Tag Archives: embellishments

Tango Technique made Fun; Embellishments

Embellishments…hmmm… for some an absolute no-no and for others a must- have!
The good thing about this article is that whether you will use the embellishments in your dance is completely irrelevant…

How embellishments can shape your practice

Especially one of the embellishments that I chose can NOT be done in a milonga. It is the kind of embellishment, you can only do if you show up really early or leave really late.

We will by-pass therefore the debate on the appropriateness of embellishments and we will focus on what we can learn from them, if we let them shape our practice

Aside from the obvious first step; of figuring out how to actually do the embellishment, here are the next levels we can take our practice to:

  • Exploring the balance between tension and relaxation. To do an embellishment, you need to free the “free” leg of any unnecessary tension that will slow it down.
  • Becoming aware of our body position. How does our posture need to change, so we can spare that leg, and still feel good, confident and strong
  • And timing. When is the right time to start the embellishment, and when should it end. How can we transition smoothly into the next step

These are the key elements we will be focusing on in this article. If you can of any more leave a comment below, to start up a chat..!

Relaxation Vs Tension

In this first video, we are focusing more on the first two pointers, from the list above.
We start by relaxing the legs and the arms. And our goal is to keep them relaxed as we gradually create tension in the core.
When we make our way to standing, we shift our focus to body alignment. How do shift the body to allow for one leg to move freely in space?

Becoming aware, of the balance points available to us and the lines of alignment being formed in our bodies, we can create freedom and power without jeopardizing balance and strength.

Embellishments in their purest form

In this video, the second one of the series, we are getting more and more analytical, with our movement. We are breaking the embellishments down to movement blocks and we take each one and create an exercise around it.

This helps us dive a bit deeper into all the elements on our list, even timing… As we begin to notice where and when the movement starts in our body and where and when it ends.

Perfect timing

And last but not least, a video that focuses on body position and timing.

When our body is positioned properly, we are ready to act, that is quite obvious. What is not obvious is the opposite… being aware of time and opportunity to act. Timing therefore and body position are intimately tied together. We need to be ready WHEN the opportune moment comes our way.

Practice smart, might mean, work on embellishments

Maybe you think embellishments are a waste of time. That they won’t let you focus on what truly matters. And that they are superficial unnecessary elements, that most dancers tend to use when their technique is in fact poor.

I don’t blame you, I believed all that myself and still do to some extent. I would like though to invite you to see embellishments, for what they are. Off the dance floor and outside the dance studios, they are nothing more than movements. And we can be taught from any movement as simple or as complicated it may be.

And if you want to keep practicing smart with movements then visit this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/tango-technique-workout/

But if you don’t want to wait for the next video and you want set your practice now then this link is more appropriate: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

Till next time, tango on! 😉

Chrisa

Embellishments that go beyond spicing

We’ve talked about sequences, we’ve talked about technique, we’ve talked about the embrace… so how can we possibly leave embellishments out of the game?

Many dancers look down on embellishments. They see them as fluff; as something secondary and unimportant.
Today though I will attempt to change their mind by using an embellishment to practice on:

  1. Balance
  2. Posture
  3. Timing
  4. Effortless movement
  5. Listening and connecting to our partner
Embellishments that go beyond spicing

The video is heavy on technique tips, tips on how to make this beautiful embellishment fit your dance as seamlessly as possible and tips on how to transfer the details of this experience into the rest of your dance.
So I will grab the opportunity to elaborate more on the hidden message of the video… which is NOT Intelligent Tango…haha… but the relationship that can be created between partners because of this and many other embellishments

When the specific embellishment is successful and spicy, there is a feeling of a slight delay in the pivot. It is not really a delay but a change in rhythm.
Here is why…
The leader drives the pivot BUT it is the follower’s free leg the comes rapping around first and then the actual pivot happens.
So leaders… it feels like your follower is stuck… but THAT stickiness will create the momentum, the power that we want for the embellishment to come to light!

How do we mess this up…
The followers are either exaggerating, slowing the pivot down and/ or they are not using the embrace to let their partner know they want to do something fancy with their feet.

