"Is it ok for me to ask you to dance?"
"I prefer to use the cabeceo. You have to ask with your eyes," I replied.
"So I just need to look at you and you will dance with me?" he asked.
"No, I have to return the look. If I don't that means no. Thank you for your understanding, the cabeceo is important to me."
Now, since the gentleman in question was a real gentleman, this was totally ok with him and he didn't ask "why" or "why not" or try to sit and chat with me until I relented.
Now that I follow and lead, I understand even more why the cabeceo is so important in tango. Maybe there's a lot of people who feel differently, but for me, there's a sacred space in the embrace. I have to trust and accept the person I allow into that space in order to create a tango that is 100%.
I hate dancing half-assed tango. There's no point to it. Are any of you out there just "going through the motions" because you have been forced to dance with someone you don't want to dance with, just to be nice? Well, you have got to stop. You are hurting your Tango duende*.
* Tango duende - a protective tango muse spirit that has to be carefully nurtured in order to develop into full potential to grant the protectee special tango powers. Too much abuse of the Tango duende will make the Tango muse flee in horror and turn your tango into a kind of partnership line dancing.
Let me break it down on both sides:
Follower's perspective on a non-cabeceo invitation to dance:
You know what? I am purposely not looking in your direction because I don't want to dance with you. I see you fine. I am not blind or ignorant.
Yes I am busy looking at my phone but that doesn't mean you get to stand three feet from me and wave in my face to get my attention. Has it crossed your mind that I think whatever is on my phone would be a better use of my time than a tanda with you? Well, it's true.
Do you really want to know the reasons why I don't want to dance with you?
It may be nothing personal. I am tired. I don't like this tanda. I don't know you and I don't know how you dance. Maybe my knee hurts. No, I don't want you to sit and share with me your traditional folk remedy involving cabbage and frozen peas for fixing knee joint pain for the next twenty minutes.
It may be absolutely personal. Here's a list:
- I don't like the way you dance. You fling.
- I don't like the way you dance. You have no musicality.
- I don't like the way you dance. WTF are you leading? I don't get it.
- I don't like the way you dance. There's a 1 in 5 chance you are going to fall over and/or step on my toes.
- Your embrace sucks. I enjoy hugging trees more than hugging you.
- I am trying to cabeceo the gentleman behind you because I enjoy dancing with him more than you. Stop being in the way.
- Our height difference gives me a crick in my neck and a twinge in my back.
- I don't like your choice of cologne.
- You have put on too much cologne and it's more like a toxic gas than a pleasant citrus/floral breeze. Besides, I want to smell like the perfume I put on before I came to the milonga today and not like what you put on.
- I don't like smelling your natural body odour/oh gawd, you friggin' STINK.
This reason is a biggie for me. I can't dance properly if I am gagging at a horrible stench!
- I don't like your bad breath.
- I don't like your personality.
- I don't like talking to you. Or listening to what you have to say.
- I get an allergic reaction from one or all of the above. Hives. Runny nose. Urge to vomit.
- I would dance with you if you use the cabeceo. But since you didn't I don't want to.
If I had to say any or all of the above to a non-cabeceoing leader, that's quite bad enough.
But not quite as bad as me having to say "No" straight to your face and have you slink all the way back to your side of the room in humiliating defeat while everyone in the room is watching. Right?
Leader's perspective on why it is better to get a dance from a follower with the cabeceo:
It is always BETTER to dance with someone who is willing to dance with me than someone who isn't.
I don't see the point of forcing or pressuring a follower to dance. I don't care how "good" she is (I know some leaders out there are like "She's such a good dancer I've got to try her out!" Like she was a new car and they want to go for a test drive).
I've danced with ladies who didn't really want to dance with me. Maybe they were curious about following a woman leader or their friend who had danced with me and enjoyed it pushed them to ask me to dance.
I don't know if other leaders can feel the difference, but I do.
Followers who aren't willing just don't connect.*
* No entrega. As to what this means and what this feels like, this is a subject of another post.
If someone is willing to return my cabeceo, that's actually the beginning of our connection. We can dance a real tango if we connect.
If someone isn't accepting my cabeceo, I tell you, it's for a really good reason (see above).
I'm man/woman enough to accept AND respect that.
In fact, even though Man Yung and I are partners, a tanda that begins with a cabeceo between the two of us is more Tango than one that does not!
More of our posts on the are Cabeceo here.