Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Single Axis Turns

There are Eight Turns in Argentine Tango that Tango Topics has identified as Commonly used or Social Turns. There are a few others that are outside of the common eight but for the most part, accept for now that there are eight.

Just in case you were curious, the Eight Common Turns are, in order of precedence and commonality: 1.) The Follower’s Molinete/Lead’s Giro. 2.) Milonguero Turn. 3.) Rock Step. 4.) Ocho Cortado. 5.) Calesitas. 6.) Media Luna Turns. 7.) Colgada Turns. 8.) Anti-Molinete.

Today’s Tango Topic deals with one of those common eight turns. This particular turn is an unusual one even though it’s part of the eight. It’s unusual because it’s a variation of a class of turns called “Colgada Turns”, and furthermore it’s also not used all that much, and for good reason. Why ? Because it’s a difficult turn to pull off at first. This one is not for the faint of heart, but once you master it, your coolness factor goes right through the roof. Not to mention you will have also mastered one of Tango’s more difficult aspects that hasn’t been around all that long in the dance: Off-Axis Movements. Tango has traditionally been a couple in Close Embrace type of dance that almost never opens once the Embrace begins. Nor does that Embrace change other than to get closer and closer and closer, and more refined. This type of turn, while done in Close Embrace, creates a version of Close Embrace that from the outside looking in, doesn’t look all that different, but from the inside (the couple’s perspective) feels very different. Today we’re going to explore both sides of the embrace, for both roles, so without further yapping, Tango Topics presents: The Single Axis Turn!

What Is A Single Axis Turn ? It is tango specific language to describe a type of rotation that occurs between Lead and Follow where the word ‘axis’ refers to not the Follower’s Longitudinal Axis (which is the typical axial line that is referenced with the use of the word ‘axis’) nor is it the Lead’s, but rather a shared Longitudinal Axis between the couple. Truth be told, that axial line is always present. It’s generally the point of contact between the couple. However that longitudinal axis almost never gets used in Social Tango. Almost never. Except, and there is always an exception to these things, when the couple or partnership engages in what’s called ‘Apilado‘ (please follow the link for more information if you need a clear definition of this word). When Apilado is engaged, then the couple is dancing, depending on how it’s done, in either a supported way (shared) or unsupported way (forced). In the latter case, the Follower is being forced to fall on top of the Lead or to place all of their weight on the Lead. While there are times when that is desirable, in the case of the Single Axis Turn, that’s not desirable.

Another way of looking at the Single Axis Turn is by understanding that this is a Colgada variation. However, unlike most Colgadas though which tend to be executed in Open Embrace, this variation on a theme is done primarily in Close Embrace! So while it can be done in Open Embrace, and doing so will generate more of a ‘whoosh’ factor (see below) than you would normally like to have in a Single Axis Turn, this is generally a Close Embrace movement that is small, social and fits within the line and lane of dance that you’re in. At no point in time, should a Single Axis Turn exit that line or lane of dance at all. The Single Axis Turn is Floorcraft safe, when done properly.

Another piece of Tango vocabulary that uses very similar methodology and uses the same principle of ‘Apilado’ is the Argentine Volcada. It is also a shared axis movement. The Single Axis Turn is exactly the same in that respect. However, where as in the case of the Volcada, where the couple goes towards each other thereby creating more dependence on each other, in this case, in the case of the Single Axis Turn they go away from each other!

Put simply the Single Axis Turn is a rotation around a shared longitudinal axial line where the couple seemingly in close or open embrace, rotates around this axial line, thereby creating a ‘turn’.

Difficulty Rating:  (4 / 5)

From A Following Perspective, for you, the Single Axis Turn is going to feel awkward or strange at first for a variety of reasons, and seemingly oddly familiar which will understandably create some confusion in you. The confusion will come from two places:

First. The fact that you’re in a very close embrace in exactly the same set up position for a Volcada. This position will confuse you because the Volcada is led more frequently than the Single Axis Turn is so your immediate thought will be “Ahhhh this is a Volcada thingy”. 

