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Four Common Ganchos

Gancho. The word in Spanish translates to the English word, roughly, as ‘Hook’. From an Argentine Tango perspective, it has a very specific meaning. You’ve seen these things hundreds of times, and while the vocabulary itself has a connotation as being somewhat ‘cheesy’, and only done by beginner leads who don’t know any better, the reality is a that it is a venerable piece of Tango vocabulary that do have a valid place off the main trunk of the Tango history tree. The story goes that while the Gancho existed long before NorbertoEl Pulpo Esbrez came along, his contribution to its storied history is where creativity meets innovation, specifically with regards to ‘elasticity’ and the Enganche. He is/was credited with pioneering and exploration the ‘invasion’ of the standing leg, the response of the free leg, as well as the space in between the opening of a step, and quite factually (if not literally), the intersection of these ideas.

What is a Gancho ? In it’s simplest form, in the modern vernacular of Tango, it is a hooking of the free leg around your partner’s leg or thigh. It is an interruption of the extension phase of the step, which can (not always) result in the lifting of the respondent’s leg either as a result of, or by deliberate intention.

Today’s Tango Topic deals with just Four of the most Common Ganchos and a few of their issues that happen for both roles. While there are many, many, many types of Ganchos to explore and play with, these 4 only scratch the dancing surface of them. They are the foundation for nearly every other Gancho that comes after them. The Rotating Gancho, the Gooey Gancho series, the Follower Gancho series, the Ganchito (which is an itty-bitty Gancho), the Lead Gancho series, the Volcada Gancho, just to name a few, owe their foundation to the Four Common Ganchos in Parallel and Cross System.

Difficulty Rating:   (3.5 / 5)

From A Following Perspective before we go too deep into this, there are some issues that you need to be aware of. 1.) While you have almost ZERO control over the initiation of a Gancho, the response to the lead for the Gancho is all yours! Factually speaking you have complete control over whether or not a Gancho is performed at all. Ganchos are entirely optional for you. Contrary to what you may have been told, you are under no obligation to perform one. Ever. None. And don’t let some Lead/er tell you differently either. 2.) The Four Common Ganchos are all about simple technique for you. It’s really an interrupted back step. Nothing more than that. The hard part about them for you is controlling the leg extension up (the hooking part) while balancing on one foot, and then…the leg extension out of them. Why ? What typically happens, unless properly trained and strengthened is that you, as the Follower, will drop your leg away from the Gancho almost immediately. 🙁 3.) Contrary to what you might believe, you are not going to hurt your lead (as much as some of them deserve it sometimes). You don’t want to hit anyone, or step on anyone, and you certainly don’t want to lift your leg! That’s just crazy! You can’t see what’s going to happen, and you quite literally freak out.

Your part in this is – Your Back Step. And in specific, your extension without a weight transfer. The key component for this series of Ganchos, because once you have the technique for one, it applies to the other three, is that you do want to raise your leg. However, there are some things about that leg raising that you want to be aware of. a.) It’s not done because you want to. No. It’s done as a result of the interruption of the lead’s leg (their thigh) in your way. That interruption is what causes your leg to ‘wrap’ or ‘hook’ around your lead’s leg. b.) Frequently Follower’s just ‘give’ the Gancho to their leads for any number of reasons, when in fact while the Gancho has been led, it is done so improperly. Thereby creating a bit of confusion in you as the Follower, “Was that a Gancho ? Screw it, just Gancho!”. c.) They’ve been over-led so many times to these things that you’ll just do it without really understanding what’s really supposed to happen. The reality is that the Gancho is a learned piece of vocabulary and unless you learn to feel the proper conditions, and or see what those conditions are for one to exist, you’re going to continue to ‘give’ the lead the Gancho and thereby look like you don’t know what on earth you are doing. 🙁

The Sweet Spot and Two Mistakes. Mistake #1: Stepping Away. Mistake #2: Stepping Too Close. In this variety of Common Ganchos these two mistakes are so common one would think that there’s a class on this stuff. However the reason these two mistakes occur at all is due to the Follower having not mastered finding The ’Sweet’ Spot. What is the ‘Sweet’ Spot ? It’s a very specific distance around your lead. Truthfully the ‘spot’, really it’s an appropriate distance, happens around every lead. And while each lead is physiologically different from one to the other, there are some similarities. One of them is the distance that you can be from them, while ‘walking’ around them that will not impair your motion, or theirs, or the combined motion of the couple. Or in this case, one of the Four Common Ganchos. Finding that spot is a bit tricky, but there is a rule of them to doing it. Something so obvious that you’ll wonder why no one ever mentioned it before. Truthfully they did, and it’s usually buried in talking to the lead as an after thought. Sadly.

Lastly this series of Ganchos are all based on mastering your Circular Ochos. Not Traveling, not Linear, not Milonguero, not Over-Rotated, and certainly not Milonga Ochos. No. These Four Common Ganchos are married to Circular Ocho which requires you to go ‘around’ your lead with your back step. Typically what happens for most Followers when they extend around their lead like this, they tend to step away from them. They tend to believe that they’ve stepped around their lead, when in fact, no they have not. That stepping away can and does cause the Gancho to fail. 🙁 Which quite truthfully at some Leads invoke these things, isn’t such a bad idea!

