Monday, June 1, 2015

Rhythmic Embellishments (All Levels)

Song: Cacareando by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 25, 2015, Ardingly College, England

An embellishment is something that is not led. Embellishments must be safe and connected to the music. The music for our class was Vals, with lots of transitional room.

Training our ears to hear where to embellish in Vals
We began with a game of Vals Chacarera, where in Chacarera formation of Leaders all in one line facing Followers all in one line, arms up and eyes making contact with each other, we took four steps forward and four steps back, similar to the Avanzado and Regreso initial steps of the Chacarera. The 4 forward steps were done in 4 beats, and the 4 back steps were done in 4 beats. During this game, maestro played a very regular vals so we could clearly hear the musical phrasing and sentence. It was basically:
4 forward
4 back
4 forward
4 back

At the Period (end of a sentence/phrase) is where the dancers, both Leader and Follower should do various embellishments/accents/do fancy things in their dancing.

Next exercise:
In partnership, we began with walking to the comma, then wait. Then walk to the end of the sentence, then wait, to hear if there is an opportunity in the music to embellish.  This was an exercise to improve our listening and to help us be more creative.  The music will guide you to pick a phrase of music and let the embellishment happen.

4 walk
4 walk
Comma (wait)
4 walk
4 walk (embellish if you hear there’s an opportunity in the music).

Some of the simple embellishments we could do were:
Tap to the side
Tap to the back
Circles with our feet
Squiggles with our body
We could use any body part – feet, shoulder, hips.

The music for this exercise was Alfredo de Angeles’s A Magaldi Adios Marinero.

Phrasing secret:  You can do this with 80% of tangos, vals, and milongas to catch the fills and transitions to embellishments (around the 8 beat).

Led Embellishments:
3 side touch steps/taps.

Follower can feel the lead through the Leader’s body/foot making contact with the floor.  The Follower needs to hear the music with the Leader for the embellishment to make sense.

We drilled the side taps embellishment on both sides to Alfredo de Angeles’s A Magaldi Adios Marinero.

Next Led Embellishment:

Leader’s forward tap with his left foot with simultaneous
Follower’s back tap with her left foot

This is led by the Leader making the step and then grounding it, so that the Follower does it, too.

Pitter-Patters are rhythmic syncopations, playful movements with the feet.  In our class, the Leader is leading the Follower’s embellishment, but not doing it himself.  Or he can do it simultaneously if he wishes. 

Rules: Leader needs to lift, from chest he compresses/hugs in the direction he is turning.  (We drilled with the same song.)

Any problems encountered?  Leader: Use your body to lead because it’s an interrupted step, such as 3 forward taps with his right foot and Follower does 3 back taps with her left foot.  After leading the Pitter-Patter, the Leader needs to know which of her feet is free. He can do this by syncing up with her by shifting her weight or by stepping to her outside.

Typewriter and Bandoneon
The Typewriter is where the Leader and Follower go opposite ways, left or right in the Pitter-Patter, and they can get back together by jumping.

The Bandoneon is where the Leader and Follower go back away or forward toward each other in mirror image, and jump back together.  This is called “The Bandoneon Pitter-Patter” because the movement is similar to the Bandoneon bellows compressing and expanding together.  There are many other Bandoneon variations  where one dancer can go in while the other stays put, or goes out when the other goes in, or goes out while the other goes out or stays in place, etc.

We drilled the Typewriter and Bandoneon to Alfredo de Angeles’s Sonar Y Nada Mas, a song that has 4 beat phrases instead of 8.

Safe Space Zone
We did this in a circle in the line of dance, where either the Leader or the Follower can do the embellishment.  Every moment can be “safe” if the Leader is good.  The Safe Space is where either dancer can play with the other dancer’s feet as they pass by.  For example, the Follower plays with the Leader’s feet by tapping behind, always to her right, either with her right foot or her left foot.  So she would do:
Outside right tap behind to the right, step forward
Left cross tap behind to the right, step forward

This Follower embellishment must be done in between the Follower’s step between strong beats toward the Follower’s right side.  It should not be done during the whole song, but in our drilling that is how we practiced it so we could etch it in our muscle memory.  We also drilled this with the Leader’s back pocket to the line of dance (which wouldn’t happen in real life, but again, we were just drilling).

First we drilled to just a slow beat (no music), doing:

Then we drilled to Rafael Canaro’s Cosas Viejas.

Follower’s right foot back taps Leader’s left foot.
Follower’s left foot back cross taps Leader’s right foot.

The Follower can do a tap only or can touch the Leader’s left foot with contact.

To get out of this, the Leader leads a side step in a turn. 

We drilled this to Osvaldo Pugliese’s Araca La Cana.

Maestros concluded with a class review and demo to Cacareando by Orq. Tipca Victor.

Notes courtesy of Anne at 

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