Second. The fact that pre-cue lead for almost any variant of the Single Axis Turn (and there a few different variations of them) is going to want to make you go away from your L/lead! And if that weren’t confusing enough, that’s just the descriptive of the gotcha’s from your side of the equation.

So for those two reasons, you’re understandably going to be confused.

Planking! What on earth is that ? This refers to the Follower’s bodily posture, as in it being piled up or making your body into a plank, as if it were a board or a piece of cut wood for flooring.  Why are we talking about this ? Because when we’re engaging in what is essentially a Colgada, we will have a desire to ‘plank’. And as a result, you’ll want to use your arms and hands to hang on for dear life while you’re ‘planking’. To be clear, you do not want to plank at all. Ever. Bad idea. It just makes things worse, not better. Remember this is about shared balance, not about hanging on. The trick is to find the balancing point between yourself and your lead. Truthfully a good portion of your leads force this, this is going to exceptionally tricky! There is something else you do want to do and that’s where you pony up the subscription fee and actually get some help. There’s important information that’s hiding from you here in this very sentence but because you haven’t subscribed yet…well, you’re seeing this annoying reminder instead of the helpful information you need. Sigh!

The real key to the Single Axis Turn for you is keeping a very, very, very small and tight physiological profile. The smaller, and tighter that profile, the more successful that the Single Axis Turn will be. Your desire when led to them (properly…ahem…looking at you, Leads!) is going to be to want to let your free leg go away from you, and that’s the problem right there. You can’t. You have to keep your legs together (and really your feet). Think clear, tight Mordidas. At the same time, you’re quite literally being told, to go away from your lead! That’s the confusing part. In nearly every Colgada that you’ve ever seen, the partnership is going away from each other. Centrifugal force pushes them away. In this case, the Single Axis Turn appears to go towards the partnership! It’s an illusion! And the kicker comes when you’re being led to one because the feeling is to go away from the lead, when in fact you’re being led to stay right in front of them, and with them!

Truthfully what happens for you is that you’re in close embrace (in most of them), and you’re going to stay in close embrace, and from the outside looking in, it appears like you’re staying in close embrace the entire time that nothing has really changed. But you, being on the inside, everything has changed!

From A Leading Perspective, the Single Axis Turn is definitely flashy vocab. No two ways about it. However, it’s also a very difficult piece of Tango Vocab to pull off! Don’t let that deter you from understanding how and why this thing works.

Let’s get a few things out of the way:

First, the Turn itself is more like a rotation more than anything else. Don’t get confused by the language. It’s a rotation.

Secondly these types of turns (there are many, the video above only shows you 1 of 3) should only be done by an advancing dancer, not a beginner, and certainly not someone thats just walked on to the floor for the first time. You’ll see a small number of Leads that don’t know their collective ass from their elbows pulling this stuff on unsuspecting Followers for a variety of reasons and when it invariable fails (and it does) they blame the Follower and then try to teach them on a social dance floor what they should be doing. For them, this is about control and confusion. Suffice it said, you don’t want to be that Lead, ever.

Thirdly, the Single Axis Turn is not something you pick up in a class in 5 minutes. It’s just not. This is something that if it’s done improperly can actually hurt you, and more importantly, your partner. It is for this reason that watching and analyzing on your own a youtube presentation/performance video (and there are tons of them out there) that show you the finished product of a Single Axis Turn (or a variation) is not going to help you at all. You need to understand how and why Single Axis Turns work the way that they do before you even attempt to do one! The video in this package shows you that and more.

That said, the Single Axis Turn is all about shared balance, not support. As in the case of the Volcada where you are supporting the Follower with your torso (not your arms), the Single Axis Turn is the polar opposite of that. It’s all about shared balance. Which roughly translates as finding the proper balancing point between the partnership and then exploiting the frak out of it. Because once you do find that balancing point, there are lots and lots of things you can do to manipulate it, change it, modify it, and retune it to do what you want it to do. And all of that starts with hearing/feeling where precisely the shared axis point is at and then, here’s the kicker, initiating a rotation! And this is where things go right off the rails for a lot of people. That rotation, the turning part, is where a lot of you reading this are going to want to use your arms to pull, push, and squeeze (compression) the frak out of your partners in order to generate the stability for the rotation part to happen, and that’s a major no-no.

