Tango has developed a series of codes so that those of us who dance can enjoy dancing and interacting with people in the most practical, respectful and fun way.
One of these codes and perhaps the most important one, outside the dance floor (because there are some of them also inside the dance floor) is: the cabeceo (gesture made with the head as an invitation to dance). The cabeceo is the way to ask somebody to dance, but is actually part of the tango language, the language of looks. A way of looking at someone has indeed a great power. Since the beginning of time, people have used their gaze to recognize, accept, reject, intimidate or defend themselves.
Just one look has the power to freeze you, turn you on, motivate you, make you feel like you are a king or a queen or even leave you out of your game. There is a wonderful movie called: Memoirs of a Geisha, where the teacher asks her apprentice to choose a man in the market and make him stop with just one look. Stunned, the student says: “That is not possible to do.” Then the teacher says: “Choose a man for me and learn.” The girl chooses an elegant man, and the teacher passes by and looks at him, keeping her gaze until he cannot see her eyes anymore. The man loses his mind by that look and… well… How does the story go on? I recommend you to watch the movie😉
This is a look only the dancers know. The same thing happens in the milonga, these invitations are so subtle that only those looking at each other know what is happening. What I mean is that these looks speak for themselves. Children and their mothers (and also some fathers) know this very well. In their eyes lay an encrypted language that only they understand. In the milonga when you want to ask somebody to dance, you look subtly searching for a partner to dance with, it is most likely that others are doing the same, so when two gazes meet and connect for more than a second it means that there may be a chance. Now one of the actors, normally the man, takes the initiative (although, less often, the woman can do it too) and asks the other to dance with a nod (as if signaling a soft “yes”).
If the look is answered with an affirmative gesture, both will meet themselves on the dance floor skirting the room and start dancing. If one of the actors is not interested (usually the woman), she will look the other way for another dancer. This magnificent code saves us time and energy; and, in addition to enjoying this wonderful language of looks, allows us to respect the other’s intention without exposing him or her. Each party will only invite people who are also searching with their eyes to dance and will ignore those who do not have an interested look.
The rule is: if you want to dance, you will search with your eyes, if you don´t, you will simply not do it. So, if you’re a man, don’t insist on asking a girl to dance if she isn´t looking, especially if she isn’t looking at you.
Another way to ask somebody to dance, which is not the traditional one, and is usually used in a more informal way or by inexperienced dancers, is to approach girl’s table and ask her there. This code can be annoying for both, because if the woman says no, she finds herself in the uncomfortable position of rejecting you and you being the one who approached her will face a rejection which can be devastating for your emotions. So, it is best to approach at a safe distance and make sure that you have been noticed by her radar and then wait for visual contact.
There are other details to consider, maybe the woman is waiting for someone (a boyfriend, a lover, or who knows…) If you don’t search with your eyes and just go to her table, it is very likely that you will face a blunt no for an answer and not only that, but you will also get an exceptional gesture of disapproval. And be careful, it could also be a possibility that some of these women feed their egos rejecting men. 😎
In short, if you go to the milonga, use the Cabeceo code, this way, you get to experience this wonderful language and grow your perception. You will be able to take the first step to start dancing, because the dance doesn’t start with the hug, it starts with the look. Furthermore, in that look you will already see the way he is going to embrace you, it is the prelude to the dance, which can be intensified or not, according to how you feel each other step by step.