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Lead Ganchos

Lead Ganchos. 9 times out of 10 when you think of a Gancho, assuming you think of one at all, unless you’re a Lead in your Gancho phase, your thought immediately goes to the visual of the Follower doing some crazy sh*t with their leg to the Lead in this seemingly (more often than not) crazy, twisted bodily position – Un Gancho! Truthfully the Gancho can be an ungainly sight, it can also hurt if done improperly, it can also leave a mark on clothing if done inappropriately. At the same time the Gancho can be, assuming it’s done properly, a very nice accent or way to spice up a dance with one or two (no more than that, please) Ganchos for either role. Either role ? Yes, both roles have access to the Gancho idea. It’s just that, as was stated before, most people think of the Follower being led to Gancho their Lead. However, there are a whole swath of Ganchos where the Lead Ganchos the Follower! This is known as a Lead Gancho and is Today’s Tango Topic, so without further yapping, let’s dive into Lead Ganchos!

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. The typical thinking of a Gancho is that this is something that ONLY the Follower does to the Lead. That’s not the case. A Gancho can be performed for either role!

What is a Lead Gancho ? Put simply it’s where the Lead, lifts/and then wraps their free leg around the Follower, on the Follower’s Forward, Side, or Back Steps. More lift then wrap, as a ‘wrap’ is something entirely different. However the lift is quite accurate. As the Lead is factually lifting their leg, knee, and foot to ‘Gancho’ the Follower instead of the other way around. More than likely you’ll end up seeing these done on the Follower’s Side Step first and foremost as they are the easiest of the bunch, and less frequently on the Follower’s Forward step next to their lead, and very, very infrequently on the Follower’s Back Step next to their lead.

Difficulty Rating: (3 / 5)

The Red Warning Label: Before another word is written and understood by you the reader, let’s get something clear right from the start. A Lead Gancho should not be attempted by a beginner Lead with ‘5 Minutes’ of dancing under their belt. No. This is complex vocabulary that can hurt or injure you and your partners, and not to mention the people dancing around you! And by ‘5 Minutes’, this page means that you should have been dancing a long while. A very long while. And most certainly more than 5 Minutes. Here’s a few benchmarks: Until you have mastered your walk, where you are not THUDding when you walk, pushing, pulling, or compressing the frak out of your partners on a regular basis, when you have mastered the line of dance in the incremental, when you have clearly mastered close embrace dancing constructs and it has become a near ‘fluid’ embrace construct when you want to change things up a bit, that is when you can start to play with a Lead Gancho, and not before. You may not like to hear that but thems is the facts. This isn’t about how quickly you’ve progressed, or the number of classes you’ve taken, or who you’ve studied with! None of that stuff matters. What matters is how you have integrated a stable, secure, safe dancing model into your typical dance! That’s what more than ‘5 Minutes’ means.

From A Following Perspective for you this is forward, side, and back. There’s nothing special you have to do here. There’s no trick here for you. There’s no special hidden information that you need to know about. There’s quite literally nothing for you to do here except the following 3 things that you have to be aware of:

1.) Hearing/Feeling. The funny thing about the Lead Gancho’ing you is that you need to be able to ‘hear’ or ‘feel’ a ‘null’ or no-lead, on all 3 steps. What’s a ‘null’ lead ? It’s where the lead will quite factually not lead you to do anything, and yet they’re still in motion. And you’re going to wonder if you missed something. You didn’t. It’s just that there wasn’t anything there to ‘hear’ (feel). The problem with the Null or No Lead is that it’s very easy to miss. Why ? Because you’re used to hearing (feeling) constant information coming at you in a myriad of different ways, so a lead throws the ’null’ lead at you and you’re like …. “what’s the hesitation for ? why did they stop, wait…they’re still moving, I should be moving shouldn’t I ?”. But you feel nothing coming from them. It’s a juxtaposition that will throw you.

2.) The Common Gancho. 9 times out of 10, the common Lead Gancho is going to be to your Side Step. As you step side, this is when a Gancho is likely to occur. Usually from the Closed Side of the Embrace, mostly because it’s the easiest and closest one. And more than likely, it will be with the Lead’s right leg because it’s the one that easiest. To be fair the 2nd most common one is after you’ve executed an Argentine Cross, and then execute a Forward step across your lead to your Lead’s right on the Closed Side of the Embrace, this would be a Lead Gancho on your Forward step. In both of these cases, the Lead’s Gancho of your step will be a quick in/out. Nothing slow. And it will almost be a shock to you like “WTF was THAT!?!?!?!?”. Don’t freak out. This is one of the very few ways in which a Lead accent what you’re doing.

3.) Autopilot or Follower Default Behaviors. In every case of the Lead Gancho’ing you, you’re going to be tempted to proceed onwards as if nothing happened. True. However, you’ll also be tempted to execute X without there actually being a lead for said X to occur. Where X could be, but is not limited to, an Ocho, or your Molinete. So it’s important to stay vigilant and hyper-aware. However let’s be clear about something, the Lead Gancho can ONLY occur when you have a space between your legs. If you close or bring your legs to collection, no Gancho! If there’s space for one, there’s a possibility for one. Which could quite possibly give you an out if you don’t want a Lead to do this to you, and that means quickly collecting everywhere! That get’s tiresome after a while. There’s another way and that’s just to say ‘no’ at the outset but that’s a different topic for a different day.

