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Basic Ganchos and Linked "El Pulpo Style" Ganchos

In this class, we look at basic gancho technique and more advanced concepts such as linked "El Pulpo Style" ganchos.

Norberto "El Pulpo" Esbrez was a true maverick of tango. His linked ganchos are what gave him the nickname "El Pulpo / The Octopus." This class is an homage to him and his influence on our dance and our approach to tango. 

Leg Wraps and Ganchos - Class Demo - Charleston, SC

May 2014


In this demo, we start with the most basic of leg wraps (ganchos), leading her to a side open and stepping into her step to receive the wrap (:14). The primary leg wrap from the class can be seen clearly at :22 and 1:55. It starts with a rebound step and lead her around/over my right leg, creating an opportunity for her to wrap. One thing that we discussed in the class was the technique for the women, to make these safe for the dance floor, is to not extend the leg out after the wrap.. notice at :25, Shelley's knee is bent and goes up instead of out.

Then we proceed to demonstrate more complex wraps showing how they can be used to express the music, such as at 1:17. Two of my favorites are the double wrap at 1:44 and the inside the embrace gancho at 2:00. We also did a piernazo (high leg wrap, above the man's waist) at :45.

Creative Ganchos I: Reverse Ganchos and Twisty Ganchos

Teachers: Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks
Date: 4/22/2013
Song: Los Vino by Otros Aires

In this class, we examine the basic technique for a gancho and then look at some creative ganchos such as reverse ganchos and twisty ganchos. We also combined the gancho with boleos and colgadas.

Soltadas from Back Cross: Part 1

Class Topic: Soltadas from Back Cross: Part 1
Teachers: Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks of Tango Evolution and Tangology101
Date: 4/9/13
Song: Pa' Bailar by Bajofondo Tango Club

Disclaimer: This is a class demo for our students to remember what we worked on. Even though we give some instruction at the beginning of the video, it is only a small fraction of what we discuss in class.

In this class we looked at Soltadas from the back cross. Soltadas are releases of the embrace. We break our embrace temporarily to perform a soltada. This does not mean that we must completely break our physical connection, although we could do that as well. One important note is that while soltadas may be very modern/nuevo, they really re-enforce our knowledge of molinete and giros. So, working with them can increase your sensitivity in your regular dance.

Tip: We encourage our students to keep a slight physical connection as we do a soltada. We discuss this at the beginning of the video, that I place her hand on my chest as I am releasing the embrace and she can trace her hand around my body to help keep us from going to far away from one another.

In order to get a successful soltada, we must be able to depend on the structure of the molinete. The molinete consists of 3 steps: back cross, side open, forward cross. Once the leader initiates the molinete he should be able to release the embrace and TRUST the follower to execute the molinete, until he re-engages the embrace. We discussed that he can re-engage the embrace on any of the 3 steps of the molinete.

We then added a barrida with a soltada from her back cross.

Variations in video:

3.13 We execute the soltada and re-engage the embrace on her forward cross and continue around her to lead her to another forward cross to exit.

3:30 - We execute the soltada and then lead a leg wrap/gancho after the final forward cross.

3:55 - We execute the soltada and I re-engage the embrace and perform a leg wrap on her side open step.

4:30 - We initiate a soltada with barrida from her back cross. In this one, we keep a connection with his left and her right hands. This also results in a pasada as she passes over my right foot.

5:10 - This is a crazy one.. here I lead the soltada but then step in front of her blocking the forward cross of her molinete. She wants to take the forward cross step but she can't because I am exactly where she needs to go. So she stops. Notice her hand on my right shoulder, so I use that compression in her right hand on my shoulder to reverse the direction and lead her back around me... basically "rewinding" the soltada.

5:40 - Another crazy one where after the final forward cross, I step behind her making thigh to thigh contact and lead a reverse gancho. Yes, there is a lead for the gancho. As with all ganchos, there is thigh to thigh contact first and then the lead which is a tiny twist.

  These also work very well in vals since they are circular in nature. Take a look at 2:05 of this video of Oscar and Ana Miguel performing a vals:

Compact & Elegant Variations of the Ocho Cortado

Instructors: Clint "el gato" Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

Song: "Bailemos" by Carlos di Sarli with Mario Pomar singing.

Compact Ocho Cortados (for crowded dance floors)
We started by looking at very compact variations on the ocho cortado, for small spaces. Most dancers take several preparation steps to get into the ocho cortado. We tried to trim this process as much as possible. We looked at this in parallel system (.34 of video) and in cross system (.40 of video). The most compact of all is shown at 2.27 of the video.

Elegant Ocho Cortados
Usually, ocho cortados have a built in rhythm of quick quick slow. The first concept that we explored was letting go of the quick quick slow and stretching out the time it takes to execute the ocho cortado. We still want the feet to be hitting on the beats of the music, but we can skip beats and take our time.

Stretched Ocho Cortado in 3 parts

The primary move that worked on can be seen in several places in the video but at 2.12 if can be seen the best. We start with the side step with the man's left and the woman's right. The man stays on his left and leads the woman to a back cross step, then to a side open step and then to the forward cross step (cruzada).
Tip: The man stays on his left until he leads her to the cruzada at which time he switches back to his right. He should leave his right leg behind for most of the move and lead the move in his whole body. When she takes the side step, the man should pull his right foot slightly back to make room.
Tip: The man should step a little farther than her on the first side step. Each step should have a slight feeling of rising and falling into the steps. The man should not lift her with his arms but rather his whole embrace should go up and then settle.
Tip: Also, notice how much each person pivots during this move. You can not leave your feet stuck to the floor, they must pivot.

Bonus steps:
Ocho cortado with barrida to leg wrap (2.47 of video)

Initiating Ocho Cortado from a Side Step (1.54 of video)

Ocho Cortado with Barrida to Cruzada (2.07 of video)

Nuevo Bluesy Tango Part 3: Twisty Ganchos

This class covered twisty ganchos (hooks). We start with leading a regular gancho and then give a little extra twist at the moment of the gancho.

We started by discussing that a gancho is a hook and not a kick and that each gancho has several moments:

  1. The Preparation or Initiation - This is when we position our bodies close to one another and the leader makes contact with his upper thigh to the followers upper thigh. The leader is creating an aperature (window) for her to hook through.
  2. The Lead - Then the leader leads the gancho by leading the follower to take a step, but he has put his leg in the way, so she hooks around it. The follower extends her free leg until her upper thigh cannot go back any further and then she hooks her leg around the leaders.
  3. The Resolution - The follower does not automatically exit the gancho. After she hooks around the leaders leg, she waits for him to resolve the gancho. If he were to freeze there, then she would freeze there. This allows for ganchos to be done very slowly or very quickly or with little energy or a lot of energy.

    The leader has two distinct ways of resolving the gancho. He can lead her to take a step or he can straighten the leg she is wrapped around.

FIgure 1: From Forward Circular Boleo to the Open Side (.15 and .25 of Video)
In this figure, we lead a forward circular boleo to the open side of the embrace. While the follower is finishing the boleo, the leader steps behind the follower's right foot with his right leg. At the same time, he is making contact with his right upper thigh to her right upper thigh.  He then leads her back around and she hooks around his right leg. This happens as he is changing weight to his right leg. He then shifts back to his left and straightens his right leg to resolve the gancho.

We also discussed that this gancho can be lead on or off axis. To lead this off axis (colgada) then the leader will extend his right arm during the gancho and twist.

Figure 2: From Forward Circular Boleo to the Close Side (.33 and .43 of Video)
This is essentially the same as above, but it is a bit more tight do to the embrace.

Figure 3: Rebound Gancho (1.08 of Video)
This is not so much a twisty gancho, but it came up during the class. The leader leads the follower to a forward step away from him while stepping behind her. He does this by extending his right arm and then brings her back straight into him. It is really a back inline boleo for her but since he is behind her it turns into a gancho.

FIgure 4: Reverse Gancho with Twist (2.44 of Video)
In this step, the leader leads the follower to a forward cross to the open side of the embrace. He stops her before she collects and steps behind her, makes thigh to thigh contact and then twists to get a gancho. I call this a reverse gancho since she is doing the gancho while moving forward rather than backwards.

Figure 5: Sacada to Twisty Gancho (2.20 and 2.31 of Video)
We did not get to this one during the class, but since we did it in the demo, I will comment on it. The leader leads the follower to a forward cross to the close side of the embrace. He performs a sacada, but instead of going to the leg she is leaving, he steps close to the leg she is going to (her new supporting leg). He then stops her in the middle of her side step as he does a big pivot on his right and steps behind her with his left.

Video Demonstration:


Nuevo Bluesy Tango Parts 1 & 2

This video demo covers two classes.

The first was on finding the middle part of each step and being able to shift her weight back and forth between her legs without resolving the step, until we are ready.

We talked about the fact that each step has 4 parts.

1. We send our free leg

2. We transfer our weight 50/50 in the middle of our step

3. We completely transfer our weight to our new supporting leg (finding our balance)

4. We collect our new free leg.

Many times we skip these moments in our steps and just jump from 1 to 4, falling into steps rather than transferring our weight all the way through a step.

In the second class, we look at forward & back sacadas for the leaders and forward sacadas for the followers. At 2.30 of the video, we also looked at getting a back sacada while staying "primarily" in a close embrace.

Video Demonstration:


Split Weight Moments I

In tango, each step has a beginning, middle, and end. There is a moment in the middle when our weight is evenly distributed between both legs. We can use that moment to create some very interesting possibilities.

We cover lots of information in our classes, but here are some of the major tips.


