Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Choke Hold embrace, or, Ladies, relax!

One new trend that I've been encountering among followers while dancing in close embrace is what I can only describe as a choke hold embrace. Their left arm is positioned such that the armpit is positioned against my right lateral deltoid or, even worse, my bicep. An immense amount of pressure is then applied to presumably achieve a strong connection. All I can say is 'Ouch!'. It feels extremely constrictive, especially when I'm trying to turn or even walk on the outside of the follower. Not to mention the pain I feel afterwards from straining against that embrace. Apparently there is a female technique meme going viral among teachers now: somehow the followers have to use their lats (back muscles) to achieve a good connection. I was informed of this by a follower who has a beautifully comfortable embrace, who has figured out how to get a good connection without squeezing the living breath out of leaders.

So now I am on a quest to counter this annoying fad. I am teaching my beginners to focus on connecting at the chest first without any arms, then let the arms fall wherever they fall. I have no idea if this is a kosher idea, but I know their embrace is very comfortable. I'd rather dance with an absolute novice who doesn't hurt my back and shoulders than a more advanced dancer who does.

So,ladies, relax! This is supposed to be a nice, intimate and gentle dance. Don't make it into a wrestling match.


  1. I think follower's technique is underestimated. You know how they usually say "it is hard to be a leader". Well, turns out it is pretty friking hard to be a good follower as well. It takes a LOT of work. If she thinks it's all the leader's responsibility then she is probably going to be using you for balance and stability so that she does not have to develop her own. The sad thing is that this happens at an amazing wide range of levels.

  2. Just letting the arm go where it goes for a nice embrace works well for me. And of course that means it varies according to the height and shape of the man, and potentially with the music. There's a nice video here - a summary of a beginners class where they take the same approach. (In French - translation into English here). My current teacher pointed out how it can be used expressively too.