Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tangueras choose their men like golf clubs

Tangueros I think you will understand this.

Advanced tangueras chose their partner just like any golfer would chose the right club for the task before them.  Is it a long drive?  Are they in the sand pit or on the green?

Similar to a golfer, a tanguera avanzada will choose a putter-milonguero for a transpie milonga.  The 5-iron, the guy in the nice tie and dapper shoes for the vals.  And Mr. Wood, is her driver for long shots.  Perfect for music by Pugliese (here's a link: Osvaldo Pugliese).

This being true, gentlemen, why would you ever get her to respond to a cabeceo* before the music starts?  That would be like using a driver on the wrong part of the course!  She may know that you are great with everything except music from Di Sarli (Carlos Di Sarli); so she is avoiding you only because she doesn't know which club she needs!  

I received an insightful comment from an advanced tanguera, which I have added to the Tango Etiquette Page (CLICK HERE -- it's always in the right margin on my blog).   This is some great advice for both men and women on the cabeceo:

Graduate-level Cabeceo:  Gentlemen, pay attention to this tanguera's advice (Señorita N.) if you feel you are ready for dancing with the more advanced ladies who have different tangueros for every flavor of tango:  "For the cabeceo, the guys should always wait to hear what the music is before looking for a partner.   There are men with whom I would dance a tango or a vals, but never a traspie milonga.  You can acknowledge me as you dance by and then I will know you will will soon look for me.  The porteños do it by raising their eyebrows as they lock eyes.  Men, if you are only dancing with the young and pretty in the sparkly dresses, then you are missing out on some of the best dancers in the room. There is a reason all the young women flock to the milongas with the 70-year old me
n in Buenos Aires.  And it is not because they are tall and good looking, or have a large repertoire of steps.  It is because we old ladies have taught them how to cherish a partner."  

Now you have it gentlemen:  Golf does not mean "Gentlemen Only; Women Forbidden. It means "Girls Only Love Fun."

Give them what they want only after the music starts.

*A cabeceo is a nod of the head to someone who allows eye contact (usually between "sets" [tandas], thus avoiding asking someone to dance who might not wish to.  To see the fuller discussion on this go to:, which has links at the bottom for even more info.


  1. Truth!

    (And the reason it drives me so crazy when people snap up partners during the cortina; how do you know that is the person you want to dance with to that music? But whatever; I mostly just get annoyed when it means I can't seek out a specific partner whom I might like to dance with for that tanda.)

    Any more, whenever I'm asked to dance before the tanda begins, I say something like, "Let's see what the music is first." If it's not something I want to dance to (or dance to with that person), but I do want to dance with that person, I'll say something like, "How about we find each other again for the next [traditional] tango?" I haven't figured out any better way to handle it, in general.

    (NB: This generally only happens to me with guys who don't cabeceo. It has been my experience that leaders who do use the cabeceo are usually also knowledgeable enough to pay attention to the music before trying to select their partners.)

  2. @Accidental Tangoiste... I think your solution should be added to the Tango Etiquette Page! "Let's see what the music is first"; and "How about we find each other again..." if the music doesn't fit either the man or the music doesn't move you. Your comment about the cabeceo is also my observation -- that the majority of problems happen when or even because of the cabeceo not being used. The same guy who came over and asked you walked past me as I was waiting to catch your eye. Thanks for helping him with his manners! :-)

  3. Great post Mark! I have always wondered how someone could make a choice of who they were going to dance with without knowing what the music was going to be. It is sad, and indicative of the fact that they don't really value the music-- Tango is the MUSIC.
    See commandment # 9 in Ten Commandments of Milongueros.

    Some things that you might want to add to the etiquetes:
    Ladies and Gentlemen, clear the floor after the tanda.
    Take time to listen to the music (previous comment)
    To the men: Please let's be gentlemen, inviting a lady to dance is not a zero sum game, the purpose is not to hoard dances a partners, but to create a space where we can all enjoy ourselves.

    I rather not dance than fight for partners, it is just so illmanered.

  4. Ha! They don't always seem to get it, but I try. :) Of course, I'd probably rather be dancing with the man who waits and cabeceos...

    Thank you for writing this, sir!

  5. I agree that a dancer who completely satisfies for one style can be very frustrating for another. Just the other night I found myself on the dance floor for a milonga with a favorite dance partner for a creative slow tango. What a disppointment -- I would waste a terrific milonga and this wonderful dancer would no longer be mine when the next intense slow tango played. Nonetheless, I almost always pick a partner or find myself picked before the music even starts -- because if I wait most everyone will be paired up and I might end up sitting it out. I even chide the ones who wait as being too picky. If a guy has to hear the music first it goes through my head -- you will only dance with me if the music is a certain style? I'll think -- there's a sea of women sitting waiting to dance if only you looked their way -- how self centered to avoid their eyes until you knows which one (if any) matches the music. If I do approach such a man and he requests to wait to hear the music, I am stuck having to wait too. After waiting, he better not say he'd rather dance that music with someone else! Even if he simply politely declines -- he is not sure he can dance to that music -- I likely loose the tanda at that point. I will be wistfully thinking -- if I had only asked a jack of all trades, I would be dancing now! Waiting for perfection doesn't always pay off!
    DC Tanguera

  6. Hola DC Tanguera... I actually agree with you. I know that especially in a fast-paced place like DC that if I am not catching the lady's eye, that she will be gone. Washington DC is the one place that I am ASKED to dance more than any other place, and of course the men ASK the ladies as well. Cabeceo be damned! The Tango Etiquette Page (sidebar of this blog) was an attempt to help my present tango community (DC). Having said all this, I still think that manners and etiquette are still a part of tango, just as they are at the table. Sure, if everyone is grabbing up the food at a table and not even waiting for the host to sit down, it is hard to sit there with an empty plate -- the "reward" for having a bit of culture! This is a hard question and I find myself having to adjust my manners in DC too. It is worse for you, of course, because tangueras who wait will dance last or not at all. No hay derecho, pero asi es.


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