We have written often about the power of the cabeceo - the invitation to dance. However, there’s a case to be made that the cabeceo injects other elements into the milonga – and not necessarily explicitly.
Clearly, the cabeceo is a strategy for engaging with other dancers, but it also shows a willingness to engage. It can be very frustrating for a dancer, accustomed to using the cabeceo, to attend milongas where he/she is faced with dancers who rely on the direct approach. He/she will sit, looking around for eye-contact, willing to engage, but receive no response. The others will chat, dance only with their friends, or scroll through their text messages! Going to a milonga, where everyone who wishes to dance the tanda is actively looking, is such a relief.
…. and what about the milongas where the cabeceo has become the norm? I would suggest that the dancers have also adopted other codes of behaviour, typical of traditional milongas – and this spills over into how they dance. There’s a greater likelihood that the line-of-dance and navigation are good, there’s a respect for other couples, movements are conservative, the atmosphere is calm, and the dancers are attentive to the music. In other words, an engaging place to be.