Dance, as we know it today, is often characterized by sequences and patterns, with many partner dances hinged upon a set of memorized steps or figures that are followed during the performance.

More often than not, these dance styles are for show or the stage, wherein some movements may even be exaggerated or made to look more flamboyant. There isn’t much room for improvisation in these dances, and partners may fall into the trap of repeatedly executing routines that provide little to no variation from others of its kind.

This is not the case with Argentine tango.

In fact, Argentine tango elevates improvisation into an art form

The dance itself draws movements from the emotional and intuitive connection between the dancer and their body, as well as the leader and the follower. Despite its free, expansive motions that onlookers may equate with flamboyance, Argentine tango in its most traditional form has rarely subscribed to sequences, and neither does it follow routines that make it repetitive.

“[tango] is a puzzle that gets put together differently each time.”

— tejastango.com

However, this doesn’t entirely mean that tango has no established figures or steps. In fact, it has various steps that build upon and enhance its foundational elements, which consist of walks, turns, embellishments, sandwiches, and structural connections. The same post also argues that having a mastery of tango’s vocabulary will enable one to achieve fluency in improvisation until such a skill becomes second nature.

…having a mastery of tango’s vocabulary will enable one to achieve fluency in improvisation until such a skill becomes second nature.

Thus, one may benefit from familiarizing oneself with perhaps the most popular leader’s steps in Argentine tango: the enrosque.

Enrosque Defined

Taken from the word enrosqar or enroscar, enrosque means to coil or twist like a screw.

There seems to be no evidence as to when this term was coined for this particular move. Its meaning, however, provides a succinct but accurate representation of how one looks while executing this dance step.

As a kind of embellishment in Argentine tango, an enrosque is performed by spinning on one foot while the other is hooked behind it. The body of the dancer then mimics the figure of a screw as they turn.

Typically, an enrosque is done while the follower — usually a lady — performs a molinete, described simply as to circle around the leader while supporting the leader’s axis. The enrosque then is a pivoting motion that requires balance, stability, and a complete awareness of the body as it not only involves the feet and the legs, but also the torso. In executing the enrosque, one must exercise dissociation, coordination, and timing all at once to achieve a smooth and effortless pivoting motion.

For both leaders and followers, Tanguito offers some tips to execute this move: for leaders, they should pivot on the front leg, transferring their weight on the back leg and uncrossing before pushing to step back at the end of the pivot. For followers, it is recommended to dissociate for this 180-degree turn by first twisting one’s torso with the leader, then sending one’s hips beyond the neutral position so that the torso would face the leader while the hips are at a 90-degree angle against them by the end of the turn.

But as tango is, as mentioned, a highly improvisational dance, performing a successful enrosque requires an intuitive understanding between the leader and the follower so both may be able to discern cues that would allow them to execute and supplement a sophisticated pivot.

Outside of these subtle cues, the leader and the follower won’t have other means to signal one another about which move comes next due to the spontaneity of the steps, which may lead to a rather disastrous entanglement should both partners lose this connection.

A post from TejasTango further elaborates on the importance of partner connection when performing embellishments like the enrosque or any type of tango dance step:

“Women and men bring their own styles and embellishments to the dance which contribute significantly to the excitement and unpredictability of the experience. Even though dancers follow certain conventions, they never quite know how someone will construct a dance, add an embellishment or interpret the music.

The surprises possible within the dance are what make the dance so addicting.

It really does take two to tango, because the dance isn't just about the man leading and the woman following. Both partners have important things to contribute—like all good conversations.”

Improving Your Enrosque

Since an enrosque is an intermediate move, going back to some of the basic and most useful tango elements might work to one’s advantage when attempting to improve this technique.

It is, therefore, important to remember that traditional Argentine tango, according to DanceFacts, is “performed counterclockwise, with dance pairs forming lines of traffic that cut not across, but flow around the dance floor. The basic elements of every Argentine tango dance are the embrace, walking, figures, dancing codes, and the underlying type of music (traditional tango, Vals, and milonga).”

With this, a leader can determine when is the best time to draw the follower with an enrosque without creating unnecessary tension between themselves and their body, and them and their partner.

A post from BauTanz recommends that instead of “pushing into the floor,” one must yield when executing the enrosque.

According to the post, “Rigidity, hardness, pushing-pulling is NOT always the answer. Yielding, on the other hand, through the standing side, [releases] tension without collapsing towards the floor. Responding to gravity, by building a relationship of give and take, of understanding YOUR weight and how it reaches the earth — THAT can help you feel balanced, aligned, and FREE to move.”

Similarly, a post from elizabethwartlufttango.com suggests that building a “body map” will help one improve pivots.

This can be done by determining which muscles work to make a good pivot, thus helping one build a body map. By slowly working on one’s pivots, one can begin to focus on different body parts such as one’s feet, hips, abs, or other parts that need work. After tuning in to a specific part of one’s body, one could add it into the body map until they feel all the parts working harmoniously with each other.

Since an enrosque requires complete awareness of the body, building and eventually tuning into the entirety of this body map may help one execute smoother and more well-balanced enrosques.

Similarly, the informative video above from Tango Space outlines seven helpful tips to improve pivots like the enrosque.

Most of these tips discuss the importance of aligning different body parts such as the head to the spine, or keeping one’s hips parallel to the floor for added stability, instead of using them to pivot.

Other tips include controlling different body parts such as the ankles in terms of shifting one’s weight either inside or outside, which is common among female dancers as they wear heels. Movement control is also discussed in relation to dissociation and transferring one’s weight fully before pivoting.

The video also recommended relaxing the toes, knees, and hips for a much easier, fluid motion and keeping the free leg on the floor during a pivot to maintain balance.

Depending on one’s level of proficiency, some exercises to improve one’s execution of an enrosque might not be as effective as others. As is with any endeavor, it is important to constantly and consistently practice to bring together balance, stability, elegance, and timing when performing an enrosque. At first glance, this move may seem like a simple twist, but its impact on the dancefloor can elevate the experience partners share while dancing the Argentine tango.

What a Twist

While the Argentine tango may be a dance that celebrates the art of improvisation, it still has steps and figures that have been established and are practiced by all tangueros and tangueras.

However, what makes Argentine tango different from other partner dances is that it does not heavily rely on the rigid memorization of these steps, and neither does it rely on repetitive sequences. These steps simply serve as conduits through which each dancer’s emotional and spiritual experience is translated into its physical expression.

Still, to fully appreciate Argentine tango, one must intimately familiarize themselves with even the most deceptively simple embellishments like the enrosque.

For the uninitiated, an enrosque can appear like a spinning motion that’s easy to do, but it is actually an intermediate step that requires lots of practice, as well as a simultaneous execution of balance, coordination, and timing.

There are several ways to accomplish a well-performed enrosque, but the most important thing one must remember — other than consistent practice — is that when executing this move as a leader, one must maintain an intuitive connection with their partner.

Without it, one cannot signal the perfect moment when this move can be fulfilled, which is akin to a conversation being interrupted.

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