Blog‎ > ‎Miscellanea‎ > ‎

Long-range ocular invitations: the art of mirada and cabeceo

posted Jan 7, 2015, 4:33 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Jan 10, 2015, 9:39 PM ]
north sydney tango lessons

"It's all about lines and directions...the key is precision and clarity." (Terpsichoral Tangoaddict)

"How wonderful it is to be flooded with that energy, especially from someone you would like to dance with. And what a deliciously flirtatious and powerful tool it is." 

Sharing this very useful advice in a post by tango blogger Terpsichoral Tangoaddict...

The Art of Long-Range Mirada/Cabeceo

'If you're at a very crowded milonga, particularly if you don't have the best seat (and let's assume it is the kind of formal place where you can't easily walk around), and you want to dance with a man who is sitting at the diametrically opposite end of the room, you're going to need your long-range mirada skills. Long-range mirada/cabeceo definitely is an art, but you can make it work for you. The key is precision and clarity.

First of all, prepare the ground with flirtatious pre-miradas during the cortina. By that, I mean, look around, twinkly-eyed and smiley, mouthing the occasional 'hello' and generally letting people know you're here, yes, way over here, but ready to dance with them should they look in your direction later. You can also squeeze in a few cheekily snatched pre-miradas as men are bringing women back to their seats at the end of a tanda, if those women are seated near you.

Then, when the tanda begins, choose a leader you want to dance with. It's often easiest to begin with those you dance with regularly who will be more alert to the possibility of a mirada from you -- you can save promising strangers for later in the evening when the milonga empties out a little and it becomes easier to spot each other. Don't get distracted by the sea of eyes looking out, don't let your gaze turn blurry and wander, but focus your eyes very precisely and clearly on one single person. The further they are away from you, the more intently you should stare (really, this does not have the same aggressive effect as it would close up). And it doesn't matter if you can't really see the exact expression in their eyes from where you are: you don't have to lipread; it's all about lines and directions.

If it's someone you know and often dance with and they seem to be craning their neck in your direction, make some actions as if you were craning your neck or moving your head to one side, around an invisible obstacle or over the top of an imaginary head, too. (Be very careful not to obstruct other women's sightlines as you do this.) If they appear to be looking back at you, without responding, or have their eyes fixed on another part of the room, they are probably trying to cabeceo someone else (perhaps behind or in front of or next to you) -- so move on to another potential partner. If you find that the guy next to them is nodding at you like a toy dachshund on a Ford Cortina dashboard and you really don't want to dance with him, just give a teeny gesture of moving your head to one side which suggests "sorry, no, it's your *neighbour* I'm aiming at!" (But please don't shake your head or waggle your finger as a 'no', unless you feel the poor guy deserves to have his confidence destroyed.)

Once you are both absolutely sure you are looking straight at each other, the actual signal can be pretty discreet, especially if you are regular dance partners. A single slightly raised eyebrow or the most imperceptible beginnings of a head waggle. Mirror the gesture and then nod once, clearly and emphatically. And maintain eye contact. The leader is the one who has to cross the room to collect you from your chair; he's the one who needs to be certain you meant him. There's often a little breakdance: motions to go, starting back, hesitating and hovering, frowning slightly ("was that for me?"), taking a tentative first little teeny tiny step, waiting, and then finally, oh fuck it, I'm risking it, at which point they stride with assumed confidence across the floor to claim you. Make it easier on them by giving a few confirmatory nods and by keeping your gaze fixed on them throughout.

Now, when it's so crowded, it is easy to get confused. Whatever you do, don't leap up from your chair until the guy is standing right in front of you and unmistakably looking at you. And then squidge and squeeze your way out of your tightly-slotted chair, taking care not to knock over any wine glasses, handbags suspended from tables (women, please tuck them under your chairs, if possible!) or spectacle cases or catch a corner of the tablecloth. Follow his lead as to where exactly to position yourself, if possible, on the floor (sometimes there's really only one possible slot, unless you are able to defy the laws of physics). And if you were mistaken and it wasn't for you, give an extra warm smile and attempt to scoot your hips out of the way to let your neighbour climb over you to the pista. If you're the guy and you were mistaken, laugh it off or (if you can) take a sudden detour to the bar with fake nonchalance ("no, no, not mistaken in a cabeceo, just off for a quick stroll").

If this all sounds very complicated, remember this: despite all the mistakes and difficulties, a lot of people at crowded traditional milongas dance all night long, with a slew of different partners. There are many many successful ocular transactions happening, often at what seems like lightning speed (watch how quickly the floor fills as the tanda begins -- without a word having been spoken -- even though we have many older people there, many myopic individuals, lots of glasses-wearers). You might need a little practice, but this is a system which has evolved because it's quick, efficient and easy.

Good luck!'

You might enjoy the related posts:
The 3 ingredients needed to survive and thrive in tango