Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Embrace: Learning-by-Being

The vintage embrace comes from being not doing:
Being there over time.
The tango embrace is the first step we learn in tango, but usually not from a teacher.

The embraced is learned from being not doing!

The first step that few dances ritualize is the step we take toward each other in order to embrace.  Then we wait for the embrace to settle, sensing the heartbeat of our partner.  Then the second step in tango is what your teacher or partner taught you by doing.

The embrace is you, who you are and who you are learning to be.  The embrace is being present, not presently doing.  The first step of tango is the step together and the embrace.  I fear that if you attempt to acquire the tango embrace via learning-by-doing, your progress may be thwarted.

Try learning-by-being:
  • Be a child who just fell, hurting yourself and then accepting the comforting embrace of a father, a sibling or mother.
  • Be the pacifist sister, giving the paradoxical embrace of her brother upon his return from war--with tears of relief for her brother and tears for the victims of war.
  • Be the bystander who accepts the needy embrace of a survivor at the scene of an accident.
  • Be the Father who opens his arms in the forgiving embrace for his prodigal daughter after 10 years of waiting for her affection to return to his open arms.
  • Be the greatest lover ever for the one who has not made love for years in your arms as she melts into your acceptance of her thirsty embrace--drinking up the basic human need for human touch, too long withheld in the drought of a touch-phobic modern culture.
    The thirsty embrace

  • Be there for your partner as the only person in the world in your heart-felt faithful embrace with eyes and heart just for him.
  • Be the life-long partner who holds another as if the first time after a long life together, tasting with every last cell in your body the vintage embrace.
  • Be you, even the you, you did not know.  Embrace yourself.

may just take over your life. . .

. . . and tango may not become just a metaphor for life, but life, a metaphor for tango.

Sculpture is Richard Matzkin's tribute to growing old and in love with his wife.  Photo by Beverly Mann.

Art by Amy Erikson.  See her tango-inspired works at 


  1. The most common muggle-life embraces are of two varieties, bear hug and bear-resistant embrace (as in, "I will do everything in power to not get smothered by the bear").
    The tango embrace is so different, it breathes with the music instead of staying put. It can envelop and protect but it shouldn't immobilize or block. To me, it makes just as much sense to put the learning experience path backwards: learn the ropes in tango, then use it to enrich real-life hugs.

  2. These words cath the essence of abrazo. That is how I feel in the embrace, that is what keeps me dancing.However, no matter how much I appreciate the tender care of my dancing partners, I am still not at ease with the precipice between the depth of feelings and anonimous nature of the dance.
    It bothers me the fact that in tango you give and take so much for such short time to people you often do not know. Pleasure and comfort void of obligations, no expectations included. I can not appreciate the thought of father leaving a child after just few minutes of comforting it, life long partner departing from his/her wife/husband, greatest lover saying farewell after the very act of love. All leaving to comfort and be comforted by someone else for another few minuts. A dancer must be boh very strong, emphatic and generous to dance this way truthfully and not get broken at some point. Almost impossible.

  3. Anna, I am not sure that anyone can resolve your concerns of the implications of an embrace that doesn't follow over into obligations. We all have to figure that out. Perhaps a spiritual principle would help with the father who leaves the child. Parents would like to embrace and "hold onto" their child, but we must let go! In life this MUST happen -- somehow, sometime it must happen for example through things like marriage, distance or death. Life in all example (just as it is) was the metaphor for each example. The cycle of life is over in less than 15 minutes. Pay attention to life on fast-forward -- the tanda. Tango's embrace is not the problem, life's embraces are. I don't want to let my children go, but I must.

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