, depending on the technique that she’s learned. She is giving some of her weight over to you.

I know some people say that a woman can dance apilado and still be on her weight and axis. Technically, from a physics standpoint, that’s impossible. The only way that she can do that is to break her alignment. What she’s doing is she’s offering her body to you and she is resting against you and surrendering some of her weight to you in order to be in the embrace and that is called apilado. You will be facing in one direction, she’ll be facing in the other and that’s chest to chest. There is definitely a shared axis. You definitely have one access and that’s running in between the both of you. She is dependent upon you for support in that embrace. Once the woman stands in front of you and sets that up, then that is your cue to know how to close out that embrace.

Once she establishes the distance, then what the gentleman will do is that he will take her hand and then enclose her into the embrace with his right arm, take her hand with his left arm. Depending on the distance, that will establish how he completes that embrace. The key is that you want to respect the boundaries that she set. The distance that she sets up is her communicating to you the amount of trust that she has with you in that moment. What she’s saying is, “I’m comfortable right now based on what I know about you and my feelings about this interaction is I’m comfortable with dancing with you in this way for the time being.”

For example, she might not be sure or she hasn’t seen you dance enough or she’s not certain or confident yet in your skill level. She may come to you with a more open embrace because right now, that’s what she’s comfortable with. It is up to you to respect that because if you disrespect that and try to pull her in closer to you, what you’re going to do, you’re going to feel her body tense up and resist or try to pull away. You don’t want that because what she’s letting you know is what she’s comfortable with. It’s your role as a leader to respect her boundaries, allow her to become more and more comfortable with you.

As she becomes more and more comfortable with you at her own skill level and that interaction is likely that she will get closer and closer to you. It’s an unfoldment. It is a conversation. You don’t usually tell everybody all your intimate secrets right out of the gate. It shouldn’t be surprising with you that with some ladies, it may take a little bit longer for them to feel comfortable dancing that close to you. For some ladies, they may never feel not dancing that close with you ever. There are only certain people that they feel that comfortable being close and intimate with, and it is intimate. I know when we talk about this, Tango is a social dance but it wasn’t born out of an idea of being social. It was about courtship and a desire to be close to a lady that the gentleman was interested in. It wasn’t just about dancing socially. There is an intimacy to it that some people only want to reserve with one person or certain people that they built that trust with.

The last thing is that you want to be comfortable in your passion. Once again, your desire, the lady is feeling everything in your arms. If there is a reluctance that you have to dancing with her, she’s going to feel that. I don’t mean passion as in terms of your sexual desire but passion, meaning that you have a desire to dance with her. It’s like, “I want to be with her.” It’s like inviting someone on a date and you let them know that you are excited to be there with them, that you’re pleased with their presence. You’re glad that they accepted your date invitation. You let them know up front that you appreciate the fact that they’ve accepted your invitation, that you’re excited. You’re looking forward to the date ahead.

22T 5 | Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace: If you want to establish intimacy in the embrace with her and inspire deeper levels of trust from her, your lead and support have to be consistent.


It’s the same thing with the dance. You want to acknowledge that the woman has accepted your dance and that you appreciate that she’s accepted her dance because she’s taking on a role. She’s taking herself out of a position of independence in that moment and has chosen to be interdependent with you to trust your lead and trust you with her safety and well-being for that 9 to 12 minutes. You want to demonstrate and express an appreciation and gratitude. You can either do that verbally but you can also do that with your body. You can do that with your body that expresses an appreciation that you want to be there with her and that you appreciate her rather than a reluctance.

An important thing is that once you set up the embrace, what you are doing is that you are establishing to her a baseline that she is going to be relying upon and looking towards throughout the dance. This is where a man’s consistency comes into play in the embrace. This is real talk. Once the gentleman comes in, what makes her trust you is what you present to her in the beginning. Whatever strength, power, posture and whatever body you offer to her at the beginning, she is using that as her baseline to say, “This is the amount of support that he’s providing me. This is what I’m going to be relying upon because I’m giving over to him my weight. I’m trusting him and I’m entrusting him with me. I’m entrusting him with my wellbeing and my safety. I’m trusting that he can support my weight.”

Especially in apilado, I’m trusting that he can support what he’s asked for. You as a gentleman, have asked her to come into your space and trust you. What she’s going to look for is, “He’s asked me to surrender my weight to him and to trust him and entrust him with myself. I’m going to be looking to see that he can handle that. The way that he does that is by providing support.” Hear me when I tell you that this is the ultimate metaphor for on and off the dance floor in terms of support. Gentlemen, whatever support you provide in the beginning needs to be consistent throughout the entire dance in order for you to maintain her trust and her confidence in you.

