Saturday, 16 January 2010

Ranting about ornaments

A few friends and acquaintances hire a room once a month and get together for a practice session. We all live in different parts of London and normally go to different teachers, so we tend to do quite a bit of talking about things.

Tealight: I can do styling in Ceroc - because I'm just dancing, but in tango I'm going oo-err, relax my shoulders! balance! relax my hips, keep my feet together, free leg ... I try to do ornaments, but it's too much to think about.

Hedgehog: I wouldnt bother. Just deal with the other stuff. Honestly, when I started I just danced for a quite a while and didn't worry about them and then I was dancing away going tweedly-deedly-dee with a nice partner, and the little taps and things just turned up1.

Supermini: I can do them but I don't know when to do them, I'm always wondering if I was expected to do an ornament there ... I don't understand what's expected.

Hedgehog: I don't think anybody has any right to expect anything. I think they're supposed to come from you. Like - now it's going, dadada dada, da daaaaah da, da daaaah da, da daaaah da, papapa papapapa papapapa papapapa pa2 ... You have to do them when there's something there that goes Ping, that makes you have to move. Otherwise they don't make any sense and you trip yourself up.

ManWithPlan: From my point of view, it's just strange when the woman does a really elaborate ornament that makes sense because it was a big moment, and then thirty seconds later she does exactly the same one. And then thirty seconds later she does it again and it's totally out of proportion.

Hedgehog: I really hate it when they do ornaments in a move in a class, the thing is, if a teacher tells you to put an ornament in a specific place in a step, there's no way it's going to be with the music more than once, and if you try and do stuff fighting the music, your brain just melts. Even if you don't know why, it just feels wrong, and you've got enough to worry about following without trying to fight the music, and why would you anyway? It's better to be in a class where they don't even speak to the women at all. You can just practice whatever they're doing with all the different leaders, and ask for help with whatever comes up. And at least you dance better at the end and not worse.

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1. Not all at once. They turn up one by one over time. They're a bit quirky and some of them don't make the cut, and disappear again, but they're all mine and not somebody else's.
2. Bahia Blanca - Carlos di Sarli.

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Update: promoted from a discussion in comments about the rarity of ornaments and so-called 'leaving space' in Argentina, read the whole for context:
>>What if the ladies want to do an ornament? Where's their room for expression and interpretation? How can they "create together" if the follower is not allowed to have any creative input?

@DB: She is. She has a lot more creative input, in my opinion, and certainly much more equal and important, than she does if her input is confined solely to superficial twiddles and remarks on top of a speech by the man, which is how I perceive ornamentation. It's in the varying qualities of her movement and the influence of her connection and musicality, and it's fully integrated into the whole; like the difference between singing together in harmony and taking turns to talk. However, I take your point that it needs explaining, and I am definitely not qualified to explain it. It's invisible, the ideas are not obvious. Passing them on takes a lot of knowledge, and you have to be able to show and explain as well. It's not easy, and I don't think women are generally well served there. (Indeed, nor are the men, if they end up believing the same things).

All I think I can say is, that the kind of dance Cherie is talking about feels quite different and a lot more interesting.

14 comments:

tangocherie said...

Of course it's different everywhere, but the milongueros in BsAs don't like women adorning all over the place and in fact, often won't allow them to.

If you ask one how he likes the dancing of so-and-so, he might say, Oh not so much as she dances all by herself.

That's a huge criticism here.
In fact, it's one way to pick out the foreigners.

So I'd say not to worry about it.

NYC Tango Pilgrim said...

Embellishment should come naturally, like everything else when one's body could move freely and when one is truly inspired by the music or/and the partner. If one has to adorn intentionally, then one probably shouldn't do it at all.

Just my 2cent. :-)

londontango said...

I stopped doing them years ago when I stopped going to classes. One less thing to think about and lets me focus more on the music and my dance partner.

Game Cat said...

I agree with a lot of the views here.

I think perhaps, for women, adornos are often focused on in classes as the main means for them to express the music (at least, based on my observation). Hence, in some minds: more adornos = more musical expression.

The thing is, if the man is doing a lot of the "driving" - what and when to the music - how much else can a woman express her musicality?

And more interesting (at least for me)....what does a woman need from a man to give her room to express the music?

msHedgehog said...

@tangocherie: I agree, but I also think that if you present it in those terms, you must give the woman a clear idea of how (physically speaking) to go about expressing her own musicality in a postive way, in the way she dances and responds to the music, that isn't just 'adornments'. For the exact reason that Game Cat says below - mostly women are given the impression that their own dance is something stuck on top of the man's and adornments are the only thing they add. People put adornments in classes because teaching the women to dance really well is hard in the kind of class that people have learned to expect, and takes a lot of imagination and some expertise in both roles. (Just My Opinion). And, although it may be obvious even to many beginners that adornments=musicality is, or should be, utter nonsense, it's not at all obvious what the alternatives are, and I think any teacher can do a valuable service by thinking that through and presenting it clearly.

