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Floorcraft 102: The Incomplete Turn

Floorcraft 102 – The Incomplete Turn. Turns! Uuuuugh. Turns in Tango…Turns in Milonga…Turns in Vals. They are the what Tango has become. It is, sadly, and unfortunately, no longer a walking dance, it’s a turning dance. It is, thanks in part to Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas, all about the Turn! Watching any Milonga you’ll notice two things, assuming there is no space for the ronda to move, 1.) Gaps in the line of dance that repeatedly happen. (See: Floorcraft 101: The Classic Advice) And 2.) The entire room is turning, turning, turning. Over and over again. The dance basically becomes one whirling dervish. Depending on how skilled the Lead is, and how deep their knowledge of the 9 Types of Turns in Argentine Tango [ 1.) Walking Turns. 2.) Calecitas. 3.) Follower’s Molinete to the Lead’s Giro. 4.) Milonguero Turns. 5.) Media Lunas. 6.) Ocho Cortado. 7.) Single Axis Turns. 8.) Rock Step Turns. 9.) Patter Rotations, Side Step Rotations, Curved Step Rotations.], the dancing couple will more than likely settle into whatever the Lead is comfortable doing. Which, in case you’re unclear is more than likely going to be item #3 on this list with a variation of #4 now and again.

Side Note: Assuming #4, the successful completion of the turn depends on how clear the Lead is with the Follower, and the Follower’s ability to hear #4 when it’s led properly not to mention the Follower’s own ability to execute it.

That said, this all boils down to turns and really one specific kind of Turn: #3 on the list above which generates more problems than it’s worth sometimes for a wide variety of reasons. Today’s Practical Tango Advice on Floorcraft 102 deals with, in specific, the 3rd turn on the list above: The Follower’s Molinete to the Lead’s Giro. Why ? It is the most ubiquitous turn in Tango. That said, let’s dive into the topic: Floorcraft 102: The Incomplete Turn.

The Problem or What is an Incomplete Turn: The issue is that when you have a series of dancers all in row, more than 10 couples or so in a confined space (such as a dance floor), that don’t complete their turns – all doing 180’s or less (as often the case), as a result, the lack of completions slows down the line of dance. As a result of not completing their turns they end up facing against the line of dance. To address the problem the Lead now needs to get back to facing the Line of Dance to continue moving their space in the ronda someway by executing another piece of vocabulary. Typically that other piece of vocabulary is, but is not limited to, 1.) Walking Turns. 2.) Calecitas. 3.) Media Lunas. 4.) An Ocho Cortado. 5.) Single Axis Turns. 6.) Rock Step Turns. 7.) Patter Rotations, Side Step Rotations, Curved Step Rotations. The bold items are the common solutions. As a result of inserting other, wholly unnecessary, vocabulary, the line of dance slows further, and more gaps appear and widen, as couples move ahead of each other, as well as the dancers end up over-excepting themselves when they don’t need to do so.

So let’s put all that theory above into a thought experiment, which if you’re watching any social dance floor will look very familiar to you. You’re dancing along in the Line and Lane of Dance. And the next couple ahead of you seemingly stops moving forward, and instead starts turning. As a result of you not being able to progress forward, you start turning. And as you start turning, the couple behind you starts doing the same thing because they can’t progress forward either. Before you know it the entire room stops progressing, most of the room is either turning to some degree, usually doing a 180 (or less). As a result gaps open, and are filled as soon as they can be, and you have what amounts to “stop and go traffic” for Two Minutes and Thirty Seconds, until the song stops, the couples reset, and then the next song starts and they end up doing the same thing over and over again. By the end of the tanda, assuming a ‘crowded’ floor, the couple has only moved a two or three meters if they’re lucky.

The Follower’s Side of the Equation from your perspective you’re going to be ‘blamed’ and ‘shamed’ on this one. Sadly. Why ? There are a variety of reasons which all boil down to: The Follower, you in this case, aren’t getting around your Lead. There’s just one little tiny issue with that line of reasoning which is covered in other places on Tango Topics and in specific in the Molinete/Giro videos, but not the video above. In private lessons, classes, and workshops you’re constantly being told that you ‘need to get around your Lead‘. What no one seems to tell you is that that’s only possible if the Lead actually creates space for that to happen.


The issue is that the Lead’s hips are in your way which as a result prevent you from being able to execute a full 120 arc of your primary back and/or tertiary forward step, assuming you’re starting your turns on your back step. Thereby, as a result, you end up stepping away from the Lead and not completing the arc that you so desperately need to complete. This isn’t your fault. What is your fault though is when you have a Lead that does create space that you default to stepping away from your Lead anyway thereby creating a problem that doesn’t need to be there. 🙁

In one respect this problem state happens because you dance with other people that don’t create space for you, so as a result, you end up having to accommodate them, and that accommodation is to step away from your lead (the action, not the person, hence the small “l”). As a direct result of doing that 10,000 times with less-than-desirable Leads (the person, not the action) this becomes your default motion whether you wanted it to or not. So by the time a desirable Lead comes along, that understands what has to happen, you’re so firmly engaged in your default behavior that you won’t even realize that you’re not executing. 🙁 This is what Tango Topics refers to as ‘Default Behavior’. And the longer you’ve been dancing, the more problematic it is to change Default Behavior. It’s not that it’s not fixable. It is entirely fixable. It just requires a little neurological rewiring and a lot of reminders from an anal retentive teacher that won’t let you get away with anything. Nothing. This is how you change your habits!

