Argentine Tango is unique, and quite simply one of the most beautiful dances in the world. Dancing tango socially can be fun, cathartic; even transformative. We want to make sure you are getting the most out of those precious moments on the dance floor, and enjoying the milonga experience as a whole.
One of the trickiest things, especially for beginners, is understanding how to invite another person to dance; especially if you don’t know that many people (yet!)
There are two main ways of inviting:
The direct approach: You walk right up to the person you would like to invite, and ask if they’d like to dance.
The subtle approach: You use Cabeceo or Mirada; make eye-contact, give a quick nod, and make your invitation long-distance.
Cabeceo was established over the years in the milongas of Buenos Aires and Montevideo for efficiency; and more importantly, to avoid the “embarrassment” of your invitation being declined, up close and personal, and having to walk away empty handed.
So, here are some guidelines for how to invite somebody to dance, properly.
PICK THE RIGHT MOMENT
In theory, you can invite somebody to dance whenever you like, but if you want a higher success rate, pay attention to the Tandas (usually sets of 4 tangos or 3 milongas/vals) and Cortinas (the short pieces of alternative music between tandas)
Get Ready: When the cortina starts playing, pay attention!
Try to make your invitation within the first or second song of the next tanda- that’s when everybody else is paying attention too, and looking for their next dance. It’s good to wait until the tanda starts so both you, and your prospective partner, know if you like to dance to that orchestra and if it’s going to be a Tango, Milonga or Vals tanda.
The word Cabeceo comes from the Spanish verb “Cabecear” which means “to nod”. Traditionally, this nod is used by the leaders. You make eye contact with the person you want to dance with, smile, and give a quick nod to make your intentions clear.
If the other person returns your gaze and nods back, you walk to the other person to meet them, and start dancing.
If they look away or seem to be avoiding your gaze, that person is politely declining your invitation (remember not to take it personally).
The word Mirada comes from the Spanish verb “Mirar” which means “to look”.
This technique is traditionally used at the milonga by the followers. Eye-contact captures the leader’s gaze and lets them know “I want to dance with you.”
CAN FOLLOWERS INVITE ?
Yes, absolutely! In our opinion there is nothing wrong with a follower inviting. But be advised that at more traditional milongas and events, it may not be as well received, and you’ll probably be more successful using mirada.
THE DIRECT APPROACH
Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise; both ways of inviting somebody to dance are okay!
Opinions are always divided about which way is the “correct” way, depending on where you go dancing. Using Cabeceo/Mirada is the more accepted and preferred way of inviting for many people. But at more liberal events asking somebody to dance in person is totally normal, especially if you’re inviting a friend to dance.
Just take it in your stride, practice, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
HOW TO DECLINE AN INVITATION
This potentially can be an awkward and tricky moment. How to decline somebody’s invitation to dance… But it doesn’t have to be, and there’s a way to do so kindly.
Declining a Cabeceo/Mirada invitation (yes it works both ways). You will notice that somebody is trying to make eye contact with you. If you don’t feel like dancing for whatever reason, just casually look away in another direction (you’re not being mean, this is just how the system works).
Declining a Direct Invitation can be a bit tricky but not impossible to do. Always, always, always do so in a polite manner and if possible with a smile (no need to be rude about it).
Because the other person is inviting you directly, you can reply in a direct manner too by saying “no thank you” FYI – you are not obliged to give a reason or explanation at all!
Try not to decline the invitation with an “excuse”, unless it’s a valid reason you can’t / don’t want to dance. For example if you say “I’m tired” but the next Tanda you start dancing with somebody else. It’s unnecessary, and quite frankly it’s hurtful to the other person.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY !
Understand that if you are inviting someone to dance- the other person is not obligated to accept your invitation. If you are the inviting party, one of two things might happen:
The other person accepts your invitation, and off you go dancing the tanda away (lucky you)
Or the other person declines your invitation. If that happens try not to take it personally! There are all sorts of reasons why they may not want to dance- with you- at that particular moment: They’ve just finished dancing, they don’t like the music, they’re waiting for a friend, they’re tired… and so on and so forth. Don’t waste your energy agonising over why; just smile, gracefully accept the declination, and keep your options open to maybe dance with that person another time.
In other blogposts, we’ll give you some more tips & tricks about some common mistakes people make when inviting somebody to dance, and how to avoid them. And for Followers how to increase your chances of getting invited to dance.
See you on the dance floor soon!