@TP - I agree.
@LT - basically same here, although I do do them, and so do you, the same sort of thing as far as I've noticed, but they're just movement as part of the dance.

@Game Cat - for me, all he needs to do is 'not everything'. Not to take over every single thing in the music. He needs to be aware of the woman. He needs to be honest - dancing to music he likes and relates to, and genuinely willing to dance with me. Ideally he needs to be dancing to my level, so that I can listen properly and don't have to use up quite all my resources in just keeping up. And he needs to be dancing mostly within his level, so that I don't have to be too wary, although of course it doesn't have to be perfect. Basically as long as he's not self-absorbed, anxious or inclined to panic it'll probably be fine.

David Bailey said...

I think ornaments are fine, but they have to develop organically as an expression of your particular style.

That said, it's worth learning the potential and range of ornaments that other people do, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

@TC: "the milongueros in BsAs don't like women adorning all over the place and in fact, often won't allow them to."
- I agree that over-ornamenting is poor practice, but how do they stop the women from ornamenting?

David Bailey said...

P.S. MsH, I like the colour-coded symbols, I'm trying to work out who "Tealight" is now... :)

tangocherie said...

David, the milongueros don't give the women time or space to adornar if they don't want them to. The leaders control the dance, because this style is not about any solo dancer showing off; it's about creating together to the music.

Jessica said...

I'm a singer before I'm a dancer, and at quite an early stage got to a stage when I was peppering my dance with tiny foot taps.

I worked out I was doing this whenever there were beats happening in the music that I felt were begging for something to be happen, but at that stage I didn't have the confidence or technical ability to do anything more than a little tap... easy, quick, and doesn't delay my ability to respond to the lead.

Now I'm more confident (and much better balanced) I use a wider range of adornos, and am a bit more confident in negotiating the space to do them. And I now find some sorts of music just cry out for different adornments - if it's spiky, it's taps, or tiny flicks, if more sweeping, more sweeping music.

But if in doubt about whether I have time, a little tap allows me to respond to the music I'm hearing without disrupting anything.

And I love it when a guy gives me space at one of those moments when the music pauses for a little violin twiddle that is calling out to have its loops and rises and falls sketched on the floor with my toe... particularly say in a sandwich!

david_j_bailey@hotmail.co.uk said...

@TC: "David, the milongueros don't give the women time or space to adornar if they don't want them to. The leaders control the dance, because this style is not about any solo dancer showing off; it's about creating together to the music."
- seems a little too controlling (and that's me saying it...)

What if the ladies want to do an ornament? Where's their room for expression and interpretation? How can they "create together" if the follower is not allowed to have any creative input?

Also, I don't agree that adornment is simply "showing off". But even if it were, so what? Are we not allowed to show off in dancing now?

msHedgehog said...

>>What if the ladies want to do an ornament? Where's their room for expression and interpretation? How can they "create together" if the follower is not allowed to have any creative input?

@DB: She is. She has a lot more creative input, in my opinion, and certainly much more equal and important, than she does if her input is confined solely to superficial twiddles and remarks on top of a speech by the man, which is how I perceive ornamentation. It's in the varying qualities of her movement and the influence of her connection and musicality, and it's fully integrated into the whole; like the difference between singing together in harmony and taking turns to talk. However, I take your point that it needs explaining, and I am definitely not qualified to explain it. It's invisible, the ideas are not obvious. Passing them on takes a lot of knowledge, and you have to be able to show and explain as well. It's not easy, and I don't think women are generally well served there. (Indeed, nor are the men, if they end up believing the same things).

All I think I can say is, that the kind of dance Cherie is talking about feels quite different and a lot more interesting.

Andreas said...

@MsH: Your last comment here is spot-on, nails it perfectly, very well said indeed.

msHedgehog said...

@Andreas - thank you. But I think it needs explaining in a more persuasive way. If you don't already know why you would want to dance in an integrated way, through having found out that it's possible and experienced it, then it sounds unconvincing. And how men get this experience I just have no idea.

ghost said...

"And how men get this experience I just have no idea"

Basically a lot of women dance like they're possesed. The trick is finding out how you personally move, not copying somone else.

And to be fair, men need to do the same thing.

Once you can move naturally and then dance with someone else who can move naturally it makes sense.

To experience this simply, I think you need to behave like children and play. Just move without inhibition. Contact tango, Sacred Clowning, that kind of thing.

Then you know at least know it's possible.