If your support of her, while you’re dancing starts to wax and wane, then she doesn’t know what to expect. She doesn’t know if at any point in time your full support of her will be there. Especially if she’s chosen to share an axis with you, what she’s going to start to do is pull and withdraw to be on her own axis so that she doesn’t have to rely on you for support. This is super significant because if you want to establish intimacy in the embrace with her and inspire deeper levels of trust from her, you have to be consistent. Your lead has to be consistent. Your support has to be consistent. If you are inconsistent as a leader, she is not going to want to be a consistent follower. If your support is not consistent, then she will not trust you and entrust you. Her confidence will not be there. She will be looking to support herself rather than look to you for support.

If you want to be in an extended sustained relationship where you want her to look to you for support, then you have to understand that energetic dynamic that occurs not only on the dance floor but off the dance floor. The more consistent you are, the more consistent your support and stability is, the more that she will increase in trust and increase in her confidence and entrusting more of her to you. That usually will come in the form of her willingness either to get closer to you into a closer, more intimate embrace or even if she’s in an intimate embrace, her willingness to give more of her weight to you, which frees her legs up physically to do more things. Once again, she has to be sure that you have her and once she is sure that you have her, then she will surrender more and more in deeper and deeper ways. This is significant and not only on the dance floor but I’m sure you can hear some clear parallels for off the dance floor.

Taking Her Breath Away

The third major tactic and secret that you want to use is what I call, breathe her in and take her breath away. I don’t want to get into the details of all of the secrets. You have to come and see me for some of that secrets but I will say that you want to start listening to a woman’s nonverbal communication. You want to start listening to her in a different way. The goal in the dance, especially as you’re setting up the embrace, is not about thinking about what you want to execute your lead as a gentleman. What you want to be doing is to be thinking of how she is feeling in my arms and do I sense that she is comfortable and ready for my lead. There are a few ways that you can listen to hear if she is ready to receive your lead.

This sounds something like, “No, I’m not going to point out the obvious,” but I’m sure you can read between the lines of what I’m saying here. We’re talking about on the dance floor right now. You want to be listening to her body to hear whether or not she’s ready to receive your lead. The two places that you want to be listening for is the level of tension in her body or the level of ease in her body and her breathing. Her breathing and the level of tension or ease in her body will give you an insight into her level of receptivity. The thing that you want to do is that if you want to be a great leader in your establishment of the embrace, you want to take the time to listen to her level of readiness before you initiate momentum. There’s a sweet spot that you want to listen to where she is the most receptive and open to your lead.

The way that you set up the embrace determines the success of the entire dance. Click To Tweet

That usually takes a few moments for her to arrive at after she’s gotten into your embrace and you’ve established it. She’s gotten into your embrace, you’ve established it. Now literally, her body and her being is trying to feel you out. As her body gets more and more familiar and comfortable with what she senses is going on in the embrace, the more and more relaxed she gets or tense. The more and more relaxed she gets, and therefore the more and more receptive she is to your lead. That’s what you want to be listening to. That’s why I say breathe her in and take her breath away because there is a way that you can listen to her breathing. There are some techniques that you can use as it relates to her breathing so that you can take in the way that she’s breathing, read how she’s breathing and what that means.

Making Her Melt In Your Arms

Once you are clear about what you’re reading from her breathing, her body, and her level of ease and tension, once you arrive at that sweet spot, then you can proceed to take her breath away by starting the momentum and starting to what I would say the next tactic, which is sweep her off her feet. After you’ve had the chance to breathe her in and take her breath away, the next thing you want to do is make her melt in your arms. Once again, once you have seen and done the exercises in terms of being aware of her breathing and what it’s communicating to you, whether you had the chance to listen to the level of ease and tension in her body, then that information you will use to make adjustments that will invite her to release more and more tension.

If she comes to you tense or you see that her breathing is erratic or there’s some tension or concern or uncertainty, what you want to do is make adjustments within your body that reassure her that everything is okay or safe. Several of the ways that you can do that is literally by providing more support. Sometimes it’s still in waiting and allowing her to unfold in your arms. Sometimes with gentlemen, when they are eager to dance with a lady, they will get her in and grab her and then pull her in. They’re ready to be off to the races without listening to see if she’s ready, established or ready to go.

You usually will hear that through her body. You don’t usually get a chance to talk that through. In a social setting, you will feel that through her body. Sometimes, the process of waiting and listening to her, not only will let you know but also will send a signal to her that you are paying attention to her, that you are listening to the nuances of her and using that information in order to make adjustments before you even begin. This is important because that is one of the key roles and responsibilities of the leader. It is to listen to his follower and make any adjustments that he needs in order to bring her into alignment with him before he proceeds in the next step.

