New to big milongas? Cabaceo can be your friend.

New to big milongas? Cabaceo can be your friend.

Welcome to Tango in the Spring! We hope you have a fabulous time and enjoy lots of great dancing and music with new and old friends. Tango lovers from all over Australia are gathered here, so we want to encourage you to make new friends, and find new dancing partners. If you are from interstate, ask the people who showed you to your table to introduce you to some locals.  We’ll try to change the seating arrangements each night, so you can more easily meet some new people.

How do I get a dance here?

If you are new to big milongas, it can be a bit hard — different people have different ideas about how they choose who to dance with, and how they ask. Some people will seem to only dance with people they know, especially at the beginning. Some will expect to walk up to people and ask for a dance verbally  — and some will only respond to a non-verbal request.

Enjoy the milonga whether you are dancing or not, but be active in seeking dances.

Cabaceo: the long-distance non-verbal method

Cabeceo refers to the nod of the head that is used to signal the offer and acceptance of dances at a milonga. It can be a great way to invite people to dance — and accept or decline a dance — in a gentle, low-risk way, especially for a shy person. It minimizes public embarrassment — avoiding that long walk back to the table for someone who has just come all the way across the room and been turned down. And it helps ensure people aren’t dragged unwillingly on to the floor by more forward ways of asking.

Some people only use cabaceo, and others never use it — so you need to be observant.

At a crowded milonga, hundreds of offers and acceptances must fly back and forth across the room each time a new tanda begins, and the cabeceo is a practical way for everyone to quickly try to find a partner.

It’s easier than you think! Find someone you would like to dance with. Then, at the very beginning of the tanda, from where you are seated look at them and try and make eye contact. If you succeed in making eye contact, give them a friendly signal — smile, nod or raise your eye brows (whatever works for you!) as if to ask or suggest that you would like to dance with them. If they respond in kind, then you are in luck! Like any other way of asking, you have to be prepared for a “no”, but hope for a “yes”: if your offer is not accepted, persevere or try elsewhere.

Either the leader or the follower can initiate the eye contact, but once you are both nodding or smiling at each other, then the leader can approach the follower safe in the knowledge that you both want this dance, and invite them to take to the floor. It’s that easy!

Ladies: don’t wait to be asked

And ladies: you don’t need to wait to be asked! Cabeceo can be quite empowering in a gentle and civilized sort of way. You can initiate the request; and you can turn down someone easily too if you want.

You do need to be pretty active though — if no-one can catch your eye at the beginning of the tanda, they will quickly move their focus somewhere else. So, if you are busy chatting at your table when the tanda starts, your conversation partners will understand when you go into dance-seeking mode and excuse yourself!


Thanks for coming and sharing your tango with us. We hope you have a great weekend!