The consensus is that the tempo of steps in a giro can be varied to fit music or mood. It's the same as any other step really - just that the follower is going in a circle. I don't think the speed is dependent on the distance between leader and follower; you can lead giros of any speed in close embrace just as well as you can in open embrace though, of course, maintaining the same rate of pivot for the leader means the follower has to move faster the more open the embrace.
One reason why followers can feel "rushed" in a giro is that the leader is pivoting too fast and "leaving her behind". I can certainly be guilty of this; it's important for the leader to remain connected to the follower, to "wait for her" if you like. Quite often I'll find that I've rotated faster than my follower is stepping and end up with my chest facing well ahead of her with the result that the follower feels the need to chase me. I think this is, primarily, caused by two things: first, the leader may not be confident about his balance and so rushes the pivot in an effort to "get it over with"; second, the leader is taking sole responsibility for his rotation and so feels it necessary to inject a lot of energy into the first part of the pivot in order to get round. Whatever causes it, followers do try and remember that you can take your own timing if you like - the guy is giving you an invitation to walk round him, not an order.
I've worked on this by improving my balance in pivots through practice. If you stand on one foot, disassociate in the direction you want to turn and then release the torsion in your body, while keeping your shoulders still, it will provide the energy to pivot your hips to face in the same direction or a little further round than your shoulders are facing. That allows you to pivot without having to "hurl" your body into the turn and, I think, is fundamental to creating many movements. The second thing is to allow the follower to provide the energy for the giro; after all, she's walking while the leader is doing his best impression of a stork. Allow that to happen - all the leader has to do is maintain the lead* and the follower will keep making her steps and so turn the leader. (*Remember that he should be leading forward ocho, side, back ocho, side rather than just "opening his chest" so it's not as easy as it sounds).
I'll suggest an exercise, if I may. Find a floor with nice clear lines between the floorboards. You and your partner stand opposite each other "open embrace" distance apart and feet shoulder width apart as you would be at the end of a side step (before collecting). Adjust your distance so that your big toes are touching one of the cracks between the floorboards and ensure that your feet are aligned with your partners. Drop a coin or something on the floor so that it marks the exact centre point between you - the point around which you are going to turn.
Start the "giro exercise" - both transfer weight onto your left, step forward right so that your foot lands where your partner's right foot was before they moved it (does that make sense?), collect and pivot 180' then make a side step. Transfer weight onto your left foot, collect and make that horrid, big back ocho stepping back so that your right foot should land where it was at the start of the exercise. Collect, make a side step with your left and freeze as your foot touches the ground. Look down. Where are your feet relative to the cracks between the floorboards? Where are your feet relative to your partner's feet? Are they wider apart or offset or in some way in different relative positions to when you started? Where are you relative to the coin? Have you travelled? Repeat endlessly in both directions in an effort to end up in exactly the position from which you started! If you ever achieve that I'll buy you a bottle of champagne - I've never managed it. (You can do the above on your own, using a chair as a substitute leader but it's more fun and harder with some fellow sufferer).
That exercise really does build your ability to be accurate in giros; the key is often in the backward ocho but play with it and find out where you are going astray. Do the exercises slowly, the slower the better to start with; it's OK to stop between steps and giggle as you regain your balance.
Once you are accurate then you can alter the exercise so that one of you stands still and pivots on one foot while the other walks round using giro pattern footwork and providing the energy; you, obviously, won't need the coin for that one. Try pivoting on both feet in both directions; see what happens when the person walking moves off the circumference of a circle; the "pivotee" can play with adornos while they are being rotated - do a lapis, a boleo, cross and uncross, generally muck about and find out what you need to do to keep your balance. Leaders, you need to learn to pivot your followers accurately if you want to do planeos, volcadas and all sorts of other scrummy things so make sure you practice the walking role too (and it's bloody difficult to do an anti-clockwise calesita in close-embrace using normal giro footwork).
I hope that is helpful. It's really important to learn to be accurate in your movements even though you'll never actually dance them "on the square", as it were. It's just one of those dances where precision is key - if you aren't instinctively precise then, sure as eggs is eggs, you'll take your partner off their axis. Having said that, it's got to be fun and part of that fun is adjusting when things get a little out of kilter.
- Jon Dixon