Monday, October 19, 2009

The Organic Gancho

Song: Milonguita by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
October 19, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

We did both Leader and Follower’s organic ganchos.

When we first learn to do ganchos, we usually stop our partner first, and then lead her to do a gancho. The idea behind this class is to flow through it elegantly, using a different technique.


For the Leader’s gancho, we create circular movement with good timing. The Leader steps to the side, and then back to do a back cross step of his left foot behind his right (to lead the Follower to step forward); then his right foot crosses in front of his left foot tight so that his right hip faces the Follower’s right hip, and he changes weight to pivot counterclockwise. Here, there should be thigh contact with the Follower so that the Leader is able to feel where she is at all time, and so that both dancers have a sense of security and Leader knows what he is ganchoing.

For the Follower’s part, this step first begins with an alternation of a right foot forward step to the outside of the Leader on his right (her left), to a back cross step back on her left foot. As she does her left foot back cross step counterclockwise in the molinete, her right thigh is in contact with the Leader’s right thigh. This is where the Leader back ganchos the Follower’s unweighted right leg with his right leg (not just the bottom half below the knee). As she continues her counterclockwise molinete with a right foot side step, her right leg remains in contact with the Leader’s right thigh and sends it around out and forward against the opposite side of his body as she completes her side step and continues around in her counterclockwise molinete.

For Follower’s technique here, be close on the forward step of the alteration. Do not hesitate on this forward step, but take a good, generous step. For the back step, make it near the Leader, curving toward him, since good molinete technique must also be maintained (overturned back ocho step).

For Leader’s technique, the tight front cross of his right foot against his left foot causes his right hip to turn toward the Follower’s right hip in perfect position to enable his right thigh to have contact with Follower’s right thigh, and enables his leg to feel her leg as he comes out of the back gancho. As with all ganchos, the Leader needs to articulate with his whole leg (not just below the knee), as if for an in-line boleo.

More Leader’s Technique: Let go of your right hand so that you don’t push her to lead her around. IT IS VERY EASY FOR LEADERS TO OVERUSE THE RIGHT HAND IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS SUCH AS THIS. DO NOT DO THAT. Always keep your balance so that you do not fall before the gancho (or cause her to fall). Dancers need to really use their spines to remain upright.

Techniques for both Leader and Follower: There is a little hanging away from each other, not colgada energy, but a little more back energy so that the dancers balance each other.

Next, we next did an exercise to work on our gancho technique and articulating the whole leg.


The dancers stand side by side, thighs touching and one arm around the other’s back. One person swings his entire leg back and forth, as if it is a pendulum. The other person steps behind him to provide a leg for the pendulum person to back gancho. The dancers’ thighs are touching so that the other person can be sensitive by feel to work on timing and knowing when to step behind for the gancho. Everyone switched off (1) being the pendulum or (2) stepping behind in position to receive the gancho. The pendulum person needs to keep their hips even. The leg providing person should turn out his foot/leg that will be ganchoed.

LEADER’S GANCHO – THE OTHER SIDE (clockwise, left leg)

We went back to the Leader’s Gancho, attempting to do it on the other side with Leader doing a left leg gancho of Follower’s left leg on her back cross step of her right foot, as she does a molinete clockwise, which was a little more difficult to set up, but easier to execute. For this side, the Leader does not have to do a left foot cross in front of his right foot. Leader’s right arm MUST open up on this side.


For the Follower’s gancho, as the Follower goes around the Leader in the molinete, the Leader comes in and provides a little bit of twist, leading her to gancho his leg. From the Follower’s back cross step of the molinete, after she completely changes her weight to her back foot, the Leader does a side step, stepping outside behind the Follower’s back foot/heel, which stops her completely and abruptly, and he then twists his chest so that she does a gancho with her non-weighted foot.

Leader’s Technique: The Leader lifts his heel when he offers his gancho leg so that he has more movement and flexibility. This gancho space providing leg is usually uweighted, or can be slight weighted (possibly up to 50%). The Leader leads the Follower back gancho with the twist of his body, with a moderate amount of twist on the easy side, and less twist on the hard side. The Leader’s upper body twist shapes the Follower’s gancho and gives her more energy. The Leader steps outside the Follower to lead her to stop abruptly, which lets her free leg flow to gancho.

The keys to these Ganchos is getting the correct position of the Leader’s foot behind the Follower’s back cross step foot, and to get the Follower to stop before leading her back gancho. Our goal was to work on setting it up for a gancho that is flowy.


Leaders: Let go of your right hand. Go with the Follower’s side step. Have contact in the thighs. Set up the Alternation well. Set up the gancho position well with thigh contact. Practice on the easy side and the hard side.

Followers: Have good molinete technique. Have whole leg articulation (not just below the knee). Use the mechanics of the turn. The Leader steps outside the Follower to lead her to stop abruptly, which lets her free leg flow to gancho.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Canaro’s Milonguita, showing many more possible Leader and Follower Organic Ganchos than the two taught during class.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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