Molinete practice with a stick

By using a tall, straight stick, such as from a broom or mop, we can practice in a way that creates strong molinete movement with good partnership.

See the FAULTS notes below the TRANSCRIPT—a good example of the benefits of periodically making and reviewing videos of your practice and dancing.


[0:01] Hi! This is David at the Tango Tribe studio in Austin, Texas, and today I have a tip for you about how to practice molinetes.

[0:11] I use a stick from a broom or a mop. You can leave the head attached or not. And we put the smooth end of the stick on the floor. Then there are four things we want to pay attention to.

[0:24] First, by using a two-handed embrace, with one hand over the other, this will enforce a position where we confront our partner all the way around, whether we’re in a front-crossing step, a back-crossing step, or an open step.

[0:45] Secondly, we’re envisioning a circle surrounding our partner, and we’re always working orienting our hips on that circle for proper stepping, either along a radius for either a forward-crossing step or a backward-crossing step, or perpendicular to the radius for an open step.

[1:11] Third, we want to keep our partner vertical, no pushing or pulling.

[1:17] And lastly, as we step around we want to energize our step just as we do in the walking by rolling through the foot to produce a horizontal push along the floor, keeping our head and shoulders level.

[1:35] [Music. “Alma,” Adolfo Carabelli]

[2:13] I hope you find that helpful. Thank you for watching.


At 0:32, 0:35, and 0:38 — don’t allow your foot to roll to the outside like this. At 2:06 — don’t cross your legs this way; see how the back foot has an unnatural twist because the hips aren’t properly aligned with both legs.

Change your message

How do you feel about this?

In my freewheeling exploration of ideas to help me learn and teach better, I enjoy the columns at The Bulletproof Musician by Noa Kageyama, PhD. He has useful tips on learning, teaching, coaching, practicing, performing, and more, based on his exploration of psychological research studies.

In the latest column “What’s the Most (and Least) Helpful Thing to text a Friend Before Their Audition?” he explores the best way to show support — in a text message — to a person about to do something stressful. The conclusions were that mundane, boring texts work better than those showing positive support, concluding that, “… the boring texts managed to a) subtly distract the participant from the pressure, and b) remind the participant that they have a support network around them, while c) providing an implicit “hey, no matter what happens, life will go on, and we can grab a chalupa after this is over” type of reassurance, without actually saying those words.”

I can attest to my own counterintuitive negative response to messages of support. Me, “I’m driving to Timbuktu next week.” Them, “Wow! Well have a safe trip.” That seems nice, right? So why might some have the subconscious reaction, “Well of course I’ll have a safe trip. Why wouldn’t I? Do you know something I don’t?” Personally, I would rather have a boring, mundane response like, “Give them my regards!” That’s just me.

But what really struck me in this article was a method the psychological researchers used to create stress in their subjects by demanding that they, “count backwards from 2372 by 13 as fast as possible.” The absurdity of that task as something that truly mattered in life amused me, and it brought to mind the way that we can bind themselves up with needless, counterproductive stress in our dance.

“If I don’t intuit what is in my partner’s mind and anticipate where and exactly how they want me to go, at the instant of their slightest movement, then I will lose their respect and the respect of everyone watching.” “I must keep this person entertained and excited like they never have been before, otherwise they and everyone watching will get bored and never want to dance with me again.” Do those seem like absurd and unreal demands on ourselves? How far removed are they from our actual mental dialogs?

Suppose we take a meta-step, where our observing self offers our acting self positive support? “You’ve got this!” “You’ll do fine.” “This is your chance to shine!” I kind of feel that it will be like the supportive texts in the study, applying an unintended pressure to perform.

As a more productive alternative, consider making mundane observations. “The floor is crowded tonight.” “If I were writing a story, what would this music inspire?” “What is my partner’s level of energy? Does it feel like good energy or nervous, tense energy?” “What might be a fun move or theme to play with during this dance?”

Counterintuitively, positive messages of support might actually create unwanted pressure or misdirected intentions. Explore how casual, mundane, even “so what?” types of observations might serve yourself or others better.