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The Milonguero Turn

The Milonguero Turn is a very useful piece of tango vocabulary and yet it is almost never taught anymore, sadly. It has been supplanted by its sexier kissin’ cousin, the Follower’s Molinete. Put simply, when you really stop and think about the Milonguero Turn, is nothing more than a backcross, a side step, and a forward cross (from the Follower’s perspective). This isn’t rocket science, it’s Argentine Tango, and as such there’s not a whole lot of complexity to this particular well worn, and exceedingly useful, but highly underrated Tango vocabulary. The fact is that this was the predominant turn for almost 70 years before Gustavo Naveira came along and changed everything with the sexier Follower’s Molinete, so the story goes. So without further yapping, let’s dive into The Milonguero Turn!

What is A Milonguero Turn ? First let’s define the words there, as they require a bit of clarity. ‘Milonguero’ is yet another made up word used for marketing purposes that is a bastardization of the true meaning of the word itself. A ‘Milonguero’ is someone who was raised in the milongas, they would pick up discarded tickets to get into the milongas to then watch how people danced and then emulate that so that they could then dance with the pretty girls. This all happened in a 25 year time period from about 1930 to about 1955. If you were born in that time period and ran with this crowd of dancers, then you could rightfully (and distastefully, because it was a term of disparagement in those days) be called a ‘Milonguero’. There are very few of these men left in the world. Very few.

These men didn’t take classes. They didn’t go to special Tango schools. No. They didn’t have the money. They learned on the floor while watching other people dance, and deconstructed what they saw. They then tried to one-up each other, trying to outdo each other with tricks and what not. While the game was certainly about getting the girl, it was also about showing off. In a lot of ways, the Milongueros of yesteryear bears a striking resemblance to the forerunners of modern hip-hop, minus the gang mentality. This is a ‘Milonguero’.

The term, so the story goes, was developed as a marketing tool, as a way to describe what one specific teacher saw in the clubs and milongas of Buenos Aires. This was called ‘Milonguero Style’ dancing.

A Milonguero Turn, on the other hand, is representative of the type of turn that existed prior to Gustavo Naveira (re)discovering the Follower’s Molinete. Again, so the story goes.

In it’s simplest form, the Milonguero Turn is one of the easiest of turns to accomplish with regards to Argentine Tango. It allows of the couple to stay with each other, and allows for an easeful experience vs. the Follower’s Molinete that is the default turn today. And last but not least, it allows for the partnership to stay facing each other, while at the same time not expending a great deal of energy to ‘turn’ whereas the Follower’s Molinete does precisely that. While the Milonguero Turn is not sexy, it’s easy to see why it was abandoned in favor of it’s sexier cousin. That said, don’t discard it simply because it’s not sexy, use it because it is insanely functional!

Difficulty Rating:   (2.5 / 5)

From A Following Perspective the Milonguero Turn is insanely easy for you. There’s just a bit of technique going forward but for the most part, comparing this to the Follower’s Molinete, the Milonguero turn is a snap! So let’s first discuss what this is for you. A ‘clean’ back cross, a large-ish side step (which is important for a reason, and then a ‘forward’ cross which resembles the last step of the Linear Ocho Cortado. Simple. Clean. Clear. No ?

There are a few ‘tricks’ which aren’t discussed in the video, one of which is that by default, this turn does not in any way, shape, or form will your hips ‘rotate’. There is absolutely zero disassociation here, and no applied disassociation. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not. Got it ? However there is a tiny, bodily rotation (not a pivot) about 20 degrees that happens directly after the opening back cross. However for the most part this turn is really simple stuff for you. It’s not really all that complex.

Cleanliness! The fact is that a good portion of Followers that start to play with this stuff, end up employing ‘DirtyCrosses (forward or back), which is not desirable from a visual perspective. We desire to employ ‘clean’ crosses everywhere. This is not a L/lead thing but actually all on you as the Follower and how you invoke your Technique. This is one of those places where you must really strive to create these cleaner structures in your dance, so that when you’re asked to do X, Y, and Z (in this case a Milonguero Turn), you generate ‘clean’ crosses by default without having to think about it. Because if you have to think about it, it’s too late!

