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 I will use them interchangeably. It can be danced either clockwise (toward the closed side) or counterclockwise (toward the open side). When a half-molinete (medio giro) is danced and the direction is reversed at the end, usually 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 however you wish, 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
- Chest. The lead is indicated by the leading chest rotating slightly ahead of the follower. You can also think of the lead as moving your shoulder back to make room for the follower.
- Initial lead. The leader needs to indicate how to begin the first front or back step, but most followers will know the sequence once started so only a light lead is required, and it's only necessary to indicate deviations from the pattern and a lead to indicate the exit.
- Invite. The leader gives a slight invitation (very light pull) in the direction of the turn. Don't push the follower.
- Dissociation. Depending on the footwork, the leader may use substantial dissociation.
- Leader footwork. There are many variations of the leader's footwork. A common solution is to place one foot around behind the other in the direction of the turn and then swivel on both feet, repeating as necessary. A simpler, but less attractive, solution is to make many small wedge shaped "penguin" steps to rotate.
Follower technique issues
- Around. Steps should be around the leader, not away.
- Ankles close. Pivots should be made with the ankles close together.
- Big pivot. The follower needs to pivot quite far. The pivot following the side step is especially demanding.
- Timing. The front+pivot and side+pivot usually need more time than the back and side steps, therefore it is sometimes danced as slow (front+pivot), slow (side+pivot), quick (back), quick (side).
- Dissociation. Follower must dissociate, keeping their chest facing the leader as much as possible.
- Balls of feet. Stay on the balls of your feet, chest forward. Be especially careful to stay forward on the back step. Heels should not touch the floor.
- Power? Who is supplying the turning power? Normally the leader would be giving the leading impulse. However, you may notice that in some advanced molinetes that the follower is actually supplying the turning energy for the leader, who is doing fancing footwork in the center. This is only for advanced dancers.
Entering and exiting the Molinete / Giro
Entering a molinete is simple because you can start with the follower's side step or front or back cross as in the start of a front or back ocho.
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. Specifically, don't try to stop the molinete/giro on the back-side steps. This can work, but it may be tricky, esp with a partner you're not familiar with. First, the follower often does these steps more quickly than the front-side, so it's harder to lead a good change. Second, the back step may be small 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.
- Turning front step into front ocho works well in both clockwise and counterclockwise molinetes/giros. You can use a parada after after the front ocho. This is very popular for good reasons.
- Counterclockwise front-side step. If the leader simply steps to the left side as the follower completes a front-side, this is exactly equivalent to position 2 in the basic eight. Do whatever you might do from position 2.
- Counterclockwise front-side step. If the leader rotates the follower a quarter turn counterclockwise at the end of the front-side, it's simple to just walk to the cross as in the basic eight.
- Clockwise front-side step. You're already halfway thru an Ocho Cortado; just lead a snap cross. If you already know what an ocho cortado is, you'll understand this.
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
- Gabriel and Carolina. In Spanish. Clockwise from mirrored back crosses.
- How to Do the Grapevine | Argentine Tango 3:41
- Howcast with Diego Blanco and Ana Padrón. 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 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
- 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
- Molinete in parallel (starting at 3) and cross system (staring with back ocho). Leader steps with every follower's step. 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 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.