You are my giro! (Turns from Tango 2)

The cafe's internet just kicked me out and ate 45 minutes of blogging. So, I will start over (sigh).

Turns are a key part of tango. When I start a new tango class, I tell them that tango is walking, turning and footplay. Turns are fun, but they are also very useful on a crowded dance floor, as they can either stay in place and use very little room to play a lot, or they can help you get down the line of dance (LOD) very quickly.

Things to keep in mind for all turns:

  • Leaders: lead with the energy of the connection, from your center. Yes, the embrace helps, but only because it is connected to the center. Do not steer with the arms, or create a visual lead by pointing your nose where you want the follower to go.
  • Followers: ACTIVELY participate in the turn and give the leader a lot of energy to use in the turn. I even think of myself as the motor of the turn. I don't take over, but I work hard on contributing to the movement.
  • Leaders: Make sure your axis is planted over your feet, straight up and down. Use your breath to maintain this. The energy of the embrace smooths the turn and gives it force, but it won't work if you are off-balance.
  • Followers: Keep a tight circle of even-sized steps unless requested to do otherwise. Especially before your back cross step, PIVOT your foot on the floor as far as you can before sending your leg/foot around the back. This conserves energy in the turn and lets the leader do many more potential moves from the turn.
  • I am a firm believer in the follower also being on axis for turns. For those of you who are into extreme-lean tango, be aware that you will have to work even harder with your abs to protect your back as you lean and turn.

Turns that stay in one place:

  • Right and left giros at the cross: At the cross, the leader unwinds the follower's feet by rotating left about 3 degrees (I mean it, this is almost undetectable). At that point, the leader can continue rotating left for a left giro, or rotate to the right to start a right giro. This turn can end on any step of the giro, but I usually stop the follower's turn when I am facing LOD and ready to progress down the floor.
  • "Rock step and turn" (Turns from the side step): A lot of people think of this as a rock step turn, but in reality, it is a rock step which segues into a side-step turn. If you start a turn with a step to the side, I suggest turning that step so that the follower is already traveling around the leader's axis, rather than stepping into the next circle of dancers. OK, OK, I'll try to get around to making videos that go with these descriptions!!
  • "Rock step and cross through" (Turns from a front cross step): I use these turns a lot, but do not often see other dancers using this. I think I learned them while dancing in Buenos Aires (rather than in a dance class), so I can't tell you where they originated. ANYWAY, these have a very small turning radius and a very small amount of space needed to initiate, so they work well in crowded conditions. Lead the follower LOD into a back step, then reverse them into a forward step (=rock step). On their next step (a forward step), lead the follower across your body into a turn. Thus, if the follower's right foot is free, this becomes a right turn, and vice versa.
  • Turns from ochos, back and front: Turns from front ochos have a very soft, gentle feel to them. Simply redirect the front ocho into a curve, and keep going. Turns from back ochos have an amusement park ride feeling to them (WHEE!) that I really like, because the back ocho becomes and overturned back ocho to go into the curve of the turn. I suggest leading both of these after orienting the ochos LOD, instead of into the next line of traffic.
  • Ocho cortado turns: While doing the ocho cortado, instead of resolving the follower's second rock step into the cross, rotate to the right, creating a right giro; after going all the way around, finish the ocho cortado as usual. Someone remind me to talk about ocho cortados some day on this blog!

Turns that travel:
Be aware that I often name turns after the person who led them on me a lot (or who does them exquisitely). Often, I have learned turns called, "Hey, try this one!" so I don't have a "correct" name for many moves.

  • The Dan: Dan Boccia LOVES these turns. I especially like how he does two or three on QQS rhythms, and then wildly careens into one that is all QQQQQQ! I have a hard time explaining these turns, as I never learned them from anyone and just do them, so here goes. These are done in parallel system, and each iteration has four steps, with the leader going around the follower two steps and the follower going around the leader two steps (always progressing LOD). One the first iteration, the leader steps as if going to the cross: open or forward on the left, through to the inside on the right, and then turns in place for two steps (LR) while the follower turns past. On further iterations, the first step does travel LOD, but it often also has a feeling of catching one's breath/balance ;-) Sometimes, followers say it feels as if the lead is only really traveling on one big step with the right inside step. The follower should feel as if the steps are mostly traveling down the room, rotating on a line, rather than a lot of AROUND feeling.  Try that and let me know if this makes any sense, and I'll try to describe it again.
  • The Stephen: More later, I have office hours.  Bye!
  • Scoop turns
  • Walkaround turns
  • Chain steps