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Tango Musing


Close vs Open

Posted: 15:42, Friday 8 December 2006 by Megan Jones

Updated: 00:16, Thursday 4 January 2007 by Ben

“When do you dance close, when do you dance open?” someone recently asked. Dancing in the close embrace is rarely going to cause problems: you can navigate the floor in the line of dance, dance musically and respect the space available, particularly on crowded floors. Is it the only way to dance? No. But (purely personal opinion) I do think it makes an excellent basis for good dancing and the way to learn to lead/follow properly – trying to do open tricky stuff without close embrace knowledge leads to a lot of arm pushing/pulling and poor balance. Open embrace dancing is not good on crowded floors and is safe only when there is clear space or perhaps if you are very confident about where your moves are going to end up! Does not matter whether you are in front, behind, in the middle – whack someone with a gancho and it is all your issue!

Meredith Klein (from Tango-L):

“[I]n the [traditional] milongas (Club Gricel, Nino Bien, Salon Canning, Confiteria Ideal) ..., it’s not appropriate to dance in open embrace or to throw ganchos or boleos. In these milongas, people dance in close embrace, use fairly simple steps, and prioritize the flow of the entire dance floor. ... However, there is another set of milongas and practicas in Buenos Aires where different rules apply. At Villa Malcolm, Practica X, Soho Tango, La Viruta, La Marshall, and many more, the dancers are younger (mostly between 18 and 40) and get bored if they have to dance in close embrace all night, doing simple steps. They are always pushing themselves to find new possibilities in tango. This includes creating new kinds of movements, finding new ways to put familiar movements together, and exploring new ways to interpret traditional tango music (usually at least 80% of the music played in these milongas is golden age, just like at the traditional milongas).”

“Argentines and foreigners who know the milonga scene in Buenos Aires are very sensitive to and respectful of the rules that apply in each venue. On Monday nights, the practica at Villa Malcolm ends earlier than on other nights, so afterwards dozens of dancers head over to Salon Canning several blocks away. When they arrive, you wouldn’t know that they were the same dancers. The women who were wearing dance sneakers at Malcolm are now in Comme Il Fauts, and perhaps they even put on makeup and changed their clothes to better fit into the milonga environment. People who were practicing jumps, 360-degree underarm turns and colgadas at Malcolm are now sedately and happily executing their ocho cortados. Perhaps at 5:30 am, they’ll start tearing up the floor again, but by then pretty much everyone has gone home and no one cares.”

In Adelaide we are lucky to get a mix of crowded and open floors with different feelings to them (none ever as crowded as the traditional milongas in BsAs, except for the occasional Banque) – but it means knowing how to dance well in each, which is an ongoing skill to learn! Tolerance and encouragement from everyone will help to build a diverse, positive community in which we all dance better and can feel welcome to pursue different goals – all with excellent technique of course!


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At 10:41 on Saturday, 9 December 2006 Pat said: