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
- Chest. The lead is indicated by the leader's 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. Most followers will know the sequence once started so only a light lead is required. It is only necessary to indicate deviations from the pattern and to lead the exit move.
- Invitation. The leader gives an 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 (or less commonly in front of) 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; don't step away.
- Ankles close. Pivots should be made with the ankles close together.
- Big pivot. The follower needs do a substantial pivot. The pivot following the side step is especially demanding and positions the follower to do the back step.
- 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 fancy footwork in the center. This is only for more advanced dancers.
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.
- 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.
- Leader side step with counterclockwise front-side step. If the leader simply steps to their left side as the follower completes a front-side, this is exactly equivalent to position 2 in the basic eight and it can be followed by whatever might normally do from there.
- Walk out from 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.
- To ocho cortado after clockwise front-side step. After a front-side the follower is 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 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 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 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.