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The art of the mirada

shared by terpsi

The Art of the Mirada

It's one of the most common complaints voiced by male leaders here (and sometimes in private messages or by verbal communication): they want to use cabeceo in their local communities, but the women aren't actively looking around for dances. (For men and women, read 'leaders' and 'followers' of either sex, at some milongas and in some communities.)

Mirada simply means 'look'. And it's very easy to do, though it has its subtleties. When the tanda starts, look up and around you. Find a leader you would like to dance with and attempt to make eye contact with him. It helps if you have previously scoped out the room to discover where your favourite dancers are sitting and, if possible, given them a few flirtatious, smiley pre-cabeceos, as I call them, which signify, in the ocular language of tango, "hey, big boy, just wait the DJ plays something good, because I'll be looking out for you" (like all flirtatious gestures, be careful not to overdo this).

But, in any case, having found your man, take a look at him. What is he doing? If he is looking intently down at the ground, deeply absorbed in conversation or taking a man-sized chomping bite out of a hamburger, take a raincheck on your ocular hunting. Spare that particular prey for later. If he's looking in an intent and focused way in another direction from yours, then he is probably trying to dance with a different woman. You can check back in with him in, ooh, around 10-15 seconds, to see if he has managed to snag her and, if not, try mirada-ing him again (in the game of mirada/cabeceo, there's no such thing as sloppy seconds, there's too much serendipity involved).

If he is looking vaguely in your direction, keep looking at him, as clearly, strongly and powerfully as you can. For how long? Well, let's say for a length of time which is directly proportional to your geographical distance from each other. You can just glance at a guy sitting right next to you -- a millisecond's eye contact is enough -- but you may stare down someone at the opposite end of a very long room until your eyeballs hurt, only to find, when he finally cabeceos you and comes to collect you from your seat, that he complains "it was soooo hard to know whether or not you were looking at me! You need to be less subtle about it!"

Don't look for too long, though. At some reasonable point, you need to cut your losses and set your sights on a different target. The idea is to look for long enough to be sure, if possible, that he knows you are looking at him and has a moment to react and decide whether or not to accept your tacit invitation. Not to hypnotise him or petrify him. The mirada is neither a bashful glance from beneath your lovely Bambi lashes, nor a basilisk's death glare. Having said that, while you want to look friendly, don't grin broadly, wave or mouth 'hello', which some people will interpret as "I'm being polite to you and acknowledging you as a human being, but I don't want to dance with you right now." And, if you are unused to mirada, you may need to look for longer than you think.

If he seems to be looking at *you*, but without making any gesture of invitation, try looking away for a little while. He might be trying to cabeceo another woman sitting next to, in front of or behind you. If you look back again, after having given him a chance to do that, and find him still gazing at you like a star-crossed lover but without moving his head one degree of rotation, try giving *him* the cabeceo (hey, it's 2014!). This is done by cocking your head to one side.

So, now your Di Sarli Dreamboat has given you his signal (usually, by inclining his head to one side, but this could take a variety of forms, including raised eyebrows, pointing to his chest and mouthing "me?" or a delighted head and shoulder wiggle). What do you do? Simple. Nod. That's your acceptance. And then wait. Unless you're at a pretty informal milonga and there's no other possible woman near you he could be signalling to, maintain eye contact with him as he approaches, but don't get up until he is right in front of you.

Oh shit. Di Sarli Dreamboat thinks you aren't nodding at him, but at Mr Nightmare-with-8-Ganchos and said gentleman is striding over towards you. Just ignore Mr 8 Ganchos and keep looking at the man of your original choice. He'll get the message and discreetly veer off and feel a sudden need to visit the bar or the toilet. You're under no obligation, now or later, to dance with him if it was a mistake. (It happens to everyone; really, it's no big deal, chill out!)

A couple of cautions. Mirada cruising can be an excellent strategy at a large venue (such as a festival). Wander around and discreetly set up some good eyelines for yourself from which to attack your victims. It's a bit like birdwatching. If you get too close, you will scare them. (Sometimes, you may have to move further away to get a good purchase on your target). Going right up to the person and staring at them from six inches away is creepy (I'm sure you didn't need to be told that). But sometimes you do need to employ your special sniper mirada, send some extra-intense eye-lasers from a medium distance.

Occasionally, you will encounter men who don't like women looking right at them as they find it unfeminine and assertive. That does happen *occasionally* here in Argentina, where there are some men who are rather conservative about gender roles. In the diaspora, it's less common. If you're a man reading this and that's you I have news for you: not only will women be forward enough to look at you, they will, if you let them, put their arms round you and press their breasts against you. Man up, because tango isn't for the faint hearted. What should you do if a woman is looking at you, but you don't want to dance with her? Just don't incline your head in a cabeceo. Simple.

Congratulations. You have now learned how to mirada. Get those peepers working.
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