The leaders on the other hand having not received any cue that something different is happening push their partners around because they think they got stuck on the pivot… OR if the follower did communicate her wish to do an embellishment, it is very likely that the leader didn’t hear it…

Tango is a partner’s dance

I heard me say it the beginning of the video as well.
I was thinking of doing a practice on embellishments but I wasn’t really sure which one to choose and how to structure the practice so we get massive knowledge from it.
So when one of my students of Intelligent Tango told how delighted he was by the support built in the program, that was gave me the idea to structure around which I structured the video.

In Tango we are building up a conversation and yet I clearly remember taking women’s technique classes where the teacher would focus almost exclusively on how to keep the action on the feet; how we block what we do with our feet from getting transmitted to our partner.
Why..?
So we won’t disturb the leader…

You can imagine what happened afterwards right?
Frustraaaation! haha

Followers trying to do embellishments without giving any indication to the leader that they are attempting an extra movement.
And leaders complaining that they didn’t know where the follower was and that they felt disconnected because of the embellishments
But the followers came back at them with: “You don’t give any time to do an embellishment!”

Unfortunately the leaders are right on this one…
How do expect for someone to give time for an embellishments when they don’t know you want to do one…?
If you don’t communicate with your leaders, they can’t possibly know you even need more time..!

Tango is a partners dance and there is needs to more than I give you the lead and you do it.
There needs to be support and understanding from both ends.
And for that to happen we both need to use the embrace not only to share a message but also listen to what our partner is telling us and provide comfort.

How can we practice on that through this embellishment
  1. Start with doing simple forward ochos–NO embellishment and notice the rhythm
  2. Add the embellishment and notice the change in rhythm
  3. After figuring out the rhythm and the footwork, focus on what the rest of the body is doing
  4. Do it against the wall and notice how the pressure in your hands is changing
  5. Use your breath to relax any tension you might be holding
  6. Practice both plain ochos and ochos with an embellishment with your partner. If you are a follower make sure that you let your leader know you are going to do the embellishment and if you are leader listen for the cue
  7. Share feedback with your partner and try again

Tango like any dance is based on communication. We all dance to share something with someone. We need therefore to find ways to practice becoming better in listening and in sharing!

You need to get your Tango Priorities straight…#1: Embellishments!

A friend and student recently told me this:
“I want to change my Tango priorities. Maybe do some work on embellishments.I would like to focus more around the dance itself instead of myself IN the dance.”

hey hey… I know… You are probably thinking:
Embellishments? This is the last thing you should be practicing on….instead you should focus on blah blah blah…
I know I thought of that myself, but instead of rushing to answer her request, I asked her to explain it to me…I wanted to hear her out

And she said: “I feel I have been very egoistic in my dance, trying to show people all the great moves I know. Now I feel it is the time to focus on the dance itself, on its subtleties, on its internal rules.”

But isn’t this the reason why people avoid embellishments?

Why we REALLY avoid embellishments?

I used to believe that people avoid practicing embellishments for two reasons:

  1. Because their teachers have made it clear to them, that embellishments are secondary in Tango. Therefore when they practice, they want to use their time effectively, focusing on Tango priorities, like balance, posture, disassociation, walks, ochos…
  2. Because they are fed up with all these dancers on the dancefloor, doing nice embellishments and then sucking in technique.

There might be some truth in the reasons above BUT my friend’s request made me think, of a more important, underlying reason. Tango is serious dance, and people don’t want to sound superficial by saying:

I want to make things look nice on the dancefloor!
Seeing all these followers doing these beautiful embellishments makes me jealous, I want to learn how to do them too!
Or
I want to make things look tidier, prettier

What is wrong with these statements?
Well if you are asking me…NOTHING!
It is a dance for God’s sake, you are supposed to look good while doing it and most importantly you are supposed to feel good and not guilty!

We are feeling guilty though, either because we are afraid of what other people might think of us and our commitment to Tango or because we judge others with similar criteria…
C’mon, we have all done it…
Looked around to check out the “show off” walking in the cafe on Sunday morning,  too awesome to be real!

The truth is though that our practice can benefit a tons from embellishments, if we use them strategically.

How can embellishments, help us work on priorities for Tango.

When we say priorities in Tango, we mean balance, alignment, posture, walks, ochos, musicality. As you get better, you’d probably have to fit improvisation in there too.

The question is can you work on all these elements, through an embellishment?

YES, you can!
And here is the video to prove it:
Embellishments– More than making things look pretty

Most importantly, though embellishments can help us discover new ways of creating movement, where the outcome might be the same but the quality of the movement is completely different.

And this in itself is a very important element in every dance!

Toe- taps. An opportunity to work on Tango priorities

As you can see, I chose one very simple embellishment, toe-taps.
This was a deliberate choice!
I didn’t want to have a very difficult embellishment to work with, because then naturally, all my focus would be on the embellishment itself.
So, if you don’t want to work on toe-taps, you can choose something else, but make sure it is not too demanding.

Toe-taps, usually happen, before a side step, and the dancer will bend the standing leg for the free leg to extend and tap, before taking that side step.
That in itself might a bit difficult for some of us. So try it a couple of times, staying strong over the standing leg. Without, letting the free leg just flop around, but directing the movement from the standing leg. Nice and controlled.

A great way to work on balance, and on the side step that follows. For which, you will not throw yourselves over. Instead you will control the swing of the free leg, bring it in to center, and the push your way over.

So already you have practiced on:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, proper alignment and posture
  3. Side steps.

Things are about to get more challenging though! Because now you will go into a back step instead of a side step…
Why is it more challenging?
Usually because our hips are not properly aligned, for us to execute the back step and stay balanced.
So, FIND it!
With your focus on the standing side, and with the help of your tailbone, try to find the proper placement for the hips in order to smoothly exit into a back step.

So this time you are working on:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment, posture
  3. Understanding your movement and how your body can create smooth transitions

Things will get a bit tougher, when you will create back ochos from the embellishment.

Before you even think of pivoting, notice the twist created in your core because of the embellishment. Try to feel how it is created from the movement of your hips and your free leg. And notice how it affects your upper body.
When you are ready, activate the standing heel, and bring it around, taking the free leg and the hips with it.
Here too everything is directed by the standing leg. So DON’T hop into your step, bend your knee, extend the free leg, push to step, pivot by bringing the heel around and repeat.

This time therefore you are working on:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment and posture
  3. Disassociation
  4. Back ochos
  5. Understanding your movement and how your body can create smooth transitions

If put some music on, then you can actually create small combinations of the exercises above, and work on your musicality and improvisation too!

But it is not over yet…Lets break some rules!

This is where things get interesting.
As you will see in the second part of the video, I am ONLY moving from the free leg.

Instead of bending the standing knee, to release the free leg, you will swing the free leg out and around to tap, and then let it lead you to a side step.

That in itself, if you haven’t tried it before, will challenge your balance, alignment and posture. Plus it will make you feel a bit weird, especially on the side step, where you NOT allowed to push!

Is it wrong? NO!
It is just a different way to do a side step. Reacting and directing it from the free leg, instead of the standing leg.
Doing the embellishment right before, will help you understand how the free leg can help you move without losing control, and will give you great insight on how you can isolate the axis without creating strain on the leg/hip/shoulder.

So what have been working on here:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment and posture
  3. Side steps
  4. Understanding the power of the free leg
  5. figuring out different flavors of movement and how your body can create smooth transitions
  6. Noticing where there is strain on the standing side–look for it at the femur 😉

You will then, just like before, do back step and then back ochos, directing them from the free leg.
This is quite demanding and will make you rethink your posture, especially on the ochos.
Just like before though, feel how the swing of the free leg, can move your hips back for a back step and around for the ocho. How that energy makes its way up to your core and what effect it has in your upper body.
This prep- work will help you a lot in your back ochos which you will be directing FULLY from the free leg. DON’T PUSH! haha

THE FINAL TEST

Traveling back ochos! What you will be working on?

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment and posture
  3. Disassociation
  4. Connection between upper and lower body
  5. Back ochos
  6. Understanding the power of the free leg
  7. Figuring out different flavors of movement and how your body can create smooth transitions
  8. How much do you really need to pivot!

So what do you think now, are embellishments a waste of time?

-Chrisa