Classes cancelled 2 months in the summer of 2024 ... from May 16th - July 23rd due to travel. We will resume July 28th. ×

An Intro to Close Embrace - Orientation to Close Embrace

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Post a question on our forum here.

Close embrace as a style is typically thought of as more traditional, and we'd like to take a few moments to talk about tradition. We want to say explicitly that we are not against tradition. Rather, we think it important when thinking or making decisions about custom to consider what purpose these customs serve.

We remember reading once on tango-L that the reason the 8 count basic has 3 forward steps and a back step was because the room in which this was taught (I believe it was by Juan Carlos Copes) was only long enough for 3 forward steps, after which you had to step back and turn. And so was born "the basic" in Argentine Tango ...

Or the tanda, which many feel has a very useful current purpose of giving partners a chance to "learn" each other so they can get really comfortable dancing together. The tanda is the custom of dancing 2, or more often, 3 to 5 tangos with one partner before a short intermission of non tango music ends your dancing with that particular person.

Originally, lonely men went to clubs to dance and they bought tickets to dance a certain number of dances with a woman. When their allotment of dances was over, the music changed to something not tango as an indication that, if they wanted to keep dancing, they would have to buy another ticket. (We vaguely remember reading that this wasn't really about dancing. It was more about feeling the woman up.)

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates designed the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder 'What horse's a** came up with this?' , you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses' asses.)

Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.

The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass. And you thought being a horse's a** wasn't important? Horse's asses control almost everything...

Artist Name:
Astor Piazzolla
Song Title:
Album Title:
La Camorra
Artist Website:

Astor Piazzolla composed a huge body of classical music entirely based upon tango. We greatly enjoy dancing to his music.

I didn't use to think very much of close embrace.
I thought it would make things much harder to hold to your strong center and on your axis, and that's true.
I thought it would make it much more difficult to step that long and in beautiful complex tango combination, and that's sometimes partly true
But it's also true, and the first time I danced with David like this, that was the last time I thought that I didn't think much about close embrace.
Because it sometimes can be magic in a traveling cuddle.
So we're going to teach you some videos, we have two sections of videos
series of videos about close embrace here, we've planned to film some more later on,
and our intent is to give you the technique, because it always does start with technique.
So that you can find that bliss that I'm talking about, and hopefully, we'll also hope you look good doing it.
So the first thing, as you do close embrace,
is a hold, a different kind of hold, the hold I like, frankly, I'm going to teach the one I like,
is that the follower's breast... her central line, goes ... where the leader's front and side meet.
So along this line, right here, and so her central line is right here.
So when you embrace, if she's completely sideways, you'll see that I step diagonally into her here
So we have an open theme, but we can be very close.
Sometimes people touch with their heads,
and my only advice is to take off glasses if you're going to do that.
Actually, I had a teacher, brief aside, who said: "I always dance looking to my left"
And then lady is, like, wow, you know, if you took off your glasses, then you wouldn't...
Because I always hit her with the corner of my glasses, that's why I face to my left.
So, anyway, take off your glasses
As we're here, also I want you to be aware of what steps are constrained.
So for example we can step... you can't see it from that angle... we can step just as big side-to-side as we always can
With my right arm unwrapped all the way around,
even if we go forward, the trick is to make sure your body motivates it, so that she can follow that.
If my leg goes first here - bang, I just hit her.
So I have to make sure that the body is followed with the leg, so that she can feel that.
Finally, as we do this, I want you to...
I want you to remember, that you should be forgiving of yourself. Because close embrace isn't, so you should be.
Well, and finally-finally
Yes, that we each can maintain standing up straight with a strong center inside our own axis, and still be really close.
Yeah, actually, let me show that.
Show them wrong, David. OK, I'm the leader, he's the follower.
This is what a lot of women do, they're like "Ohhh..."
Or, they come up and over
And up and over is OK, but if the butt sticks out - that's not
So it's OK to be here, but you don't want to be here
You want to be here.
So it's up to us to defend our axis, just like we always... it's always up to us to defend our axis.