Some experiences with the Cabeceo

Following the advice from a previous post, I’ve decided to try the cabeceo and here are some of my experiences over a period of several months …

  1. I invite a friend and I perceive her reaction as an acceptance of my invite to dance. I maintain eye contact as I walk over to her and when I reach her, we start a conversation, she then invites me to sit next to her. After a while, a man comes over and verbally asks her to dance. She accepts and dances with him.
  2. I invite a friend from a distance and she accepts with a smile and a nod. We walk towards each other and meet on the edge of the dance floor. We start a brief conversation and then she asks me if I’d like to dance.
  3. I am sitting down and I invite a lady to dance. She smiles, nods and gets up. But before I get up, she walks over to a friend and they get on the dance floor together.

All of the above experiences happen on a Friday night at Negracha and with different women of at least one year’s experience and at least one has been to Buenos Aires.

The above are experiences when the cabeceo did not work for me. However, I’ve had many instances where I invite a lady, she accepts and we get up and dance, not much of a story to tell.

I was first taught the Cabeceo four years ago during an introduction to Argentine Tango class in The States. I first thought what a weird way to invite someone to dance. Why do you have to do it from the distance and in  secrecy? When I finally went to my first Argentine Tango milonga, I saw many men verbally asking women to dance so I didn’t think much of the Cabeceo.

In the past couple of months, I’ve used to Cabeceo alot. On some nights almost exclusively and with success. But its not easy in London and here are some of the reasons why I think that is so:

  1. Only some people know what it is, some treat a nod as a hello or greeting so out of politeness, even if they don’t know you, they’ll smile back.
  2. The lights are dimmed so you can’t see very far.
  3. Some women are only staring in to the dance floor and not actively searching so you have to get right in front of them, and in that case, its almost the same as inviting verbally since you’re in speaking range.
  4. Some people do not clear the floor during a cortina, or there are no cortinas so there’s always a curtain of people between you and the lady you intend to invite.
  5. While manoeuvring myself into the line of sight of a lady who isn’t actively search for a dance partner, a bozo comes over to her and verbally asks her to dance. To some, this is an incentive not to use the Cabeceo since bozo got there first.

So will I continue to use the cabeceo? I certainly will. Will I rely on it exclusively? Probably not. Negracha is probably one venue where I can try it out, some other venues are worse – 33 Portland Place for example, the upstairs dance floor as a narrow entrance on the side of the room where men and women stand together.

The other night while Negracha has a special class on stage tango,  Carablanca had one devoted purely to salon tango taught by Andreas Wichter who requested that the lights be turned up a bit so that people see a little further and could use the Cabeceo. I think it worked out well for me that night. I would certainly like it to continue that way.

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7 Responses to “Some experiences with the Cabeceo”

  1. Arlene Says:

    Hi Yab,
    I think you are losing it when you start a conversation.
    I am also wondering if you are actually doing the cabeceo correctly even though you say it works for you sometimes.
    It isn’t about just a look, it is also about a nod of the head to the dancefloor. I think because of the dim lighting, women can get a bit confused with the cabeceo.
    As for eye contact in general, most people in this country don’t get it at all. I have had many years of practice in the crowded bars of New York. I know how to get a bartender’s attention. 😉

  2. jantango Says:

    I agree with Arlene that starting a conversation is your downfall. Your intention is to dance. Approach the area where the woman is seated after she acknowledges your invitation and wait for her on the floor.

    Try different head movements until you find the one that works most of the time. The cabeceo in Buenos Aires milongas is very subtle. Try tilting your head to the side giving an indication in the direction of the floor.

    At least you are not giving up with the cabeceo. Tell the women that you are using it to invite them, so they will be attentive. If I had a webcam, I would offer a live demonstration of the many ways I’m invited to dance in Buenos Aires. Timing is everything. The women in London need to be aware that it is being used or they will never learn. If you don’t use it in BsAs, you don’t dance.

  3. yabotil Says:

    Thanks for the advice, I normally only start conversations with friends. If I invite a friend using the cabeceo, I assume it would be rude to just dance straight away and not engage in some chat? Perhaps now I’ll make it very clear I want to dance. If its a women I’ve not danced before, I wouldn’t start chatting and definitely start dancing straight away.

    I was in Brussels for the weekend and the cabeceo sort of worked for me there – actually, the codigos there seemed even more lax than London (could just be that one venue I went to). I don’t see a lot of invitations on the edge of the dance floor, people seemed to go to the bar in the next room and then come back with dance partners. Some women there, just like London, also weren’t actively searching for dance partners and sat there gazing onto the dance floor and some people seemed to be verbally asking for dances.

  4. jantango Says:

    We go to the theater to watch a performance or to a concert hall to listen to an orchestra; we don’t go there for the purpose of engaging in conversation. It would be rude to talk during the performances and disturb others.

    By the same token, we go to a dance hall to dance. We aren’t being rude if we don’t engage in conversation. There is a performance going on. Imagine the place is a theater. You are enjoying the performances on the dance floor and participating with others. Isn’t it rude to talk while the music is playing for our dancing enjoyment?

    Women want to dance. Smile, offer your embrace to her and get on with it.

  5. Simba Says:

    I concur with the others, don’t let the conversation get in the way of dancing. You can always engage in a little conversation in between the songs and when you accompany her back to her table…

    I sometimes try using small jokes to edutain women about the cabeceo, saying things like don’t you want to dance with me, you’ve been ignoring me all night and similar to ones I know want to dance, but don’t practice the cabeceo, in the hope that they will pay more attention the next time.

  6. jantango Says:

    Here is an account of how one city is making headway with the cabeceo in their milonga. http://ireneandmanyung.blogspot.com/2009/09/cabeceo-at-la-cachila.html

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