It’s now or never

I guess this is as good a time as any to start.  It’s been ages since I’ve had a desire to rant publicly about my tango experiences and tango in general, but that single best topic worth kicking off the blog never came up.  Or at least, nothing ever seemed important enough once a day or two had passed after I felt passionately bitchy about it.

So here goes my first rant…  it’s nothing new and it’s nothing exciting, but has to be my biggest tango pet-peeve:  non-use of  the cabeceo.  Tangueros in the UK, or at least those in the milongas I’ve been to, do not feel the need to use the cabeceo.  There are a few who do, but they are certainly the exception.

Lack of the use of the cabeceo is, to say the least, irritating.  How come so many men fail to  realise how tiring it is for a tanguera to have to constantly come up with a decent set of excuses to refuse to dance?  There may well be a set of reasons for any woman to not want to dance with a particular dancer for a particular tanda on a particular occasion.  The reason could be my mood, his attitude, the music, his dancing in general, the vibe he gives off tonight, his embrace, connection (or lack thereof), his style, my level, his level,  my self-confidence on the  day, …  or any combination of these or other factors.  Why put one or both of us  into the unpleasant situation of being refused, feeling bad for refusing, or, upon failure to come up with a creative excuse, putting up with a tanda because it was–for some silly reason–impossible to avoid?  I am very passionate about my tango; I never want to ‘put up’ with any tanda or have anyone ruin a single dance, let alone a tanda or even an entire evening for me.  That’s why the cabeceo matters.

It’s not only the tangueros.  It would be nice if the milonga  organisers made the slightest effort to promote the use of cabeceo.  There’s been a long  discussion thread about this on Tango-L if anybody’s interested.  The how and the why on what to do and what not to do was dissected at length, so I will not digress here.  Lack of encouragement in this direction is simply disappointing, although I feel the responsibility belongs primarily to the dancers themselves.  It has to start somewhere, though.  And that’s where I think the milonga organisers and other influencers (instructors, experienced dancers, etc) within the tango community can help most.

I think it will be a while, if ever, before the cabeceo becomes widely used here.  In the meantime, if I become a popular dancer, I might try to ruin my chances of ever getting any invites by demanding the cabeceo.  And of course, I’ll make sure to report the results of such an experiment here.

p.s. I read about this in countless blogs / articles, but thanks to Bora ( for describing so well ( in her latest series of posts about her Buenos Aires visit) how a woman can be in control.


4 Responses to “It’s now or never”

  1. Modern Tanguera made her plea recently about the cabeceo.
    There are many varieties on the art of the invitation. When
    milongas everywhere are arranged so that it is actually possible to
    use, men may get the idea that it’s a good thing. Even the milongas
    of BsAs have their share of “walkers” and “stalkers” who approach
    tables or stare without getting the hint. I’ve been eagerly
    awaiting your rants for a long time. Glad you’re fired up on a good

  2. Hi Bitch! Good to finally see you in the blogosphere. I
    wrote about why I say no to a dance, but I never verbalise my
    excuses. ‘Just say no’, is my motto when you don’t feel like it. We
    don’t need to explain ourselves. There are many men who just don’t
    get using eye contact to get what they want. I don’t think it is a
    natural thing for the English to do. It is a pet peeve of mine too.
    I always smile and say ‘no, thank you’ if I don’t want to dance
    with someone. If they insist on knowing why, I might give them a
    reason. It’s a tricky one, but maybe one day the men will see
    sense. Some do!

  3. @Jan: I knew I’d seen something on this topic in a recent blog, thanks for reminding me it was Modern Tanguera. I remember thinking at the time when I read her post how wholeheartedly I agreed.

    @Arlene, that’s probably the best approach – I will give that a go next time. I think the only time I have an issue is with people I know well in our community – I feel like I owe them an explanation. But that is just so NOT tango bitch style!

    For completeness, here are the links mentioned in the comments. Both are excellent posts relevant to the topic of this post:

  4. Hi Tangobitch. I have to respectfully disagree (at least partially). I really enjoy milongas where the cabeceo is used in Buenos Aires. I often find it easier to get good dances at those places than elsewhere, where it’s not clear what the etiquette is for signalling that you want to dance with someone.

    But I am not at all offended by anyone coming up to me and asking me to dance. I don’t feel the need to give any excuses. If I don’t want to dance with the person I just say “no, thanks”. I feel it’s really no big deal and I would never be offended at them for asking. If I think I will enjoy dancing with them, I will happily dance with them, however they sent their invitation, even if it arrived by carrier pigeon. And if I don’t think so, I won’t. I’m much more interested in the dance experience itself than in the social etiquette surrounding it.

    Having said that, when there is no cabeceo things can be awkward for the woman. Many men don’t like to be asked to dance directly and if I can’t invite them more subtly by simply eyeing them I am left with no option but to sit demurely waiting for a man to come over and ask me, i.e. I don’t have the right of choice, only of veto. And that definitely makes me feel disempowered.

    I write a short dramatisation of the experience of the cabeceo at a my favourite Buenos Aires milonga, El Beso, here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: