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Tango Embellishments (Adornos)

What are tango embellishments?

Tango embellishments - adornos in Spanish - are small decorations added to the steps. They are used to infuse expression to the dance; to make it look and feel more beautiful. The vast majority of embellishments are done by the followers, though a few are done by men.

Are tango embellishments difficult?

Like all tango steps, they are easy to learn but take a lifetime to master.

Stability, poise and precise timing need to be maintained before, during and after the embellishment, whose difficulty increases with the speed of the step. An embellishment should not interrupt the flow of either the leader or the follower.

When can a tango embellishment be executed?

In general, an embellishment can be executed during either a pause or as part of a movement.

During a pause, the lead or follower may use their free leg to decorate as they see fit. When the follower is executing an embellishment, she must be ready to step again when requested by the lead.

Take the Embellishments Tour

The following tango embellishments are covered by clicking on the relevant links below. Each page gives further details and instructional videos on each embellishment.
  • AGUJA (NEEDLE) - this embellishment is performed by the lead keeping his free foot vertical whilst pivoting, as the follower dances around him.
  • AMAGUE (FEINT) - the embellishment is a 'fake move' such as a foot stamping, or by leading a step to the side of the follower, but quickly reversing.
  • BOLEO (WHIP) - here the follower's free foot is thrown to the side and wraps around her leg at the knees, and her upper body counter-rotates, when an ocho is reversed in the middle. There are two variations: back boleo and front boleo.
  • CARICIA (CARESS) - this is a most sensual tango embellishment, which has two variations. The lustrada has the follower caressing the supporting leg of the lead. In the castigada the follower caresses her own supporting leg.
  • CUATRO (FOUR) - in the cuatro, the follower flicks the lower part of her free leg backwards and up, creating the numeral 4 in profile.
  • ENROSCAR (SCREW) - this embellishment is performed by the lead keeping his free foot behind his supporting foot whilst pivoting, as the follower dances around him. A variation is the counter-enroscar in which the free foot is kept in front of the supporting foot.
  • GANCHO (HOOK) - this embellishment has either the lead or follower swing their free leg to hook it around their partner's supporting leg, and then quickly release it. A variation is the gancho pasajero in which the gancho is executed during a transition between one step and another.
  • GOLPETICO (TAP) - this is a simple tango embellishment in which the foot is tapped. It has a number of variations including the punto (tapping with the toe), golpeteo (tapping with the underside of the foot), fanfarron (rhythmic tap in time to the music), picado (upward flick of the heel) and zapatato (tapping the shoes together).
  • INTRUSION - here the free foot is quickly kicked in and out from the space between the partner's legs. It requires very good timing.
  • RULO (CIRCLE) - this embellishment is executed by drawing circles on the floor with the free leg.
  • SENTADA (SITTING) - this is a show-tango embellishment in which the follower mounts the lead's supporting leg.

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