Blog‎ > ‎Miscellanea‎ > ‎

Partner Poaching

posted Nov 24, 2014, 10:54 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Nov 25, 2014, 2:17 PM ]
sydney tango lessons
Image by Tom Gettelfinger of Memphis

Sharing this blog post from Tango Salon Adelaide ((9/11/14)) about the bothersome phenomenon of 'partner poaching' in milongas where dance invitations are strictly made /accepted by cabeceo / mirada. 

There are no milongas like that in Sydney but plenty in Buenos Aires. In Sydney and other cities in Australia  the use of cabeceo is quite random and erratic, and usually employed by higher level dancers that have experienced tangoing in  Buenos Aires. So whilst this post is particularly worth reading if you are travelling to Buenos Aires for tango, it still has some relevance to the Australian tango scene.

Partner Poaching

'Sometimes our eye-sight doesn’t serve us well, and our use of the cabeceo suffers accordingly. There have been times when a lady has accepted my invitation from afar, but the man in the next seat has dashed across the floor before I’ve even risen. The lady has a choice – insist on waiting for me to arrive and send the ‘sprinter’ away, or dance with him, and give me a nod to indicate “next tanda”.

I have also found myself as one of two men approaching a lady, only to find that I’ve got it wrong. This situation has often been resolved by everyone laughing it off as part of the fun, followed by my retreat … although once, one of my regular partners at El Maipu, sitting nearby, fixed things by saying, “Come on Robert, let’s dance”! No retreat necessary.

However, there is another, less pleasant scenario that is talked about in some of the milongas in Buenos Aires, and at my local ones; this is the one involving the ‘partner poacher’. Certainly, the ‘sprinter’ above may be one of those, and if the lady doesn’t want to dance with him, she can choose not to. However, the talk is more about some women: they are close to the line of sight of the cabeceo from a man to a woman nearby; as the man approaches, she jumps up and enters the dance floor in front of the intended lady. Again, there is a choice at hand – this time by the man. He will normally not want to embarrass the lady on the floor, so will dance with her …. hopefully, with a nod to the lady still seated.

Sometimes the misunderstanding is unintended, and at other times, women talk about their partners being stolen. The ‘partner poacher’ gets her dance, but at what cost? Clearly, there is some ill-feeling from affected women. And for the man? He too will be disturbed, and may end up simply ‘going through the motions’ for the tanda, feeling resentful. All in all, not a good result.

So, what is the protocol? It’s quite simple really. Once the cabeceo has been successful, the man will approach the woman, making frequent eye contact solely with her; she will do the same, as confirmation that she is his intended partner. The woman should stay seated until the man is at her table, gives her another clear nod, then she should join him on the floor. In these circumstances the likelihood of mistakes, while never completely eliminated, is lessened and harmony in the milonga will prevail.' 

Some say that it doesn't exist, that it's  an urban myth - but I have lost a dance invitation to poachers in Buenos Aires on several occasions and it's very annoying! One reader suggests the following strategy:

'I find a good remedy for the latter form is to keep one's sight on your intended partner as you walk, and when mugged, don't make eye contact with the mugger but just say e.g. 'lo siento' (excuse me) and step around the obstruction.

I guess some might say such a display of impoliteness is not a good idea :) But I hope it does at least discourage further attempts.'

I agree with this strategy because by accepting to dance with a poacher the leader is in effect rewarding undesirable behaviour.  Even if it the intercepting follower did genuinely believe that the invitation was for her (so technically not 'poaching') this suggested response will reinforce to her the importance of making sure that the invitation is actually for her.

tango lessons sydney
                                              image by Sherry Ott