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Friday, 21 August 2009

Tale of Two Cities & the Cabeceo

There’s been a lot of discussion generated by our milonga codes quiz, particularly the place of the cabeceo. As an exclusive interaction, the question has been rightly asked, “what about couples?” The way we attend milongas in Buenos Aires illustrates one part of the story.

Some Buenos Aires milongas are primarily for couples – Sunderland & Sin Rumbo, for example – so we enter together, sit together, dance together, and we don’t expect to encounter the cabeceo. Nor do we seek it out. The only exception would be where we already know, or are introduced, to other dancers; in this case, approaching the table, seeking the man’s approval, and inviting the woman to dance is the norm. The cabeceo, in fact, protects the couple, because single men will not approach a couple and will use the cabeceo only with unaccompanied ladies who indicate they are available to dance.

Other milongas are largely for “singles” – eg. Lo de Celia & El Beso - and the cabeceo is used almost exclusively, even between people who know each other (and may even be a couple in other circumstances), but are sitting in separate sections of the milonga. Again, the couples seated together won’t be bothered by the cabeceo. So a couple would need to have a mutual understanding about whether they planned to dance with others at that function before arriving at the milonga, as this would determine how they entered the milonga and whether they sat together or separately.

In all milongas there will also be groups of friends – couples & singles – sitting together, and invitations to dance would normally occur informally within the group. In Buenos Aires, the cabeceo is the communication tool primarily used by available “singles” for connecting from a distance with other available “singles” to dance a tanda.

By encouraging the cabeceo in Adelaide, we have tried to introduce a little more of the Buenos Aires culture to Oz. In our local tango scene, the custom of the cabeceo is less well-developed, but nevertheless used effectively by a number of tangueros and tangueras in order to dance with others. And while the reasons for using the cabeceo are fundamentally no different to those in Buenos Aires, this strategy is seen by many who employ it here in Adelaide, as an additional light-hearted and fun element at the milonga.

However, most of the dancers in the local community know one another and may consider the cabeceo unnecessary, others may feel a bit uncomfortable about seeking dances by eye contact, while others simply have no knowledge of it. An added complication is that, unlike Buenos Aires, we don’t use segregated seating in the milongas ie. no separate areas for single females, single males and couples & groups. Hence, it’s likely that a variety of approaches will be seen as acceptable – including the direct style of personally inviting a lady to dance. Regardless of the strategy, the interaction should of course, be based on sensitivity to others.

A couple can decide to dance just together, but it’s always possible that someone may attempt to intrude on that understanding – so, if used well, the cabeceo can provide a protective zone around the couple. However, despite sitting together, it’s not unusual for couples in Adelaide to have a simple understanding that they will use the cabeceo to seek out other dance partners during the milonga.

Wherever you may dance tango, there’s merit in knowing how to use the cabeceo and feel confident with it. You may not choose to use it all the time, or even at all. But be aware that in other cities, it may be the only way of getting a dance.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Códigos de la milonga (milonga etiquette) - Have your say #7!

Well, here's the last stage of the códigos quiz - unless of course, some other juicy scenarios are brought to our attention by observers of milonga etiquette! All in all, they are about simple good manners and respect for your partner & other couples. But they also reflect the behaviours that are the norm in the traditional milongas of Buenos Aires. Take care in BsAs, because the dancer who doesn't stick to them closely is simply regarded as a 'beginner' by locals. On the other hand, to be observed respecting the codes can bring accolades such as, 'you're not seen as a gringo in this milonga'.

So here they are:
Scenario #21
There’s a group of friends, not all couples, sharing a table at a milonga. They’ve heard a lot about the cabeceo code. Yes or no to the following:
  1. The only way they are going to dance with each other is if they use silent eye contact
  2. A lady says, “I love this piece of music, let’s dance Dave”.
  3. A man simply asks the lady next to him whether she’d like to dance.
  4. The friends are obliged to only dance with those at their table.
  5. It’s O.K. to seek a dance with someone sitting across the room using the cabeceo.
Scenario #22
A couple is following the line of dance, and occasionally moves into a vacant space closer to the centre to execute a turn, before returning into their ‘lane’. The couple behind should:
  1. Wait for them to move to the vacant space again, and pass them on the outside.
  2. Restrict the amount of room for them to return to the line of dance in order to ‘give them a message’.
  3. Pick up on their dance style & timing and blend in with their movement, while remaining behind.
  4. Speak to them in a break in the music, asking them to dance in one lane or the other.
Scenario #23
A couple agree to dance using the cabeceo. Yes or no that the woman should:
  1. Rush onto the dance floor and meet her partner half-way.
  2. Wait until he comes to her table, stand up, and go onto the dance floor with him.
  3. Once on the dance floor, put her hands out & up to shoulder level, waiting for the embrac.e
  4. Once on the dance floor, wait for the man to invite her into his embrace.
Scenario #24:
A man wants to dance with a particular lady. He should:
  1. Walk straight across the room, put out his hand, and ask her to dance.
  2. Employ the ‘cabeceo’ – actively try to catch her eye, and if she responds, invite her to dance with a small head movement.
  3. Strike up a conversation with her, and after a while, ask her to dance.
  4. Stand up, attract the woman’s attention, and casually call her over to dance with a ‘come here’ move of his finger.
What do you think?

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