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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cabeceo capital of Australia?

If you like an invitation to dance in the form of an outstretched hand, a tap on the shoulder or a more formal Would you care to dance?, then perhaps you should stop reading right now.

It may come as no surprise that I'm a strong supporter of the cabeceo.  Novices to this elegant technique of invitation typically find it challenging.  But once you get the hang of it and develop confidence, you'll find it quite empowering - for men and for women.

Why bother with yet another challenge?  You might well ask.  Isn't dancing tango hard enough?

Well, call me a traditional tango purist, if you like.  But for me, dancing real tango is about becoming one with the music and my partner.  It's not something I can simply switch on - with anyone, at any time, with any music.  I prefer to dance less often, and feel satisfied when I do.  So I prefer the choice to be mutual.

Over the past few years, we've been encouraging use of the cabeceo at our milongas: Comme il faut and La Esquina, and it's so gratifying to see that it has caught on.  Seldom do we see men approaching unsuspecting women with outstretched hand.  Rarely do they hover in front of their intended victim practically forcing her to get up and dance, or bluntly refuse him in public. Many experienced dancers in Adelaide now use the cabeceo quite effortlessly.  Dare I say, that it appears to be becoming the norm in some milongas here.

Perhaps it will eventually catch on in other Australian cities.  But in my experience, so far Adelaide easily wins the prize for the cabeceo capital of Australia.


  1. As always, I am a fan of your blog. I had an experience on Sunday of a silent milonga -- no talking at the tables, at the bar (self-service), on the floor or (OMG) while dancing. Listen, if Baboons can get a partner to "dance" with them without saying a word, what is so hard about it for human beings? :-)

    Through my blog and with the help of others, I think every tango community should have a silent milonga. Cabeceo/mirada are just one of many ways we can be "social (non-verbal) animals." :-)

  2. Silent milonga - interesting experiment! Wow, it must have taken a great deal of self-control from all participants to achieve that.

    Personally, I can't stand it when people chatter while dancing. But, I see milongas as a social event, as well as an opportunity to dance. So the idea of not talking at all when not dancing, strikes me as a little strange.

  3. I'm all for a silent milonga!

    Two women sat next to me at Lo de Celia. One of them didn't come to dance and talked to the other one constantly. I had to move away from my table to hear the music. Later I had to say something to them. It's a dance; if you want to talk, go to a café. They both agreed with me, but continued their nonstop conversation. The one who came to dance wasn't invited very often...because she was too busy talking.

    Lo de Celia is a Tango Club, not a social club. People go there to dance and listen to the music. I had to use ear plugs to muffle all the talking. I knew the milongas years ago when they were silent.

  4. You're right, Janis. Women who are constantly chatting with each other can't expect to be invited to dance - unless, of course, they're in a milonga where the cabeceo is NOT the norm.

    Certainly their behaviour is giving the clear signal to men that they're not interested in dancing. Could it be that they're not there to dance, but primarily to catch up with friends? I've occasionally seen some temporarily sit elsewhere in the milonga, for the comfort of others.

  5. Again a great subject , For me Cabeceo only please ! it gives both parties complete choice , Love the idea of a milonga without talking , I think non verbal communication is so much more intimate and thought provoking, Perhaps upon your return ?

  6. The cabeceo, no argument, it's the only way of avoiding embarassing situations. You can even use it if you are out of sight, by approaching the "target" and attracting their attention, assuming they are interested. If not, as the song says, Just Walk on By.

    It's said that Tango is like making love in verticle postion. If you accept this analogy then talking when making love is off putting and shows you are not in the moment. I need to concentrate to use the music to full effect. If I see a person talking during a dance it puts me off asking them.

    People attend milongas not only for the music and dancing, but also for the social interaction. Silent milonga, count me out.

  7. You just need to be little careful with 'approaching the target' as a means of attracting her attention, Roger. This could be seen as equivalent to walking up to her table, because her eye-contact may be unavoidable and put her in a position of feeling awkward about refusing.

    However, putting yourself at a distance, so that there's a line of sight allows her to be aware of you without making a commitment.


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