The Gargantuan Side Step. The reality is that there is a trade off with the Milonguero Turn to the Follower’s Molinete. And the trade off in ease of use and execution is that you end up having to take a slightly (ok, bigger than usual) large side step. In the Molinete, your forward steps, and your back steps take up space going around your lead, thereby covering distance. Those steps have been removed and replaced with crossing elements. So you have to be very judicious in how big of a side step and that little bit of rotation (20 degrees) discussed above. This is covered in the video!

When ? The question that comes up for a lot of Followers is when do you actually use this turn in place of or instead of your Molinete ? The simplest answer is this, and it’s a qualified one. Mostly everywhere. The fact of the matter is that 98% of your L/leads do not ask for or employ disassociation which ends up as applied disassociation in you, and thereby you just ‘give’ your lead what they implied but not actually what was led! Why ? Because you’ve done it so often and you more than likely had to infer what was being led in the first place as “oh we’re turning and that means I have to do my molinete thingy…”. So the Tango Topics Rule is this: if you don’t feel any disassociation coming from your lead pre-turn, then you know what ? You do not disassociate and then apply that disassociation, thereby invoking a Milonguero Turn instead!

From a Leading Perspective the Milonguero Turn is definitely a challenge for you to learn to lead. Mostly because you’ll be fighting the Follower’s default behavior to want to engage the Follower’s Molinete in response to your Giro! One of the ways that we can set this up, because it really is all about set up, is by invoking a series of “Lazy” or Milonguero Ochos into the Milonguero Turn (this is known as an Ocho Transition, there are 4 common ones) it sets up a natural progression of events. The Milonguero Ochos are a natural complement to the idea of the Milonguero Turn, it’s almost organic in nature and execution. 😉 And that’s because they’re natural outgrowths of each other.

Fortunately for you, you have video on this stuff, not just the Milonguero Turn, but the Ocho Transition itself. So go click the link, read, watch the video, and then come back here. That said, let’s press on to the really important parts:

The 3 Gotchas! There are, as always, some areas of concern with certain pieces of vocabulary that we must be aware of, so that nasty things don’t occur. These are 3 of the more common ones that come up. There are more, which are listed in the videos listed. Please reference those videos and articles for their specific “gotchas”:

One: Leading the Follower’s Back Cross. Truth be told, this is the single hardest part of the vocabulary to lead which is covered in section 2 of the video. So unless you employ the Ocho Transition mentioned above, then you’re going to have to use the Milonguero Turn Trick to fix what is a very unnatural turning idea for the Follower to invoke the backcross you’re looking for. Why ? Because it’s not natural for someone to cross their feet, this is a trained, learned idea that becomes default behavior over time. So you really do need to understand how and why this stuff works the way that it does. That said, here’s a small hint for you: Leading the Follower’s Back Cross is not about force, but implication. Meaning ? That you set up the cross, and imply its motion! If you force the cross, nasty things tend to happen. 🙁 

Two: Not Rotating Far Enough. The fact is that while the Milonguero Turn does rotate a fair amount, it just doesn’t go far enough, so unless you fix this little tiny problem, you’re going to constantly have to either walk out of the turn, or be entirely frustrated. By the way, the video does go over this important point.

Three: Armpit Leading. This comes up a lot for most Leads, and they don’t see it or realize that they’re doing it. However, in this instance the Milonguero Turn wants the Follower to be ‘buttons-to-buttons’ with you. If they’re not directly in front of you, the turn becomes slightly unwieldy and the Follower will have to compensate in the moment in their side step, which is already huge enough.

From a Dancing Perspective as has been indicated, is not used all that often, sadly. However, when it’s done, it can be a very elegant and useful turn to start to employ especially on crowded social dance floors where you don’t have oodles of space to deploy the Follower’s Molinete. And most especially where in say Buenos Aires you have about 3 or 4 millimeters of space between yourself and the next couple to your left, back, and front. Truth be told, this turn takes a bit of practice to get used to doing, but once you start using it, you’ll find it is a very efficient and useful turn and will become your default turn on multiple levels. From a musical perspective it is also easily slipped into hitting the on beat turns where you need to hit each note, whereas the Molinete can and frequently uses “quick-quick-slow” methodology, that isn’t present here at all. So you can really think about, note/cross – note/sidestep – note/cross, over and over again! It’s insanely musical in it’s application! Now to the downside of this. Are you going to use it ? No. Why because it’s not sexy and it’s not what you were taught. The reality is that it’s not the sexiest thing on the planet. It’s not However, what it lacks in sexiness or wow-factor it more than makes up for that ‘wow’ in terms of ease of use, ease of execution, musical interpretation, and simplicity which all leads to one inescapable item: Elegance! So if for no other reason you want look and be elegant in your dance, start using this turn today.

The Milonga Component! The Milonga Component refers to an aspect of the Milonguero Turn as to where to use this turn specifically. While the Milonguero Turn works equally well in Tango and Vals, it works amazingly well in milonga! Why ? Several reasons: 1.) It takes up far less space, it’s also a much tighter turn than it’s kissin’ cousin – The Follower’s Molinete. 2.) The execution time can be muuuuch faster than The Follower’s Molinete. and 3.) It is insanely musical!

Whereas most of you reading this, when dancing Milonga, will erroneously employ/use The Follower’s Molinete to turn. It is a waste of time that you rightfully do not have in Milonga.

Stop and think about something for a moment: Think of ministrations that must happen in order for a ‘good’ molinete to occur. Specifically the disassociation and the applied disassociations that must occur on the Follower’s forward and back steps. Good in this case refers to the proper execution under ideal conditions. Where there is no pushing, pulling, tension, resistance, or force. Where the Follower isn’t using the Lead’s left arm as a hitching post on the back step, or stepping away from their leads because there isn’t space which the lead has forgotten to account for….and a host of other molinete issues that come. Now imagine a ‘bad’ one and you can easily see how much work that is! And this is just in your head without music! 

Now we add a musical component in say, Tango for instance ? Tango is 4/4 time (4 beats per measure) at usually 62 to 68 beats per minute. And that is seemingly fast! And even under those conditions, The Follower’s Molinete falls apart unless it’s been drilled into you 10,000 times. And even then it probably hasn’t. Now try the same thing in Vals! Vals, by the way, is written as 3/4 time but typically played in 6/8 time (sharper and faster) and is anywhere between 70 to 85 bpm. As a result of this much faster, and sharper tempo of the music, The Follower’s Molinete has to be shortened in order to function, typically the side step is shortened to one quarter of its normal size in order to account for the ‘speed’ or tempo of Vals. Now imagine trying to do this same turn in Milonga which is 2/4 time or about double the tempo of a Tango (typically anywhere between 90 and 110 bpm)! And it’s easy to see just from the mapping laid out here that the Follower’s Molinete will not work! You’re wasting too much time on the disassociations! The only way The Follower’s Molinete can work in Milonga is if it’s sped up. And typically doing so it (The Follower’s Molinete) becomes poorly executed and unwieldy at best. And yet because the Follower’s Molinete is the default turn for so many people they scratch their heads and wonder why Milonga doesn’t work for them. This is ONE reason why, it’s not the only reason but it’s a pretty good one! The reason is simple: It’s because they’re employing/using the wrong damned turn! Remember that Milonga developed in a simpler environment, Milonga Porteña did, and at that point in time the Milonguero Turn was the predominant turn, so Milonga as a whole functioned much better than it does today because of this very simple way of moving. It wasn’t sexy, but it worked! So here’s a helpful piece of advice, learn how to execute a Milonguero Turn, properly. Don’t just watch the video above, and think that you’ve got it because you don’t. Learn how to properly execute this turn and then start playing with Milonga and see if your Milongas don’t become 10 times more enjoyable as a result. 

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About The Video. This video comes in at 07m:10s in length in 7 Sections. Both lead and follow technique are combined into the video.

Section 1 – Introduction – 00:00:25
Section 2 – Lead The Backcross – 00:02:41
Section 3 – Follower Technique – 00:00:55
Section 4 – Lead Details – 00:00:38
Section 5 – Follower’s Big Side Step – 00:00:40
Section 6 – Lead Footwork – 00:00:30
Section 7 -Example/End – 00:00:47

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Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!

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– The Last Word –

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