To be clearer you do have a whole bunch of stuff that needs to be addressed before you can even begin to redress the primary cause of you not getting around your lead. Most notably 1.) Applying Disassociation and not Pivoting (tsk, tsk, tsk) when led to do so (ummm hint…Leads you actually need to lead this stuff and stop inferring the damned things). 2.) Extending your Leg and not bending at the knee! And 3.) Landing your foot on the imaginary circle on the floor, facing in line with the direction and shape circle. [Just as a side note, this entire subject matter is addressed in Tango Topics Follower Technique Video Series, which is 2 hours and 23 minutes of technique goodliness. Just sayin’]. Mind you this is easier said than done but is entirely necessary as it’s set up for the next step. As well as (assuming you’re doing #1) not using Tension, Force, or Resistance in order to Push or Pull off your lead’s embrace (hands, or arms, or shoulders) to engage in either a Linear Ocho, Traveling, Circular Ocho, Over-Rotated Ocho, or engage in the Follower’s Molinete to the Lead’s Giro structure which all require Applied Disassociation in order to function.  All of that stuff must be taken care of before you can even begin to look at the lead for not creating space. It’s been said that the Follower’s role in Tango is the harder of the two roles in terms of physiological labor. And that’s never more correct than when we’re looking at Applied Disassociation, Ochos, and Molinetes! That’s just crazy work. All the Lead has to do is walk a bit here and there. The Lead’s role is more intellectual than it is physical. Especially if the Lead is engaging in ‘Social Tango’, and not what is mostly referred to, as Presentation or Show Tango.

That said, you do have a responsibility here as was indicated earlier and that’s to get around your lead when the lead has generated the necessary space to do so. If not, then you have to roll with the lack of space and do what you can to get around them in as few steps as possible. Mind you this entire video speaks nothing of the fact that you do have to pay attention to what’s being led (and not infer it as so many do for a variety of reasons) because the Lead may have to change directions of the turn at any moment due to the couple ahead of you about to bump into you, and so on.

The Lead’s Side of the Equation from your perspective, you have a whole bunch of stuff that has to happen here in order for this thing to work right. 1.) You actually need to lead (the action) the turn and not infer it as so many do (See: The Lazy Man’s Turn). 2.) You have to go with the Follower’s motion, and with the Follower into the turn as noted in the Topic: Ocho Transitions -> Traveling Ochos into the Follower’s Molinete (See > Ocho Transitions Part 2) 3.) You must create space for the Follower by moving your hips out of the way.


Having said all that, which is a lot by the way, there are a few things you cannot do here:

1.) You cannot force the Follower to complete the turn. No matter how hard you try. You’re only going to create more problems than it’s worth.

2.) You cannot use your arms to push or pull them into or out of the turn. Not. That’s like treating them as if they were a rag doll. Just Not!

3.) You cannot blame the Follower for not keeping up with you.

Let’s stay with that last one for a moment. Typically in the case of the aforementioned Lazy Man’s Turn, the Lead rotates ahead of the Follower. Instead of as the 4 videos of the Ocho Transitions Series points out to you over and over again, go with the Follower. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

The next item on our todo list is revisiting the first thing we mentioned, actually leading the turn itself. So many Leads infer the turn and the Follower has to quite literally read the Lead’s mind, “Was that a turn ? Or were they just jerking my arm and squeezing my back because they wanted to squish me against them even….uuugh….more….Jesus, dude lighten up!”. This is covered in the video above but can’t be stressed enough. You do actually have to engage the Disassociation in you which results as Applied Disassociation in the Follower. Some Followers will hear that Disassociation as a ‘pivot‘, meaning their whole body will move as one unit instead of the segmented rotation that we’re looking for. This is just how they were trained. There’s quite literally nothing you can do about it, except roll with the flow. However, understand that this will create a lag in them, and you must not push or pull them any faster than they can go. Still one more thing to be aware of here is that the Follower may be a “Shortened Side Step” Follower. Meaning that they’ll invoke a shorter sidestep as their default sidestep. Why is that relevant ? Because it will a.) Allow them to catch up. b.) Create a problem for you later on if you want to invoke a Sacada!

Now to the whole reason you’re reading this noise: The Incomplete Turn itself. Probably the biggest piece of advice that you can be given here is to step into the Turn itself if you have to. Make the turn ratio as small as possible. The bigger you make the turn ratio the more that you fall out of the turn. The smaller you make it, the further around the circle and closer to a 360 you get. That is what you’re shooting for. Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees. That’s your goal and nothing but. Anything less than that, and you’re going to be holding up the line of dance. It’s that simple.

If all that sounds like work, overthinking things, or that you’re doing 10,000 things that are less-than-desirable, and nearly nothing that is desirable, then take comfort in the fact that Tango requires lots of work and time. It requires thought. It is the unending onion. Once you complete one layer, there’s another layer for you to cry over and to power through. It’s a challenge. And most Leads, like a good challenge. This one, like many, are totally worth it because in the end, you’ll end up in a much better place than you are today. Much better.

Have you seen the Milonga Madness series ? Over 2.5 hrs of pure Milonga Instruction GOLD with one of the best Social Milonga Teaching couples alive: Detlef Engel & Melina Sedó! It covers everything you need to know to get you up and running today with Milonga. Don’t delay, subscribe today!

Milonga Madness with Detlef Engel & Melina Sedo

The Solution: How do you complete the turn ? The answer is simple in words, but doing it is a whole different kettle of fish. The answer is: Both roles have to show up and do their job. At the risk of being repetitive, go back and re-read both roles above. That’s what you have to do. This isn’t a Leading thing, and it’s not a Following thing. You cannot blame one role over the other here. They’re both responsible for doing their part. Failure to do their part and we end up with an incomplete Turn which thereby creates more problems for the rest of the room and the line of dance.

This is only one of 5 tools that we will talk about in this series. The next PTA will deal with Floorcraft 103: Staying In Your Lane. Please go back and read the other item in this series: Floorcraft 101: The Classic Advice.


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