Tango Notes: Molinete / Giro / Media Luna


The Molinete / Giro is an essential move and perhaps the richest figure in tango because its many variations. Basic versions are appropriate for beginners and the molinete is even more important for intermediate and advanced dancers. These notes are a brief summary of issues for beginning leaders and followers, with links to instructional videos.


The molinete (meaning "windmill" in Spanish) is a figure where the follower makes a specific sequence of steps, similar to a grapevine, around the leader. The Spanish term giro (pronounced "hero" meaning "turn") is also frequently used synonomously and both terms are used interchangeably. It can be danced either clockwise (cw) or counterclockwise (ccw). You can also think of clockwise as being toward the closed side, or as to the follower's left and leader's right. This description uses the abbreviations cw (clockwise) and ccw (countereclockwise).

When a half molinete (medio giro) is danced and the direction is reversed at the end with a front ocho, it is typically called a media luna (half moon).


Follower's footwork is the repeating sequence: front+pivot, side+pivot, back, side. Because this is a repeating cycle, you can think of it starting and ending at any point in the cycle, eg, back, side, front+pivot, side+pivot, etc. The leader may decide to begin the sequence at any point, as well as decide when to end it. This results in many variations. The following video shows the traditional molinete exercise.

Molinete con cambio de sentido en paso lateral 1:04
Here we have the classic molinete exercise that every beginner starts with - dancing a box or circle around something/someone. The goal is to make all steps equal length in a square. These equal length steps look good, but you will see that many dancers shorten some of their steps, esp the back step. You might ask why a leader (judging from the arm position) is demonstrating what is usually the follower's footwork.
  • It's a good dance exercise.
  • It's useful to understand what the follower is doing.
  • The leader can mirror the follower's moves for an interesting molinete variation or exercise.


Leader technique issues

Follower technique issues

Entering and exiting the Molinete / Giro

Entering a molinete is simple because you can start with any of the follower's side, front or back steps.

Exiting a molinete/giro is also easy, but it will be more difficult on the quick steps if a quick-quick-slow-slow timing is used. Stopping a molinete/giro on the quick steps can work, but it may be tricky, esp with a partner you're not familiar with. Firstly because the follower often does the back-side steps more quickly than the front-side, so it's more difficult to lead a change of direction, etc. Secondly the back step is often small (the theroretical ideal is equal sized steps but this is rarely practiced) so it's much harder to set up some moves (eg sacada or gancho) that involve placing a leg between her feet. Here are four exits that I often use.

Videos of the Media Luna (Half Molinete/Giro with return)

It may be best for beginners to start with a Media Luna because it's only half of a full Molinete / Giro so it doesn't require as much leader footwork.

Clases de Tango - Figura 6 La Media Luna 2:28 Feb 17, 2012
Gabriel and Carolina. In Spanish. Clockwise from mirrored back crosses.
How to Do the Grapevine | Argentine Tango 3:41 Apr 23, 2012
Howcast with Diego Blanco and Ana PadrĂ³n. Clockwise starting from the cross at 5. Reverses direction to return to facing. Then shows it from mirrored back ochos, reversing direction on the front ocho.
Media Luna 5:53 Dec 14, 2015
By Ricardo and Raquel. It's in German but it should be quite obvious. The only part that might not be obvious is that the leader makes a slight rotation clockwise on 3 as a windup to the counterclockwise side step that the follower makes next. This media luna ends, as many do, with a parada, but it's different from most because that the parada is behind the follower's foot.
Tango 103: La Media Luna 2:25 Oct 18, 2016
By LA Tango Academy. Nice media lunas ending with ocho cortados. Leader steps across and pivots +180.

Videos of the Full Molinete/Giro

When doing a full molinete, or multiple molinetes, the leader must do more footwork to keep turning.

Tango with Lori & Patrick #7 - Molinete, leader's technique 8:54
This shows a molinete in parallel (starting at 3) and cross system (starting with back ocho). The leader steps with every follower's step. This includes both a media luna and full molinete.
Basic Argentine Tango 5:13
By James & Joanna. After a simple lesson on the basic eight, at 2:13 this gives a standard demo of a basic molinete with instruction.
Lez 10 Giro con rulo 5:12
Osvaldo y Mora. Dubbed in English. Poor video quality, but still useful. See how he keeps his chest moving and always facing the follower. Clockwise from back ocho.
Instructional Video: Argentine Tango - Basic Figure: Molinete 3:22
Oscar Caballero and Roxana Garber. Counterclockwise from americana.
Clases de Tango - Figura 4 El Molinete 3:47
Gabriel and Carolina. In Spanish. Explains leader's footwork (in Spanish) as left foot behind with pivot. Counterclockwise from 3.
Beginner Argentine Tango Class Notes (Figures) 8:42 Molinete at 5:50
By TangoCalgary. This compilation of moves includes a Molinete at 5:50. The follower's footwork is standard, but the leader's footwork is interesting.
Change your Tango: 3 fun ways to dance the medio-giro 7:48 Jan 23, 2019
By Tango Space's Pablo Rodriguez & Anne Bertreau. These three moves all start with position 3 in crossfoot and make a half giro in a counterclockwise direction. These combinations are fairly simple and very good practice for the leader, esp to not pull the follower off axis.

Related Notes