Nodding one's head and looking for a partner ... or the cabeceo

Generally Australians don't use eye contact This video is a very clever way to show how the cabeceo operates from a woman's point of view...
The cabeceo is the way to ask for a dance in the milongas of Buenos Aires, not so elsewhere.

Australians, like North Americans, are slow to use the cabeceo in a milonga - and many - both men and women - say they prefer to ask. When women ask though they spoil the dynamics of the night. However it is understandable why so many do. In Australian milongas there is a drastic shortage of men who dance tango - and the good and popular dancers have their favourites. Which means that women can miss out. This woman is young and pretty and in a local milonga would probably not have to wait long before someone asked her to dance, either verbally or by cabeceo - even if she can't dance very well.
However that said, I have seen this actual scenario at milongas in Sydney - and have been cut out of a dance that I thought I was being invited to, in this way.
I think there is probably room for both ways of inviting a person to dance. We sit at tables of both men and women so when you know someone at your table  asking is actually more polite in our society - but when the person you want to dance with is sitting at another table, the cabeceo is ideal. What do you think?


Anonymous said…
I think the cabaceo or la mirada as it's also called is completely the way to go. I have known more than one dancer, male and female, quit the tango scene because they were sick of being asked to dance by people they didn't want to dance with. Among the traditional dancers in Buenos Aires it's considered rude to ask someone to dance because you a) then force them to say no which is awkward for both or b) force them to dance when they don't want to but wish not to hurt the inviter's feelings. The cabaceo/mirada saves face all round. Oh that it was the custom everywhere!
Janis said…
The word is cabeceo, not cabaceo. Cabeceo means nod, nodding, shake of the head, toss of the head. The verb is cabecear.

I think the cabeceo is an important part of milonga culture. It's been around since the 1940s. Verbal invitations are annoying and unnecessary. People make eye contact in every day life on the street, so why is it a problem when it comes to dancing?
Thanks for pointing out the literal Jan, I have corrected it.
I don't think you can make a blanket statement about verbal invitations - not everyone finds them annoying - and some find maintaining eye contact confronting. There needs to be some flexibility.
Janis said…
I agree with Anonymous -- it should be used everywhere.
Anonymous said…
There are two factors here, the ladies who are constantly in conversation with someone,I assume dancing is not their priority and the long table seating where a prospective partner has their back to one, I believe the cabeceo can still be in-acted buy walking to a position a reasonable distance within eye site, if they ignore your head nod or dive into the bottom of their handbag as happened to me at El Beso you can have a cup of tea.
David G

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