Book Review: Understanding the Mystery of the Embrace Part 1: Filling in the Blanks of Argentine Tango

Published May 29th 2018
Author: Chris

Title: Understanding the Mystery of the Embrace Part 1: Filling in the Blanks of Argentine Tango

Author: Oliver Kent

Pages: 99

Published: October 2017

ISBN: 9781973157298

Link to Amazon

Another useful addition to any Tango library no matter if you are just starting out, an experienced teacher, or want to understand the importance of the complexities of the embrace.

This is Oliver Kent’s second instalment in his series of books in which he is aiming to Fill in the Blanks of Argentine Tango although this is not a follow on to the previous book. The first book in the series: Enjoy Getting the Dances You Want (you can read my review here), concentrated on the situations that arise in the social milonga of argentine tango with particular focus on people who partake. This new books focus is far more elemental and is based on the first thing we should all learn when starting tango: The Embrace.

Explained over the course of 99 pages and 9 Chapters Kent goes into detail on the importance of the embrace, posture, types of embrace, before finishing with how making the embrace work for social dancing, the double hinge, and using a framework of building a tower as an example. A large proportion of the book (nearly 30 pages) is understandably dedicated to tango posture, even though it has its own chapter, the topic is extended into the next two chapters including the highlight of the book, Chapter 4: Shoes. The author explains how different footwear such as high heels, flats, socks and even ballet shoes influence your posture and ultimately how it can affect your tango style. There is also a useful section on how to look after your dance shoes. Other notable highlights of the book include the chapters that look at how grounded-ness and lightness can affect the dance and the comparisons on open, V and close embraces.

This book has significantly different tone to Kent’s previous book in the series, although it is still very easy to read. Whereas ‘Enjoy Getting the Dances You Want’ was very conversional in writing style and was more of a commentary to situations that arise and possible ways for how to deal with them, this book is far more instructional. The author has kept his use of quotes from famous tango dances to introduce concepts and his kept his comical elements with quotes from a number of sources including Stargate SG1 to emphasise his point. As far as the instructions are concerned Kent has drawn from a number of sources to give examples to his points including yoga technique and analogies such as WWE wrestling. The author has made extensive use of illustrations by Oscar B Frise to give visual examples and walk throughs of the technique and exercises presented in the book.

Overall the book is well structured making sure the reader, no matter if the reader is a complete beginner or a professional tango dancer, is well informed of the reasons why the technique and choices are important and the impact those choices have. This is another great addition to any tango library and is another stable block in the tower that Oliver Kent is creating with his series. If I have any criticism I would say it would have been nice to see a section comparing the differences in embraces between the different styles of Argentine Tango, however this may appear in Part 2!

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