One More Thing. In either case of a Forward, Side, or Back Step. You want to treat these as if you were being led to your Molinete. Which is to say that you want to step not away from your Lead, but around them! This is especially important on the Forward step out of a Cross, or to the Open Side of the Embrace. If you step away from the lead, the Gancho becomes somewhat challenging for the Lead.

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From a Leading Perspective this is all on you.  So without further adieu, a few gotchas:

First and foremost, understand that you are invading the Follower’s intimate space with your leg. Read that again, ‘Invading Their Intimate Space’. This is not something you want to do to a woman in a short skirt that you just met. No. Not now, not ever, not unless she’s your wife and even then not so much with that. There are more than a few of the older Milongueras that would chide you for placing your leg between the legs of a woman that is not your wife for obvious reasons. So ideally we want to execute these with care, grace, and most importantly with someone that is wearing pants and that you know really, really well. Got it ?

And now a few things you need to be aware of.

1.) In and Out. If you’re going to execute a Gancho, get in, and get out quickly. Don’t linger and don’t take your sweet frakkin’ time doing it either in the execution. You are Gancho’ing them. Got it ?

2.) The Important Thing. As indicated above, the Null or No-lead is absolutely important here especially on the side steps!

3.) Gently. You are more than likely bigger, stronger, and more bulky than your Followers, and as such you can generate far more inertia than they can with their Gancho to you. Your Gancho to them can be far more forceful. Don’t. Use. Force. Gently….gently…gently invade the Follower’s space with your free leg.

4.) Position, Position, Position. In an ideal world we have ooooodles of space to execute one of these things. However the reality is that we don’t. We only have a certain amount of space to execute this stuff, and that certain amount of space is limited to the width of line of dance that you’re in. So as a result we generally do not want to angle a Lead Gancho backwards or against the line of dance or directly into the line of dance ahead of us. So ideally we want to angle it on the Followers’s Forward or side step so that they’re parallel with either, so that you don’t interfere with the progression of the line of dance.

Two Ideas. Part of the reason that the Gancho gets a bad rap is that they’re frequently poorly timed AND poorly executed, and usually together! The execution is something that the video above can help with. However, it’s an imperative that you understand the foundation of what to do with the lead’s free leg here and what you specifically need to practice on a regular basis so that this stuff becomes fluid in you! For that, you’ll need to look at the 4 Common Ganchos, section 4 which covers The Free Leg Launch. While that can help with the execution part, what it can’t help with is the timing part. So what is a good place to execute a Gancho ? Well there are 2 places we want to use them:

a.) The Accent Note Idea. In this instance, because the accent note is probably near the end of a musical paragraph, we actually have oooodles of time to execute said Gancho slowly and carefully. So the idea of getting in and out, doesn’t necessarily apply. (see 02:42, 02:52, 03:01, 03:19 in D’Arienzo’s Cumparsita below)

b.) The Musical Pause Idea. You want to accentuate the pause, and freeze the Gancho in the pause. There are many pieces of music where this can happen. Juan D’Arienzo’s Cumparsita (1982 remastered) for example where you could quite easily ‘freeze’ the Gancho.



listen for a type 1 pause (stops) at 00:08, 00:59, 01:06, 01:38 (short), 01:41 (short), 02:42, 02:52, and 03:04

From a Dancing Perspective the Lead Gancho can and does appear not to be the most elegant thing in the world to do to a Follower. However, when executed properly, and without jerking the Follower around to do it (no pushing, pulling, or compressing them is allowed…none, zero, zip, zilch!), a Lead Gancho can be very nice accent. However, just like the in the case of the Follower’s Adornment Craziness, or the Lead Colgada, or the Lead Rock Step everywhere issue, where you’re engaging the same idea, over and over and over again (tsk, tsk, tsk), a Lead Gancho can and frequently overused. So for that reason alone, we want to use them very sparingly. Hence the Two Ideas Above that you really should think of as rules and not ideas. That there are really only 2 places we want to engage these ideas. The accent note and the frozen or elongated musical pause. Otherwise, you know what ? Skip them. You don’t need to execute them on every step, everywhere. Truthfully they tend to be executed in a jarring fashion and they tend to disrupt the line of dance because they’re angled improperly! All in all this is accent or spice vocabulary. Not the stable of one’s dance, nor should it be. It’s there as a variety element. A nice surprise, not the main meal.

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About The Video. This video is 8m:31s in length in 6 Sections and of HD quality.

Warning: It is strongly recommended before attempting to do this that you watch the series on the Gancho foundation.

1.) Introduction – 00:57
2.) Parallel System Gancho – 03:18
3.) Cross System Gancho – 00:38
4.) Follower Cues – 00:24
5.) Lead Ganchos on Forward Steps – 02:00
6.) Review & End – 00:46

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

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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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