Ganchos . . . again . . .
From the Facebook comments on my "Expressing the music or dancing for tables" post:
"But adornments can become problematic when they interfere with something I'm trying to do. (I have enough trouble as it is). Some of these are basically harmless and don't really bother me that much. Like some ladies insist on doing a gancho whenever I lead them to step over my leg. I'm mostly amused by this. Some girls just like their ganchos and will seize any opportunity to do one."
Predictably, I have several problems with the above behavior.
First of all, they aren't "their ganchos"! The gancho for the follower is led. It is my (nearly fanatical) opinion that it should never be an adornment or something the follower just decides to do on her own. As someone who is now attempting to learn to lead, the last thing I want to see, or heaven forbid feel, is a stiletto heel near my crotch. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's how I feel.
In the follower's defense, however, I think I can explain why it appears to happen that way.
When a leader leads me into a well-placed gancho, it would actually take effort for me not to do it. He is, or should be, interrupting my step and creating the movement. When led that way, I hardly notice the move and it really doesn't bother me to do it. I also don't mind ganchos that really end up feeling like small or low leg wraps. Those can be slinky and take up very little room - they also don't usually require breaking, or contorting, the embrace.
However, most of the time what I get is the leader opening his legs and expecting me to figure out what he wants. There are teachers who actually tell followers that even if they're not correctly placed, or the interruption of the step isn't felt clearly - they should execute the gancho anyway. After all, we're always talking about how the leader "invites" a movement and doesn't force it. (There is actually one aspect that applies to this - I can chose, in certain situations, to perform an amague instead of gancho, depending on my leg position and that's usually my preference.) That particular principle, that you can simply invite the move, is tricky to apply to ganchos.
If a leader stands there with his legs open and his knee against my knee - that's not an invitation to execute a gancho, that's just him standing with his legs open and me wondering what the heck he wants me to do with that.
Fast forward to the milonga setting where we have dancers with the best of intentions trying to work out the gancho thing. Mostly I see one of two things happen:
1. The leader opens his legs, places his follower hurriedly and somewhat awkwardly and waits for her to "do a gancho." When she seems to hesitate, he frequently (I'm not kidding, it happens all the time) either verbally tells her "you're supposed to gancho me here" or pushes her harder until she "gets it". So the follower gets the idea that the gancho isn't a very precise movement and if the leader opens his legs, that means gancho.
2. The second scenario, depicted in the comment above, is the follower performing ganchos whenever she sees or feels the opportunity to do it - on her own - probably because she never got the idea from class that the move is supposed to be led.
I frequently fall in the middle. After a leader chides me several times for missing his gancho leads, or following it with an amague because it's more comfortable for my knee, I execute one when I think he wants one, and then get it wrong.
Which always leaves my wondering, why the heck I'm trying so hard to do a move I don't even care about?
A note on leader-ganchos . . .
I am now going to give up any pretense of writing about technique issues, and just state my (very unpopular) direct opinion. I am annoyed when a leader "ganchos" me. I don't like the way leader ganchos look, and I really hate the way they feel 99% of the time. (On the other hand, just to give a more balanced view, sometimes I barely notice them because they're very fast and light - so those aren't so bad. If I don't have time to really notice them, I don't have time to get particularly annoyed, do I?) Still, I have to wonder was there no other way the leader could express the music??
When I watch this, and similar videos, on leader ganchos - all I can think is that none of it looks elegant, or graceful. So often it just looks forced and uncomfortable.
Oh, and the "double gancho - trap my leg" move (especially if the leader is not supporting his own balance), makes me not want to dance with that leader again. It's personal, it's just me - I'm not making a judgment on the value of the move - I'm only saying I really don't like how they feel. Again, does this really express something in the music that couldn't be expressed any other (simpler and more comfortable) way?
From the super-brilliant Learningtango.com Ghost Guide to Ganchos page - a video, with follower's comments) on the double gancho:
Quoted from the above mentioned page:
"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..."
I am very sincerely sorry for the leaders who have led those with me and are reading this now. I have tried to tell leaders at practica, but when I do they tend to look at me like I just insulted their mother and kicked their puppy. I actually feel guilty that I don't like them when they look at me like that. So I comply and hope they don't lead it more than once in the tanda. I'm sorry I don't like them. I have tried - really, I have. I even worked on them in a private lesson. I just don't get the attraction at all.
If a leader leads it at a milonga, I'll try to make it work so that we don't both fall down. I will suppress the urge to say, "knock that crap off" and just do it. But depending on how uncomfortable the leader makes me in completing the move, he may be getting an early thank you. There are loads and loads of followers who love it - so by all means, lead it to them. Go crazy. And during practica, sometimes I'm game to work on them for a little bit (for many of the same reasons listed at the bottom of Ghost Guide to Ganchos, linked above.)
Leaders have been telling me for two years that some day a light will just turn on and suddenly I'll love ganchos.
I'm not holding my breath.