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 strategyfor 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
Respect lies at the heart of tango, and it begins with that
most respectful of invitations to dance – the cabeceo.
It continues with the embrace the man offers the woman – one
of surrounding her with security.An
open embrace cannot provide this security, and one that puts her in
strait-jacket does not respect her response.
So what else should therespectful man bring to his partner? Clear body communication and good body
control will allow him to move with stability, balance, & precision. Add to that a knowledge of tango music that
will allow him to exhibit good musicality, with changing dynamics and energy.He
will have an ability to suggest the next movement …. and then wait for her
response, finally moving with her.His
aim will be to create a resonance of movement and response to the music with
his partner.The bottom line – a
constant focus on his partner: his lead, her response – as well as an acute
awareness of the music.Respect for her!
What can we say of the man who ignores much of this?The man who believes that there is no reason
to develop himself because he will dance anyway … most often by pressuring women
with direct requests.Is he
disrespectful, arrogant, or just plain lazy?
Regardless of the answer, let’s encourage the men who show
respect for women in their tangocommunity
by wanting to improve, using whatever means available to them. That involves
more than going to lots of milongas and dancing every tanda in the same way. Women deserve better than this!
I suspect most women would gladly accept the cabeceo
invitation of men who respect their partners - those men who make an ongoing effort
to internalise the music and develop their social dancing skills.
How important is a cortina, apart from clearing the dance-floor between tandas?
Does it affect the mood and energy of the milonga?
Might it complement or clash with the preceding music?
What is the ideal length of a cortina?
Is it a problem if the same cortina is used all the time?
Should the DJ bother with this, and just focus on the tandas?
Well, I'm going to have a little gripe. I wish more DJs would indeed consider the contribution of the cortina. I've seen the mood created by the most thoughtful selection of music spoiled by a cortina which is soporific & energy-sapping or jarringly inappropriate.
Cortinas which allow dancers to not only clear the floor, but are also long enough to return to one's seat, have a drink and reconnect with those around, are considerate of the dancers. So, nowadays my cortinas are usually around one minute in length, and that seems to work well.
Personally, I like using a variety of cortinas to complement or spice up the mood during a milonga - not too gloomy or bland. On the other hand, the Heavy Metal cortinas which I heard some years ago in Buenos Aires, of all places, were way beyond the pale. Some current favourites: Pretty woman (Roy Orbison), Words of love (Mamas & Papas), Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield), Back to black (Amy Winehouse), Hard times (Ray Charles), Breaking up is hard to do (Neil Sedaka).
Am I being too precious? Does the cortina really matter at all? Next time you're at a milonga, take note and decide for yourself.
The great Troilo, bandoneón player par excellence, orchestra director and composer was born 100 years ago 11 July 1914, a day also commemorated nowadays as the Día del Bandoneón in Argentina. With the right partner, I love dancing to his music. Here are just a couple of my favourites:
Troilo with singer Francisco Fiorentino
With Alberto Marino
Reasonable quality Troilo recordings have been very difficult to acquire until recently. So, if the Troilo bug has bitten you, head to TangoTunes.