The lung hold with the banana bunch   4 comments

The lung hold with the banana bunch
The tango is the envy of every other couple’s dance because of the important role that the embrace plays in the integrity of the dance. Beyond the absolute need to embrace properly in order to establish connection between the dancers, the embrace can transmit many sensations between the couple and the environment surrounding the couple.Foreign cultures that frown upon public display of affection clash with the profuse use of the embrace by the porteño culture. Argentines embrace a lot. They do it constantly, with friends of both sexes, with family members, and even with acquaintances with whom they get along. It is a wonderful culture, and the tango is a reflection of the trust and confidence that  the embrace inspires. The woman dances around the man, in the safety provided by the man’s embrace, as he dances around the floor. The embrace is what establishes the points of contact for the man to be able to mark the movements of the couple, and for the woman to be able to maintain her axis, and allow herself to be carried in the envelope of the embrace.We have covered in detail the structure of the embrace and its importance in establishing points of contact between the couple, both in our early series Tango Our Dance, and Chapter 4, page 75 of our book Gotta Tango. We need to make it clear that when we talk about tango dancing, structure, and embrace, we are talking about tango improvisation, that is dancing on the spur of the moment, with the man marking and the woman allowing herself being carried dancing at unison with the music.The tango has always allowed for evolution and changes that reflect the passing of the torch to newer generations, but the look and feel of the embrace has remained instantly recognizable and respected by generation after generation of tango dancers in Argentina. Now, in the first decade of the new millennium the embrace is being changed by a visually unpleasant placement of the women’s left arm.

The woman’s left hand presses against the man’s lung and her open fingers resemble the shape of a banana bunch. Her left elbow points up and out increasing the footprint of the couple, and creating a safety hazard for other dancers. The arm position requires that she lift her shoulder instead of keeping it down and relaxed. Notice that the man’s right shoulder is also up with his elbow protruding occupying more space than necessary and creating a hazard for other dancers.

Looking from the back of the woman, the man lower arm points down tilting her shoulder line. Most important of all are the elbows sticking out and the look of hands grabbing hard rather than embracing to force a connection. Of course the way dancers choose to hold each other is their business, but there are two things they should be aware of. First, the visually unpleasant contribution they make to the dynamics of the room, and the potential danger of hurting somebody with their elbows sticking out.

Blogger Cherie Magnus describes the bad arm placement this way, “... the best way to describe it is her holding down the man’s arm and preventing him from using his upper arm to lead.

… this grip with spread fingers makes this tanguera look like she wishes she were leading–and maybe she is! See how she is forcing her partner’s right arm down? He can’t have his arm up high enough around her back to lead her properly, and God forbid she’s leaning on him. I’ve seen worse, though, with the lady’s left arm almost in the man’s back pocket.

For any of this to make any sense, a man must know the importance of using his right arm to guide the woman around the floor in the confines of the embrace. He must know how to embrace. A woman must care about the way she looks and have a sense of aesthetics. She needs to understand the difference between loving tango and loving herself at the expense making a mockery out of the embrace. Of course, both dancers must care about dancing tango and everything that means.

The way couples embrace to dance the tango is what gives the dance that unique look of passion, connection and intimacy that appeals to the eyes and to the senses.

Beyond the subjective nature of those adjectives, there is a substantive purpose for one of them. Connection. Without connection there is no passion, there is no intimacy, there is no tango.

The tango is a dance of embrace. The arms have to say, “I’m embracing you.”

4 responses to “The lung hold with the banana bunch

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  1. Hi, well said 🙂 I am from Poland and tango beginer. I don’t dance well yet. but I will 🙂 And what I miss when looking at couples dancing tango is embracing.. Well, it is not easy when both are not a cuple, to get closer and to brake intimate border which everyone has .. but you are right:) For people who lives in Southern countries it is much easier- the case of temper, personality… maybe sun shines the all day long 🙂 I will try anyway to dance this way 🙂 even if my partner doesn’t want 🙂 Let’s continuoe the most beautiful way of tango!

  2. Alberto: excelente y acertado.
    Un abrazo

  3. bravo! so well said, alberto and valorie! i love embraces. and that’s why i love tango… 🙂

  4. Very good post, Alberto, both yours and Cherie’s, thank you.

    I recently had an experience to be embraced by an otherwise nice dancer with that “lung hold.” When I asked her gently about it, she said she adopted that embrace lately after attending some workshops in order to improve connection. That really baffled me since I never thought we had not had a good connection (during the dance she thankfully did adjust her arm position to what we used to have – wonderful, great). Contrary to her expectation, I lost connection with her due to “the lung hold with banana grip” embrace and felt continuous need to fight the pressure of her left arm on my upper arm, it was truly uncomfortable for me. Additionally, because of it, my right lower arm lost connection with her back — perhaps that is why many leaders then lower their right arm toward the waist, I might do the same if I am significantly taller than my partner.

    My most frequent dance partner will occasionally press my back when she feels loss of connection which is a signal to me that I need to change something to help with it. After I accommodate, she immediately returns to the wonderfully intimate and gentle embrace we both enjoy tremendously. She is a European, not adverse to intimate embraces.


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