  • We started by practicing finding the moment where are weight is split during a step and rocking our weight back and forth between our feet.
  • We explained that if the leaders stay slightly down and don't collect their feet themselves, then it will help the women stay down and not collect.
  • Followers are following the upper body of the leaders, not their feet, so leaders need to be very clear and stop their upper body at the moment her weight is split.
  • We also talked about our crucial pivoting is to tango and that followers should not "make" the leader pivot them, but rather when they feel his invitation to pivot they should pivot themselves. We also discussed that good pivots happen on the forward part of the foot and not with the whole foot on the floor.


Video Demonstration:


Ganchos: Leg Wraps I

Leg wraps are ganchos which happen during a turn and resolve in the same direction as the turn. In other words, if we are making a clockwise turn (giro), lead a gancho and then continue turning clockwise then that is often referred to as a leg wrap. A leg wrap IS a gancho, the follower is hooking (gancho) her leg around his leg.

We cover lots of information in our classes, but here are some of the major tips.


  • Leg wraps are executed on her open/side step during a molinete in either direction. In order for a wrap to happen the woman has to take a real side step. Often women skip or shorten their side steps during the molinete and that is a mistake. In the demo below, starting at the .10 sec mark she takes a forward cross, then a side open (which is where we lead the leg wrap) and then a back cross.
  • The leader should aim to make contact with his upper thigh to her upper thigh. He should aim for the area in the middle of her open/side step. If he goes too low or too close to the leg she is leaving then he will probably get a sacada instead of a wrap. If he goes to close to her supporting leg then he will knock her off her axis/balance. He needs to step into the middle of her open side step, but with an open thigh to recieve the wrap and then she should continue around in the same direction.
  • During the gancho (hooking), the follower should feel his thigh and "hug" his leg with her free leg. She should aim for the wrap to happen above his knee. She should release the wrap as she feels his leg straightening.
  • After a leg wrap, woman should not let her free leg float out, especially on a crowded dance floor. After the wrap, she can take her free leg up, instead of out, to release the residual energy of the wrap. Also, if she lets her leg float out then she runs the risk of falling out of balance and falling into her next step. After the wrap, she should relax her leg and let her feet fall back together (collect) so that she is ready for the next step.
  • Leg wraps should be done very close. If you are dancing in an open embrace you should adjust to close embrace for the moment of the leg wrap. Nothing looks worse than a guy stretching trying to get a leg wrap instead of just moving in close.
  • Let wraps can be done on either side of the embrace, but wraps to the close side are much easier to accomplish.
  • As always, a very relaxed embrace which allows her to breath and pivot easily is necessary.


Video Demonstration:


Barrida to Cruzada with Different Exits

A Barrida (a sweep, a drag) is the dragging of a partner’s free leg during a Caminata (walk) or Giro (turn).

Teachers: Clint Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

In this class, we looked at executing a barrida (Sweep) to a front cruzada (Cross) with different exists.

Step 1: Barrida to Cruzada with giro (turn) to the Open Side of the Embrace

  1. We take a side open step to the open side of the embrace. As the man transfers his weight to his left leg, he initiates a barrida with is right foot. To initiate the barrida, he applies a little pressure to her left foot with his right foot and she returns that pressure which allows her to follow his foot past the collection point and to the other side of her foot creating the front cruzada.
  2. Now he transfers his weight slightly to his right foot which leads her to put weight onto her left foot.
  3. Then he transfers his weight slightly to his left and begins turning counter clockwish which leads her to begin a side step around him. As she begins her open side step around him, he performs a low forward sacada with his right leg.
  4. As fully commits to his right and continues the counter clock wise turn which results in a basic giro for her (back side cross).

Step 2: Barrida to Cruzada with Foot Lift during Barrida and Exit in Cross System to Front Cruzada

  1. During the Barrida, the woman's foot should be symbolically glued to the man's foot, so if he lifts his foot she should go with his foot.
  2. After the Sacada, we are in cross system, so we simply exit to a basic cruzada in cross system.

Step 3: Barrida to Cruzada to Volcada with Gancho

This move seems so simply, but it actually includes many advanced ideas of Tango. It actually includes (in order): Barrida, Front Cruzada, Colgada,  Volcada, Gancho, Colgada, Back Cruzada, Volcada.

  1. The first two steps are the same as above, a barrida to a front cruzada
  2. But as I lead the front cruzada, I actually invade her space very slightly to send her into a very very slight colgada (Off-Axis Hang) as I bring her bring her around in a circular counter clockwise motion back forward into a Volcada. I keep the circular motion going until I get a gancho.
  3. After the gancho, I reverse the circular motion to go clockwise and send her back past her axis to a very slight colgada. Again I keep the circular motion going and then bring her forward again to get a back cruzada.
  4. I keep bringing her forward after the back cruzada into another slight volcada... just enough to free her left foot.