A secret to the Single Axis Turn for the Lead, all of them really: While there is a locking of the Leads frame (to very small a degree), there is almost no compression! Almost. There is, however, a tiny, ever so slight use of the leads right arm that acts as a loose cage, but for the most part it allows for the partnership to breathe, not to squeeze the living daylights out your partner! And watching a whole bunch of Youtube videos on the topics of Colgadas and Single Axis Turns, youll never see this. Ever! That’s because 98% of what you’ve seen, you’ll never hear the person that’s presenting those turns to you, talk about what they’re actually doing, and instead show you the finished product. 🙁

A good key to remember for the Single Axis Turn for the Lead is you ponying up the subscription fee and actually get some help. Theres important information thats hiding from you here in this very sentence but because you haven’t subscribed yet well, you’re seeing this annoying reminder instead of the helpful information you need. Grrr! 😉

Lastly it should be noted that while there are many, many, many varieties of Single Axis Turns, they’re all variations on a theme: The Colgada. So if you understand how a Colgada works, then the Single Axis Turn is a variation on a theme of that idea

From a Dancing Perspective the Single Axis Turn looks cool. And it is. When done properly, it can be very elegant and clean. Not to mention, it also has the added benefit of what I call the “Whoosh & Wheeee” Effect. What’s that ? It’s where the Lead initiates said cool vocabulary, and the couple goes ‘Whoosh’ and Follower more than likely (assuming said vocabulary has been executed properly) goes ‘Wheeeeee!’. E.g. It’s FUN. This is one of those rare times when I say that Tango can be fun, and it’s right here in this piece of vocabulary. It’s quite literally one of the more fun things that you can do on a social dance floor, and still look insanely cool, and elegant at the same time. When does that happen ? Almost never. This variation on a theme does that very, very nicely. elegance and cool at the same time. Truthfully though, without proper instruction lots of things can go wrong here, and that’s what this video is all about. It shows you how to construct a Single Axis Turn safely, clearly, cleanly from both sides of the equation! The reality is that you’re going to read to this point, or just watch the video above (the free version, the paid version you actually get to see the whole video) and then be unsatisfied, and then go watch other youtube videos for the ‘answer’ on how-to-do a Single Axis Turn. And that’s a mistake. I can not stress this enough, this is not something you learn in a 3 minute presentation video that you think you can analyze your way out of. You must understand the underpinnings of why this stuff works. But a good portion of you reading this will not head this advice, and think that this is just sales talk and fear mongering. It’s not. It’s for your safety and your partner’s safety. So I implore you: ‘learn how to do a single axis turn properly’ otherwise you are going to hurt you and your partners!

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

About The Video. This video is 13m:49s in length in 9 sections. Both lead and follower technique are combined and integrated into the video.

Introduction – 00:00:34
Forward Steps – 00:03:09
Follower Technique for Forward Steps – 00:01:26
Further Rotation – 00:00:32
Close Embrace Side Steps  – 00:01:47
Follower Technique for Side Steps – 00:00:53
Multiple Single Axis Turns – 00:01:47
The ‘Whoooosh’ Factor – 00:00:42
The Hurrican Turn/End – 00:02:09

Related Videos Mentioned In This Article: 

The Six Ways of WalkingDownload
Social Colgada Turns – Article/Download

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you are reading this topic in the hopes that it may get you to question and to dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, this topic only scratches the surface. Because you’re only seeing half of the information. You really do need to see all of it. If you had registered or ponied up the kingly sum of $7.95 for your first week, then you’d either see a free tip here, or if you’re a paying subscriber you’d see some detailed notes about the video that were either left out of the video or were an afterthought to the video after it was shot! However, because you haven’t gone and registered at least, you’re missing some helpful information that could give you a tip to making your dance a better experience for you and your partners!

thoughts about tango ?

Why should you subscribe for access ?  Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

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!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

– The Last Word –

Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a subscriber today.

Scroll to top