Invitation to the dance

Dancers come to Buenos Aires to go to the milongas. Those who come for the first or second time have to learn about the codes and customs. The following is a description of the various ways a woman is invited to dance. 
A personal invitation.    
This is probably the easiest and most acceptable form for foreigners since it achieves the desired result—they dance. What they don’t know is that men who approach women at their table use this method because foreigners are likely to accept. What the women don’t know is that these men don’t know how to dance. They will continue to invite the same women to dance for hours. If the women never decline, they won’t have the opportunity to dance with others. My advice is to ignore men who come to your table, and they won’t bother you again. No comment or excuse is required. They understand. If you are really desperate to dance and will settle for anyone no matter how badly he dances, then go ahead and accept. You’ll probably regret it later. I told you so. 
The Cabeceo (nod). 
This is the most common way of inviting a woman to dance. A man makes eye contact with a woman on the opposite side of the room while seated at his table. In a split second, he nods. If she wants to dance with him, she indicates her acceptance by responding in the same manner. If not, she merely looks in another direction. No one in the room knows that she has declined his invitation to dance. The cabeceo insures there is a mutual agreement between two people to dance a tanda. The man knows before he walks across the floor to her table that she has agreed to dance with him. Sometimes, reconfirmation is necessary with another nod. I have waited patiently to be invited by a milonguero, so I had to let him know I wanted to dance with him by resting my gaze on him continuously for hours. It was definitely worth the wait.
Read my lips.
This is another option used in the milongas. There are men who don’t use any movement of the head. Once eye contact is made, an almost imperceptible movement of the lips is made—bailas?—that is, do you want to dance? You read his lips and then respond with a facial expression or movement of the head. His invitation is worth accepting.  This form of invitation is used by milongueros.

The command.

The milongueros are the best dancers—la crème de la crème– and carefully select partners. They wait for their favorite orchestra or a tango that inspires them. They may not dance a complete tanda. It’s all about being patient and knowing which orchestra is their favorite, and then being ready to make eye contact at just the right moment. It happens in a split second and so subtly that no one else sees the invitation. Their invitation is done by the movement of the lips—bailamos or vamos. There is no movement of the head. It could be a wink of an eye. When they’re ready to dance, they give the command. Any woman is grateful she was chosen. The milongueros want to see a woman dance before they invite her because it’s important to them to dance well or not at all.

Revised as previously posted May 4, 2005 on Tango-L




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