The Ghost Guide to Social Tango 2nd Edition: Ganchos

7th March 2010

"What would the world be like without Captain Hook?" ~ Hook


Ganchos are basically evil.

Most people consider them an intermediate move. However they're taught in most Beginner Courses in London. Unfortunately they're realistically a "professional" level move. On the whole up to "good intermediate" level, they're usually led and followed badly.

See the card trick.

Leaders struggle with leading ganchos as beginners and newish intermediates. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but with no apparent rhyme of reason. At this stage leaders just accept they don't have the hang of them yet. After all they are intermediate moves. Time passes and the leader learns an "advanced" move, probably a volcada. This is where the confusion sets in. Soon they find themselves being able to do the advanced move reasonably well, but not the intermediate gancho?!

A further vicious circle is that as ganchos are usually poorly led, women start learning pattern recognition. Rather than following a lead they note that the leader has "adopted the position" and so take that as a signal to gancho. To further complicate matters, inexperienced followers will often treat ganchos as adornments.
MsHedgehog At intermediate level the follower probably won't have the perfect free leg technique (I certainly don't), and the leader probably won't have the timing and momentum (I'm not sure I can think of a single example of someone who's that good and does these socially), to make these work as a totally natural movement. So that makes them a voluntary thing. If I do them, I make it gentle. I don't really like them though, because I feel like I'm faking them, and I prefer to leave them to the pros on stage. Also I don't want to hurt someone with my heel, and I can't actually see what's happening back there.

What this means as a leader is you need to be very aware of when it's likely for the follower to auto-gancho you, so you can get into a safe position. otherwise you can get kicked quite painfully.

Women, please don't do ganchos that aren't led.

Simply put if you're dancing socially at "good intermediate" level, forget about ganchos. Your dancing will be fine without them.

Practice sequences - Difference between a sacada front boleo and a gancho lead

Two things happen. In the sacada, the leader's leg deflects the follower's leg, causing her to boleo, whereas in the gancho, her leg can pass through (but please see the section on Ganchos for more information). Also in the sacada the leader moves his axis between the women's feet, whereas in the gancho the women puts her axis between the leader's feet.

Twisty gancho back sacada combo

Be Very Careful with this.

This is intended solely for practice between two people who both know it and with lots of space around, not for the dancefloor

Why so grumpy?

After all I've been taught variations of this by different teachers. Notably the teachers were men who didn't follow. As a lead this feels quite interesting and fun. As a follower, not so much. For a start you're going to put pressure on her knee such that if she doesn't bend it and pivot you can do real harm. Take it slowly.

As for the dancefloor, several things.

As the Follower points out in the video, there comes a point where she's literally trapped. That's not really tango. At tango the lady should be able to step out of any position she's in easily. Also you end up in a position where your legs are tangled up, you're both balancing on one leg, she's pivoting and most likely in heels! If another couple crashes into you, you're going to fall over. There's simply no way to take avoiding action. Take a moment and imagine how painful landing in that position is going to be...

So why include it at all then?

Well it is a good practice exercise. You can do it slowly. It's largely self-working. It lets you work on:

  • Blocks
  • Back sacadas
  • Ganchos
  • Enganches
  • Pivots
  • Ochos
  • Boleos
  • Giros

Not to mention balance, frame etc.

Just please be careful.

- Christopher O'Shea, 7th March 2010

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