The claim of their archaeological mission sounds valid to me when I see their cover design of their second album. There is a couple embracing closely in milonguero style, on a funky electro music album!
May be the graphic sounds nothing special to you. But the design carries a lot of meanings to me. Because nowadays the role of close embrace (not to mention milonguero style particularly) gradually become less and less important as it was with the tango evolution in the recent decade– the new technique, music style…etc. My feeling on this grows even stronger after I watched the wonderful performance of Esteban and Evelyn on their website- they don’t have any forms of embrace but simply connected by their holding hands! (go to http://www.eyetango.net/video1.htm for the video)
The “new style” has become a big hit in many places including Hong Kong, and many dancers (I was one of them actually) are easily attracted by the technique like opposite energy and many other fancy steps. At the same time, I hear some people talking about their conceptions about close embrace. “It is old fashioned, “it is boring”, “I can’t even turn when I’m embracing”, “I can’t play with steps at all”, “I don’t do close embrace because it is totally different from the style that I learn”, etc. Gaston told me that Buenos Aires actually encounters the same phenomenon, where new dancers tend to appreciate the embrace less than the older generation does.
Then I start to wonder – don’t we really need the close embrace from now on? Has the embrace, perhaps, gone with Gavito?
I still remember in one of the writings of Daniel’s blog – he was asking Miguel Angel Zotto about his perception about the recent changes in tango. Daniel quotes from M. Zotto, "En el escenario se puede entrar y salir del abrazo, pero siempre hay que volver a la esencia." Daniel translates in Chinese, “舞台上可以在舞姿上面做變化，但總是要回到探戈的本質。“本質是什麼呢？應該指的就是“擁抱“吧（abrazo，也就是阿根廷對於探戈舞姿的稱呼）。(for the full writing, please visit: http://www.wretch.cc/blog/tanguero&article_id=4752078)
I am very touched by Daniel’s comment. What make tango different from other dances after all? Tango is the only dance who requires a man and a woman embracing each other (please correct me if there is other) But now more and more people seem underestimate the importance of close embrace of all styles, having no interest of feeling it and knowing how it works. Now, one can easily tell others that he or she knows how to tango – without experiencing the intimate embrace of tango and its magical energy behind.
It is undeniable that embrace closely is never a Chinese culture. We seldom embrace each other in every day’s life, unlike many westerners do. But we also can’t deny that that embrace is one of the most important elements in tango. If you want to have a fuller picture of tango, I think everyone, no matter what style you like, should at least have a taste of it and experience different styles of close embrace, and have a basic understanding of how the embrace works. Nowadays many people adore some masters like Pablo and Dana or Gaston and Mariela and want to dance like them. If you know them well and observe carefully how they dance, you will find out the way they dance is different with some younger dancers who have never had traditional dance training. These masters have a sense of unspeakable elegance underneath their footwork and technique, that they benefit from the so called “boring and old-fashioned” way of dance.
Many teachers, like Dana Frigoli, dances with close embrace in social dancing. These masters seem to have a clear distinction the difference between performance and social dancing. They know that dancing in a milonga with their friends is not the same as performance - it is not the time to show off. Since the milongas in BsAs (especially those famous one in peak seasons) are always full, you will be easily annoyed by bumping if you don’t embrace your partner closely. Actually it is rather easy to understand why we need close embrace in tango – cos we simply don’t have enough space to dance if everyone doesn’t embrace closely with each other! The embrace, in this sense, can be regarded as a form of manners which is used to respect other dancers on the same dance floor. Of course in BsAs nowadays there are milongas like La Viruta where you are have more freedom for fancy steps. But the dance floors in Hong Kong is far less crowded than those in BsAs, but we still always encounter bumpings (of course it is solely because of the style of embrace but also the lack of traffic too…)
When people praise the new elements in tango, shall we also respect the treasures of the traditions – regardless you like to dance with it or not? Sometimes I feel frustrated when people criticize about something before they really have experienced what it really it. Can you imagine someone says he hates chocolate given that he never has a taste or it?
I always think we should learn tango like those masters who can have the flexibilities to handle different forms of embrace – just like Pablo and Dana, Julio and Corina or Javier and Andrea. They change their form of embrace regarding different dance environments, partners, steps, mood or music. Very often, they tend to dance with both open and close embrace with the same song. Indeed, the change of embrace can add colors and variations to the dance.
Totally denial of other styles, I believe, would only limit our understanding of tango. That is why I always appreciate those young dancers like Matias who devotes to study the embrace again after years of Nuevo tango training.
To be a good follower, as Corina de la Rosa told me, should be well-prepared to leaders of different embraces. She should know how to adjust her embrace with different leaders.
I still remember before I went to Buenos Aires, I knew very little about the different styles of close embrace. I was annoyed when teachers like Fernanda Ghi, Leandro and Andrea asked me to lean my chest forward – I didn’t feel comfortable cos I was new to the technique and I couldn’t handle it.
But I told myself I should not give up when I saw how elegant they dance, especially when I cannot enjoy dancing with milonga music with open arms as much as with close embrace. Since the rhythms of milonga music require us to move fast with the music, I realize I just cannot enjoy the milonga if I sense the lead in a less prompt and less efficient way without the close embrace.
Two years ago, I got a chance to spend 5 weeks in Buenos Aires. At one night in Salon Canning, I saw a very old and famous couple dancing milonguero style – I was so touched and moved! I wish one day I can still dance like them when I’m as old as them. Cos I know I cannot jump and move like I can now when I’m 60 years old.
Then I told myself, I should learn, seriously, how to embrace.
I ended up spending 4 weeks studying milonguero style in BsAs. It was not only because Royce recommended me very good teachers, but simply, I want to learn something that I knew nothing about it. For me, the embrace of milonguero style is the trickiest one among all kinds. When I started to manipulate the technique, gradually I started to enjoy the movements and the postures that Fernanda and Andrea taught me before (their technique is not totally milonguero, but having similar logic) - something that I once felt strange and uncomfortable with. Once I can handle the logic of close embrace, I find myself enjoy tango in a different way – I start to feel the subtle signals and energy that I receive from the leader’s chest, and the magic of merging with other’s body in tango with my eyes closed. I start to feel that tango can really combine two units into one. The embrace also demands me to polish every steps that I walk, helping me to be a better dancer.
I wish, for those who really love tango, can have a taste of all different elements of this sophisticated dance.