Book Review: Understanding the Mystery of the Embrace Part 2: Filling in the Blanks of Argentine Tango

Published June 8th 2018
Author: Chris

Title: Understanding the Mystery of the Embrace Part 2: Filling in the Blanks of Argentine Tango

Author: Oliver Kent

Pages: 105

Published: May 2018

ISBN: 9781981480

Link to Amazon

A great book that has you nodding in agreement with the author’s observations and also gets you thinking about aspects of tango that you may not have considered.

This is Oliver Kent’s third instalment in his series of books in which he is aiming to Fill in the Blanks of Argentine Tango, so is this going to be a clichéd difficult third album? Although this is the 3rd in the series it is a follow on to Mystery of the Embrace Part 1. That book, which you can read the review of here, concentrates on finding a good posture and how to use it to form an embrace. In this offering, Kent goes in to details about improving your dancing.

This book is slightly longer than Part 1 with 105 pages but has far fewer chapters with only 5 in total. Before the book starts proper, there is a nice section with a quick overview of some common tango moves such as volcadas and boleos. In the first chapter the author sets out the format and aims of the book and there is a good discussion of the teaching technique used in tango and compares them to those used in other dances such as salsa. The discussion covers the aims of each technique and when they fall apart. He uses a good metaphor of bike stabilisers/ training wheels that he revisits throughout the book. For someone just starting tango, this is a really important chapter as it will explain why a teacher is using the teaching methods especially if the student has learnt other dances and is confused by the class content.

In all the previous books by Oliver Kent, there is always a section which has you nodding in agreement to the author’s observation. This book is no exception with an explanation of the Dunning-Kruger Effect when discussing the “Not Even Wrong”. There is a great graph of Willingness to state what is “true” against actual knowledge of subject with a peak early on which is “cheerfully know as Mount Stupid”. This section gives the reader the confirmation and reason behind those people in classes who try to tell others what is correct whilst being very wrong.

Another highlight of the book is the discussion of performances and performers and how the embrace alters compared to social tango. There is an excellent explanation of how being grounded or “airy” can be used to facilitate lifts and how performers will play with their embrace to add personal styling which the author uses to explain why people learn shouldn’t try and copy or learn technique from a performance.

As with the other two books in the series this book is very easy to read. Whereas Part 1 was very instructional, this offering is more akin to the first book in the series: Enjoy Getting the Dances You Want (you can read my review here) which was more observational. There are elements of instruction throughout this book and the author has again made use of illustration by Oscar B Frise to give the reader a visual aid. The author has also started adding a useful summary in terms of bullet points at the end of each chapter.

This is another good addition to Oliver Kent’s series on Fill in the Blanks of Argentine Tango with very valid observations and explanations. Having read this book straight after reading the Embrace part 1, it is quite clear this is not a direct follow on, the tone is different and the content is sufficiently different to make this a stand alone book.

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