The BEST Tango Embrace.
The BEST Embrace Practice is my stab at a four stage practice for entering a safe, supportive and nurturing embrace. The sequential stages are Breathe, Eye contact, Smile, and finally Touch. (If you haven’t noticed BEST is an acronym. Neat, huh?)
The Genius of Tango
It is often said that the genius of tango is the embrace, from which flows its distinctive communication style and its gentle and intimate massage of body and soul. However, there potential risks to this intimate contact as well. If the embrace is entered into carelessly or insensitively there can be soul wounding as well.
Let me relate an experience I had from a private lesson a few years back. To take a private lesson from a professional teacher whom I did not was intimidating from the beginning. THis discomfort was augmented by her dancing and teaching style. There was no gentleness in the approach or embrace. She just glommed on and ordered me to get dancing. I was stiff and unresponsive which she picked up immediately and started to get frustrated with me. Which of course augmented my unresponsiveness. After twenty minutes she threw up her arms in frustration and yelled at me to leave, that I was hopeless, that I was not listening to her, that she couldn’t teach me.
Another related experience comes not from the dance floor but from a massage table. In the middle of the massage, as I am laying prone on the table, mostly naked of course, the masseuse begins making sexual overtures. Under other circumstances this might have been quite welcome, as she was an acquaintance and quite attractive. However, in the context of a massage, in which there is an intrinsic vulnerability and as well as power imbalance, I found the experience distressing and abusive. When I had enough separation from the experience to clear my head, I told her so. Her response? “You Canadians are too sensitive.”
Am I too sensitive? Possibly. Certainly my childhood experiences have sensitized me to physical and sexual abuse and I carry this sensitivity onto the dance floor. I am delicately attuned to what feels safe and nurturing as well as what feels hurtful and harmful. A few tangos with very good dancers have left me scarred because I did not feel safe or respected or supported in the intrinsically vulnerable tango embrace. But I am also nurtured on a regular basis by partners who have open hearts as well as open arms.
BEST Practice for embrace.
Which leads me to exploring a BEST practice for embrace as a method for caring for the vulnerability and intimacy of a tango embrace. The first stage will be to reflect on the breath and orienting oneself to one’s own body energy. I recommend first off a post from the very informative website, Autonomic Dancing from Tango Therapist.