As a tango dancer in the U.S., I mainly experienced three styles: nuevo/open embrace, salon/V embrace, milonguera/close embrace. There is a lot of fluidity between these styles (and contention about how they are named and stereotyped), but that is the rough classification I would use.
I consider myself mainly a close embrace dancer. This is the style of tango characterized by full chest contact and a close, hugging embrace. I enjoy open embrace dancing for its playfulness, but I always like to come back to a close embrace. I love the strong chest connection and the feeling that I can just melt into the dance and rely on the leader to get me moving in the right direction. I was lucky when I started dancing tango—I started in a community with a core group of really lovely close embrace dancers (not to mention good DJs and, rarer still, more leaders than followers).
Moving to Europe has been a bit of an adjustment for me. The music is … different. Our local community tends to favor more modern music over the classics, or at least that is what is often played at milongas. (I sense an undercurrent of more experienced dancers who prefer Golden Age music, but they aren’t as visible.) However, the hardest adjustment has been the embrace. Over and over again, I have danced with leaders who manage a kind of close embrace with no chest contact. Our arms bring us close, but when I look for that chest connection, it isn’t there. It makes the entire dance feel hollow.
I have experienced this in-between, open-close embrace in my local community, in milongas in our region, and even in other cities outside of Germany. Maybe this phenomenon also exists in the U.S., but I was lucky enough to rarely encounter it there. Over here, it seems like almost all the leaders who dance close embrace create this space between our chests. It is a jarring experience, a kind of bait and switch that keeps me from fully relaxing and enjoying the dance.
Thankfully, there are exceptions, even here in town. There are some lovely dancers here and in Cologne, which is close enough to visit regularly. There is also El Corte, a warm, eclectic venue in Nijmegen that attracts excellent dancers from around the world. (Actually, the venues themselves tend to be so much better over here.) So really, I’m not complaining. Like most of my experiences so far here, it is just a matter of meeting the right people and becoming familiar with the territory.