Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tango tip for men: Lose the Gringo Triangle!

Here’s another quick tip about your embrace, tangueros.

I’m always picking on North American and European men, who are the people I most often help with their tango. (Tangueros from Asia, Australia and Africa, you listen up too!)

Gentlemen, you usually have a little geometric detail in your tango that I want you to eliminate!  

I call it “the Gringo Triangle”.  It’s a little triangle of space between the inside of your right elbow and the woman’s torso.  

Close this gap!  

When you raise your right arm to enter a close embrace, seek contact first with the crook of your elbow, and keep that contact as long as you are in close embrace.  If you’re not doing this already (I’ll bet you’re not), this little detail will transform your embrace. It will feel wonderful to the woman you’re dancing with.  

I did some research over my last few months in Buenos Aires. Every time I danced with a Porteño who felt like a dream, I observed that the ribs on my left side felt nice and warm, in full contact with my partner’s arm.  

In this video are lots of examples you can study for a great right arm:

[I noticed one man in the video who seems to have the Gringo Triangle.  Maybe you did too. I won't identify him, but he’s a regular at Lujos and a pretty nice dancer, and he’s from Europe.]    

Tangueras, please notice this when you’re dancing in close embrace with someone wonderful.  Do you feel that spot on your ribs, near his right elbow, nice and warm and cozy - connected to him?

Then, tangueros, once you’ve made good contact with the inside of your elbow, let your right hand be full of energy and taking responsibility on the opposite side of her torso.  (See Gustavo's right hand example in yesterday's post, as well as almost every example in the video from Lujos above.) Your forearm will feel to your partner like it’s flexible and curving around her, because the important, purposeful contacts are your right hand and inside your elbow.

Close this little gap if you want to increase connection, and make your embrace feel magical.  Or if you want to be mistaken for a Porteño on the dance floor!

Let me hear from you. What do you think about the "Gringo Triangle"?  Please comment below this post!


  1. Helaine, Thanks so much for posting this. The refinements you offer are always insightful and useful to me. This post in particular raised some good questions.
    When I first started dancing I often heard followers complain about leaders who held them too tightly or who used their right hands too heavily. I try to be very considerate about how I use that arm and only recently began using it with more confidence and comfort. But, having said that, I find myself very sympathetic with the tall Frenchman because I'm fairly tall (6 ft) and when I dance with people a lot shorter than me it can be difficult to extend my arm around them comfortably. The same can be true with followers who might tend to clutch in the embrace. When I dance with these followers, trying to bring the nook of my elbow to their rib cage feels like it will pull us both off axis and, in those cases, I try to use a more open embrace. But, even still, placing my hand in a similar position on her rib cage, as you describe, enhances the lead and our connection by keeping her in front of me/helping me stay in front of her.
    So, my question is, to what extent is this aspect of the embrace determined by the follower? I would enjoy using it in every tanda but fear some of the followers would be uncomfortable. Are my fears justifiable or are there ways to invite every tanguera into this embrace successfully?

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Adam! It sounds like you've been doing a lot of meaningful research on the embrace in your own experience.

    To answer your question: It takes two to tango, and the same goes for the embrace. If you're dancing with a woman who has fears about getting close, all you can do is use your growing expertise to make her as comfortable as possible. "Eliminating the 'gringo triangle' is a tactic, but what it really takes to have a great tango embrace is your combined knowledge, intention (regarding the clarity of your lead), and desire - desire to make your partner comfortable, desire to have meaningful connection and dialog . . . whatever it is you want to get - and give! - from/in your tango embrace. I hope you were able to listen to the podcast I published a few weeks ago about the embrace.

    You can also decide to be selective when you invite. Choose partners whose embraces you like when you see them on the dance floor. If you want to be very chivalrous and invite the ladies who aren't dancing much, then make it your mission to make them feel so comfortable that they can relax and feel wonderful.

  3. If anyone missed the podcast on "Embrace, Intention, and Decisiveness in your Lead", here's the link again. You'll have to copy and paste it into your browser: