By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz
Excerpt from Gotta Tango. Copyright (c) 2007-2013. All Rights Reserved
Sooner than later you will be visually attracted to the way some seasoned dancers seem to add another layer of expressiveness to their dancing. They use the whole body to interpret each piece of music, no matter which arrangement of a melody is played. What is it that they do that seems to enhance their dance?
In this book we have deliberately left out instructions on performing embellishments. However, you should know a few facts about them.
What is meant by the word embellishment? In the vernacular of the Argentine tango it is the action of adding a little something extra to the core movement of the body that produces the locomotion of the legs and feet.
Both women and men do embellishments. The addition to the core movement, the embellishing of a movement or step, is meant to be seamless. In terms of musical counts, it is movement within the main beat; it happens simultaneously within a step. As seen from the outside by someone with an uneducated eye, embellishments tend to look like the sole expression of a dancer’s legs and feet. This is an oversimplification.
Embellishments should not be “learned,” memorized, or copied. The mere replication of movements copied from an admired dancer, without a real understanding of what they mean, what they are used for, where they come from, and how they are crafted and created, will only produce insignificant and unpleasant results. Embellishments are not a just a woman’s thing to be done without context.
When the man knows how to guide and the woman knows how to be guided, and they both have a good ear for the music, each one of them may add embellishments with musical accuracy. There will be no disturbance to one another or any type of pull or vibration. Embellishments do not interfere with la marca (marking) of movements, steps, or sequences.
Unless the couple is dancing a prearranged choreography, the woman does not need to wait for the man to “give” her time if she wishes to embellish. While improvising, the woman relies on her intelligence, her ability, and her experience to know and decide if her movement corresponds to creating an embellishment. Dancers who have limited experience should be discouraged from attempting to embellish at a milonga; classes and practices are more appropriate places for acquiring technique and confidence.
Often, embellishments need and can be worked out technically and methodically. However, when it comes time to put them into action, they must be done spontaneously and appropriately. Both the individual and the couple will reflect their love and passion for the music of the Argentine tango when embellishments are created and used within the spirit of the dance.