I Skype a friend visiting Buenos Aires: she's been to classes with Alicia Pons. Was it about hyperactive ankles? I joke (badly). 'No, she talked about how we must relax into the embrace of our partner'.
In a flash it occurs to me that this must be the elusive difference between the embrace of partners I've danced with in Buenos Aires, and the embrace of many dancers elsewhere, that ability for total relaxation. Really total. Not as in 'relax because we're dancing tango and that's how it should be danced', but a complete relaxation into the other. Perhaps it's the secret of the fabled 'milonguero embrace', person to person, so complete that even the awareness of dancing tango doesn't come between. It's not necessarily a matter of whether you hold your arm higher or lower, whether your weight is further forwards or back, or whether your posture is more or less upright, although these might be helpful. It's personal.
I've really felt a different embrace there, and I'm sure it must be in the quality of that relaxation, completely giving yourself to the other without hesitation or fear. Surely that's tango, not double backwards 'estilo milonguero' ochos with saccadas thrown in, or whatever the dance teachers offer. Tango is personal contact, really personal: it's as if the dance is there to enable that personal contact, not to disrupt it. & the embrace, like the dance, has no absolutely specific codified form: it's just whatever works to get two people very close so they can move together with the music. I remember what an old tanguera says in the film Tango, Nuestro Baile: tango is when you feel your partner's heartbeat.
But we know what a warm embrace is, to give yourself to someone else, even if it is just for a tanda. Tango says you can enjoy this. Perhaps not a passionate embrace, but an embrace without warmth, without any commitment (however temporary) just isn't tango. Well, this is a personal view, it's not the kind of tango I'd enjoy dancing.
(I've just noticed Patricia of Tango Adelaide wrote on this recently, and links to a lovely video of one of her – and my – favourite milongas, Lujos at the new Plaza Bohemia on Alsina. Good to see the floor busy, to see familiar faces, and to watch again that beautiful dance, surging effortlessly with the music... under good lighting too!)