Gancho basics: theory and technique for circular follower ganchos

There are many kinds of ganchos, or "hooks" in tango:

  • follower ganchos
  • leader ganchos
  • circular ganchos (that move around a central person, usually the leader)
  • linear ganchos done more in a line
  • ganchos to the outside of the thigh
  • ganchos to the inside of the thigh
  • "overturned" ganchos, in which you can literally kick the butt of your partner :-)
  • ganchos that happen the same direction as the movement before
  • ganchos that reverse direction, compared to the movement before

If I think of any more kinds, I'll add on here; feel free to remind me if I've missed something.

Follower circular ganchos to the inside of the leader's thigh

The most important aspect of preparing for ganchos for followers is: the giro (turn). If you cannot do a tight, even turn around the leader, that person cannot lead you in a good gancho without cheating. Practice, practice, practice! Most of us think our turns are already fabulous, but get someone to video you, and you might see your feet edging out on your back cross, or stepping in too close on your front cross, or . . . you get my point. 

  1. Make sure your turn is impeccable.
  2. Use your hips and butt--not your feet--to pivot before taking your back cross step of the turn.
  3. Push off on each step so that you arrive on axis for each step.
  4. Keep your free leg relaxed, with at least the edge of the toes on the ground.
  5. As your free leg makes contact with the leader's leg, focus on your supporting leg and axis.
  6. Let the leader's torso torque lead your leg: don't auto-gancho.
  7. As the gancho finishes, reestablish your balance (hopefully, you can ignore this step) before taking your next step.
  8. Keep breathing.

The most important aspect of preparing to lead a follower's gancho, is: being able to control the twist of the torso while stabilizing the hips; called disassociation by many teachers. In the gancho, the leader brings the follower to the desired spot; the leader does not chase the gancho out of the center of the turn! To do this, the hips need to remain stable while the torso torques strongly in the direction of the turn.

  1. Establish the center of the turn's radius.
  2. Stabilize your hips, facing the location of the follower's rebound step from the gancho. Don't let the force of the gancho pull your hips around.
  3. Keeping the hip stability, twist your torso in the direction of the turn, as far as you can: this helps the follower's back cross step, and brings them closer into your body, so that you don't have to fish for the follower's foot.
  4. Place the follower's back cross step/foot BEFORE placing your foot and ankle for the gancho. For best placement, turn your leg out at the hip, and lift your knee so that your leg is in an S-curve shape. I find that I usually get my little toe down on the ground, but I focus on connecting my instep with the follower's ankle, so that I know the location of the follower's axis/balance point.
  5. Keep your weight on your support leg, with only enough weight on your leg doing the gancho to anchor your toe on the ground.
  6. Keep your hips back over the support leg. Otherwise, the follower will not have space to allow the free leg to hook with your leg.
  7. Continue to twist your torso around your own spine and rebound back to neutral in order to lead the follower's free leg. This not a wrestling match: don't pull or push with your embrace to make something happen.
  8. As the follower's leg completes the gancho, gauge the space you have to move, as well as the force of the gancho, and use that energy to create the next step in your dance.

The principal error I see on the dance floor, is to make the gancho a move about momentum. True, a good gancho can be fast and snappy, but a slow-mo gancho feels better to me as a follower, and is no less of a hook. The gancho is about TIMING.

The best exercise I have ever seen to practice ganchos comes from Chicho Frumboli. In his teacher training workshops, he had us practice ganchos, without using an embrace (balance work), in slow motion (timing practice), over and over (motor memory). By the end of the two-hour intermediate class, followed by the two-hour advanced class, my brain was fried, but I really understood how this move works!

In class this week, we'll work on doing the same gancho, but using the leader's other leg. This creates some changes in the above directions for the leader, but is not much harder. We'll also tackle leading ganchos after a parada and stepover sequence, as that is one that everyone in Portland seems to already know :-) If there is time for more, we'll do more.