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03 September, 2011

Cabeceo







Cabeza” means “head” in Spanish, and “cabeceo” is the castellano word that refers to the nod of the head that is used to signal the offer and acceptance of dances at a milonga. The cabeceo serves a couple of purposes. First, it minimizes public embarrassment... because it’s a long walk back to the table for a man who has just come all the way across the room and been turned down for a dance. But more importantly, a crowded milonga simply couldn’t function without it. Hundreds of offers and acceptances must fly back and forth across the room each time a new tanda of music begins, and the cabeceo is really the only practical way for everyone to quickly and efficiently find the right partner.
The milongas are governed by a set of codigos that apply to the conduct of both the men, and the women.
In the milongas of the 1940s, the men often stood in the middle of the dance floor and looked for dances with the young women who were usually seated around the edge of the room with members of their family. In this situation, continually walking from the center of the floor, across the line of dance to invite ladies to dance would have been impossible, so the cabeceo was the only option. Could this have been the birth of the custom? I’ve never heard it discussed, but it seems possible. Today, no one stands in the middle of the floor anymore, but in most popular milongas the tables are jammed together very closely, and there is barely enough room to get on and off of the dance floor, so it makes very good sense that offers and acceptances should be signaled from a distance. 
Tips for Success With the Cabeceo
1. Have a plan and be disciplined. Know ahead of time who you want to dance with for each type of music.
2. Have a fallback position. Pick a second and a third choice ahead of time, and keep them in mind.
3. Try to quickly identify the music of the tanda, and then immediately begin to stare intently at your first choice for that type of music. 
4. Do NOT take you eyes off that person, even for one second. (If you have a history, the rest is easy, because he or she will probably already be looking back when they hear the music). 
5. If no eye contact is returned, wait a bit. If you sense the person is aware of you, but is looking elsewhere, immediately switch your stare to choice number two, and repeat the process.
6. If eye contact is made, any sign of recognition will work. Among the milongueros and milongueras, this is usually nothing more than a glance of a second or two, or maybe a slight nod, or a cutting of the eyes toward the floor. 
7. If you happen to make eye contact by mistake with someone you don’t want to dance with, show no reaction at all, and look away quickly!
8. Once the dance offer has been accepted, both partners should maintain eye contact while the woman remains seated, and the man crosses the floor and stands in front her.
9.  Only when you are standing face to face, eye to eye, should the woman get up to dance. (This prevents crossed signals, where the intended partner may be sitting in the line of site, but one or two rows back).
10. When the dance is finished, the man always walks the woman back to her table, and then returns to his own. 

In Buenos Aires, there is a beautiful way of inviting a woman to the dance floor. The mannerism is known as Cabeceo.
Cabeceo is the way of invitation to dance by exchanging glances. Once this "invitation" is made and "confirmation" with the glance "received", a man walks to the lady. Formal invitation may not even be needed - if it is done - it is a part of the "play".
Some people think it is some sort of a special Argentinean tango code. Cabaceo should be learned.

Only when you are standing face to face, eye to eye, should the woman get up to dance. (This prevents crossed signals, where the intended partner may be sitting in the line of site, but one or two rows back). 

When the dance is finished, the man always walks the woman back to her table, and then returns to his own. 


While the cabeceo is one of the traditional codigos of tango. Ladies, Under all circumstances remain in your seat until the gentleman has come to collect you and is standing right in front of you! This will avoid the embarrasment of you possibly thinking the cabeceo is for you, and either being publically denied, which means slinking back to your seat or offending the other party, in which case both of the other dancers will just roll their eyes, and think you a stupid tourist, but the gentleman being a gentleman will dance with you anyways, but then it is more of a courtesy dance...which is what you really do not want.


It is a beautiful expression I found on the dance floor where men (who fear rejection) do not directly approach a woman for a dance but first make an eye contact with her. A woman has the choice to engage in that eye contact or look away and pretend that she is engaged in some conversation. 


In some parts of the world, people are trained not to stare. They find this mannerism very uncomfortable. One of my Spanish friend would sit idle during the milonga and was never approached for dance because she said, she could never continuously stare across the room.