Sweeping Her Off Her Feet

Once you’ve had a chance to make her melt in your arms and you establish the rest of the embrace, which is to provide support, spacious boundaries and safety with her, then it’s an opportunity to sweep her off her feet. What that is, is you begin to manipulate her weight. You shift her weight because at this point you are now leading her steps. You are literally leading the way that she moves through space and time. This is important because you will use the shifting and changing of her weight, which is its own discussion. It’s the way that you change her weight from one foot to the other, which makes one foot free and one foot planted and allows you to be able to move that foot from one space. You can listen to how responsive she is to your lead.

From there, you are able to start the dance and move. You’re able to engage propulsion and start to propel the two of you forward into space, time and pleasure. I know that was a lot of involvement and tips. Once again, 80% of the dance happens in that setup. The way that you set up the embrace determines the success of the entire dance. If you don’t take the time to set that up, you will be stumbling, stepping all over each other within 5 to 7 steps. Within the first 30 seconds max, it will all fall apart. It’s either going to all start to work or it’s going to all start to fall apart if you do or don’t set that up correctly.

My final words on this that I would like you to walk away with is that you want to set up your embrace every single time. Even if you were dancing with the same partner over and over again, you want to take the time to establish the connection, the interdependence, and the ease before you begin to dance each and every time. I know that I say this whenever I’m coaching gentlemen and ladies, I give them this tip. I was like, “One of the keys to your success is to set up your embrace, take the time every single dance to do that.” It does not matter if you’ve been dancing with this dancer for 10 or 15 years. You want to take the time to go through this process, to establish the connection, to allow and establish the boundaries, to listen to where they are and to hear how receptive they are to your lead or advances. You want to be in a state of doing that every single time.

22T 5 | Tango Embrace

Tango Embrace: One of the leader’s key roles and responsibilities is to listen to his follower and make any adjustments that he needs to bring her into alignment with him.


There was one particular person that I was teaching. His name is Paul and he was a brand-new dancer to the scene. He came to several of my bootcamps and he was a gentleman that was very receptive to coaching. I was sharing with the gentleman that one of the keys to success, if you want to be successful in this dance quickly, is to take the time, take the 80% and set up your dance every single time. Every single woman, every single dance. Even if you’re dancing with one woman 3 or 4 times, take the time and go through this process every single time. My more mature and advanced dancers, they believe that but they didn’t take the time. Sometimes they would do it and they were inconsistent with their setup of the dance.

They were inconsistent with their setup of the embrace. They felt because they had more experience as a dancer that it wasn’t necessary. The ladies that they had been dancing with, they knew them. Of course, they could establish the embrace quicker but with Paul, he took that advice to heart and he took the time to do it every single time. He took that advice to heart and began to do it every single time. Within a matter of weeks, he had accelerated his dance immensely. He very quickly became a proficient dancer because he was taking the time to set up and establish his framework, his connection with every lady every single time before he began.

As a result, not only was he very consistent in his lead and in his technique, he was meticulous with it because he was taking the time to set it up. As a result, he was able to gain the trust of women quicker because he did not skip over the steps. He did not make any assumptions that because the last dance she was okay, at ease and relaxed, that she was still that way. Maybe she had gotten more fatigue or she had become even more relaxed. He took the time and the ladies that he was dancing with took note of it and they became more at ease with him quicker, which also allowed him to be able to do more with the ladies that he was working with. He had taken the time to build up that intimacy, connection, trust, confidence, consistency and stability that made the ladies more and more available and more and more responsive to his lead.

In fact, so much so that it got the attention of a lot of the advanced dancers. They were like, “Where did Paul came out of? Out of the left field? How in six weeks is he one of the top dancers now in the community?” It was that quickly and you don’t normally see that level of advancement in such a short period of time. I want you to take those little tips and go through them. Think about how you might apply some of those ideas, gentlemen, off the dance floor, in terms of setting up the embrace and establishing a sense of intimacy.

I will circle back around and give the ladies some tips or their own but the responsibility for setting up the embrace is the gentleman’s. He sets the stage. He creates the frame for the picture that is the lady to set in. I want to spend the majority of the time talking to you, all gentlemen. Ladies, hopefully you were reading so that you can have some understanding of what to expect and how you should respond in kind as we establish the embrace, the seat of connection in the Anatomy of the Tango. As we say on the show, it not only takes two to Tango but absolutely, it takes you to Tango. Ciao.

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