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From a Leading Perspective the Gancho is accent or ‘spice’ vocabulary and should only be used sparingly. However, and this is where we go right off the rails, that’s typically not what happens. Some of you go a little Gancho Crazy (read that is ‘Gancho! Gancho! Gancho!) and tend to over do and over lead and repeat the same Gancho 4 or 5 times, and/or more than a few times in a song. Talk about annoying! Is it ever. No one likes to repeat the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over … you see the point here ? No one likes it, any more than you did reading that series of ‘over and over and over’ statements. So if you don’t like it, what on god’s green earth would make you believe that doing the same Gancho 4 or 5 times within the length of 10 seconds, and then to repeat it 10 steps later, wouldn’t drive someone absolutely batty ? The fact is that repetition of ANY piece of tango vocabulary is annoying. And this is where the Gancho has gotten a bad reputation – Repetition. So here’s a free tip for you – Lead it once, and then let it go for the love of Gardel! Lead it once, and then let it go! That said…

There are 6 Common Errors for the Gancho that you need to be aware of.

1.) Using Your Arms. The fact is the at good number of Leads use their arms to push, or pull their Followers around the floor, and while there are some good reasons why it may seem like it’s necessary to do this, it’s never ‘ok’, period. Under no circumstances should one pull or push anyone around the floor….ever! The use of arms as a way to communicate your intention to lead any of the Four Common Ganchos is absolutely verboten! Never. Nunca. Not.

2.) Watching The Follower’s Feet. Watching the Follower’s feet is a failure of Proprioception. It’s that simple. Why is this important in any of the Four Common Ganchos ? Because doing so, you break the illusion of mastery of the vocabulary. Not only that but it breaks the visual lines of the couple.

3.) Failed Articulation! A good number of Leads will fail to Articulate their legs into the proper position to be able to receive the Gancho and instead extend a straight leg into the walking path of the Follower. Thereby effectively giving the Follower nothing to Gancho! 🙁

4.) Resistance! This issue happens for a lot of people that dance Resistance Based Dancing. It’s work. It’s painful. And quite honestly, you have to overpower your Follower for them to hear the ‘lead’. Oy. In short, you don’t need it. Ever.

5.) The Arm/Hand Issue. This move is all about allowing the Follow to disassociate through their Circular Ochos but typically what happens is that you stop that motion by either squeezing the living daylights out of them, OR by placing your hand right hand along their side and applying pressure thereby stopping any rotation motion. 🙁

6.) Toppling The Follower. The fact is that almost any Gancho regardless of its type does require proper body position and body placement. Frequently this almost NEVER happens. And as a result, you in the role of the lead, will either be too close or too far away to initiate and then receive the Gancho. Typically the problem is that you are too close and as a result, you will ‘topple’ the Follower. Meaning ? That you’ll push them over in a myriad of different ways that are described and shown in the video. It is for this reason that we must learn proper body position and body placement as well as learning and then apply torso rotation to generate the Gancho, and not use your arms. Again, that’s what this video is for! 

Ok, now to the actual Common Ganchos. There are 4, as indicated, 2 Parallel and 2 Cross system ones. To be fair all are easy and doable for both roles, there’s nothing confusing or strange about either one. Typically what happens when learning this stuff is that one side gets used a lot more than the other and then it becomes ingrained behavior. It’s an illusion really. Both sides (open and closed) are accessible and easy to get to. Why ? Because these Common Ganchos are typically done in an Open Embrace variation. That’s why. The one that we want to start out with however, is the Closed Side Parallel System one. It will allow you to learn and then use the structure of these 4 Common Ganchos all that much easier.

From a Dancing Perspective truthfully, when executed a.) in time to the music. b.) as an accent piece of vocabulary, to an accent note. and c.) when none of the issues noted above are present to mar the Gancho…they can be quite lovely to watch. However that’s rarely what happens. What tends to happen are all the things mentioned above, and a few more that have not been mentioned. Part of the reason why Ganchos have the reputation of being ‘cheesy’ or less than desirable is that a.) they open the embrace. b.) they have a historical connotation with ‘Nuevo Tango’ (which is a misnomer of terms, ‘Nuevo Tango’ actually refers to the style of music that Astor Piazzolla founded in 1960 – 62 when he was living in Paris) and lots of legs flying everywhere because of that. c.) they tend to take up a lot of space. and d.) They’re typically poorly executed, very sloppy, making them appear (and actually are) like they’re an exercise in acrobatics. Oy. However, most of that can be tastefully, and judiciously removed by having good, clear instruction that clearly illustrates what and how to initiate and receive a Gancho, hence this video series.

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About The Video.This video package comes in at 49m:29s in length in 8 Sections. What you’re seeing above is only the introduction to the topic before we dive into the topics below. The one you probably want to see is #6 as it contains all 4 of the Ganchos. However, the rest of the videos make that last video possible. They’re all about set up, proper technique, and really the underlying method of how a Gancho works and where things can go terribly wrong, and how to correct for it.

Section 1 – Introduction – 00:07:13
Section 2 – Lead Technique – 00:04:01
Section 3 – Follower Technique  – 00:05:38
Section 4 – Free Leg Launch  – 00:05:13
Section 5 – Gancho Exercise – 00:05:35
Section 6 – Gancho Set up – 00:06:42
Section 7 – Four Common Ganchos – 00:19:27
Section 8 – Gancho Closeups – 00:15:17

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!

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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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