Old School… “May I Have This Dance?”

After spending 8 months in Buenos Aires and experiencing the intelligently invented “cabeceo“, returning to Toronto’s way of requesting dances was quite difficult… to say the least.  One lovely milonga here in TO is encouraging it’s attendees to use the “cabeceo”.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that our community will “accept this dance” and be transformed.

Without the “cabeceo”, the somewhat accepted norm is that men ask women to dance.  Not surprisingly, as a feminist, K never hesitated to ask men to dance in the past (this was before the term “cabeceo” had entered the vocabulary of the Toronto Tango community).  We are not in the 1950′s.  These are modern times and IF a community does not want to fully incorporate all the codes and traditions of Argentine Tango, then we do believe that both men and women should be asking for dances.  That said, men have a harder job in the dance (with leading and floorcraft).  For that reason, we are tempted to say women shouldn’t ask men to dance.  Either way, women and men must both learn how to say “no” AND how to be ready for and accept rejection.

We both have difficulties saying no.  The ability to say “no” truly says a lot about one’s personality.  K needs to mentally prepare herself to do so.  After surveying the dance floor and its dancers, and making personal I-will-NOT-dance-with-him notes in her head, she is more prepared to say no if any of those men approach her.  K is the list-maker… the organizer.

Meanwhile Jorge keeps repeating to himself and to K that he will NOT dance with such-and-such a dancer, but when that dancer comes and asks him, “yes” is out of his mouth with barely a hesitation.  Jorge is a people-pleaser (something he hates about himself) and has difficulties dealing with conflict.

What an absolutely ridiculous situation to deal with when the “cabeceo” exists.  However there have been comments in our community that the “cabeceo” is archaic.  Sorry… what?!  Archaic is the idea that women are supposed to sit in a milonga looking pretty while they wait for a man to come and ask them to dance!  That or they can stalk men, corner them, and practically force them into a dance (unfortunately, that tends to be the extreme that women who do the asking choose).

The point is, IF individuals or communities do not want to use the “cabeceo”, and women and men are asking one another for dances, remember this one simple rule: Never NEVER stalk your potential dance partner.  Both of us have been the victim of this.  K’s stalker sat only a few seats away and attempted to “cabeceo” her.  Instead of understanding that she did not want to dance with him when she ignored him, the stalker continued to sit and stare through 2 tandas and only stopped for the third tanda when she got up to dance with Jorge.  However, upon her return, stalker decided that since the “cabeceo” didn’t work (that girl must be stupid or blind!?), he would just go straight up to K and ask for a dance!?  K politely declined, but was left to wonder if it was the stalker that was stupid or blind.

Jorge dealt with a similar situation when a female dancer, rather than coming directly up to him to ask for a dance, sat down a couple chairs away (twice) to “cabeceo” him.  Obviously there is a huge misunderstanding of how the “cabeceo” is used if the situation is still causing discomfort and awkwardness for one or both parties.

This may be Toronto, but we are dancing Argentine Tango.  There is enough difficulty in our Tango community embracing our partners and so the least we could do is embrace the culture of Tango.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

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