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The three ingredients needed to survive and thrive as a tango dancer

posted Apr 24, 2014, 2:02 AM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Jan 7, 2015, 7:15 PM ]
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Image by Sherry Ott

Here's what I believe are the three necessary ingredients to help you survive and thrive as a tango dancer - listed in random order. I am sure there are others but for me these three are particularly important...

#1  Resilience

The following video1 is about the experience of not getting dance invitations at a milonga and the feeling of rejection that can result.  Whether we are leaders or a followers, our cabeceos or miradas will be rejected at some time or other. Learning to cope with these rejections appropriately and to be resilient is so important to our happiness and success as tango dancers. 

Sitting glum faced in a milonga because you're not getting the dances you want is not going to help you to get those dances. Au contraire! As one well known dance teacher in Buenos Aires tells her students "If you are going to look miserable at a milonga you might as well go home and paint the house!" 

Resilience is a useful skill which can be transferred to other contexts of our lives where rejection may be experienced. So then, rather than seeing the experience of rejected dance invitations as a negative let's see them as a tool for personal growth!


#2 Be skilled at inviting / accepting dances

As well as the psychological skill of resilience, tango dancers need to learn and develop the non-verbal and ocular art of the 'cabeceo' and 'mirada'. The cabeceo is an invitation with the eyes, a certain glance and movement of the head and a smile that says, "Do you want to dance with me?"  If a woman wants to accept a dance with a man, she uses the mirada. This means she accepts the cabeceo with returned eye contact and a smile that says "Yes I want to dance with you".  You can read more about these practices here: Tango Etiquette

Generally and traditionally, it is assumed that the leader practices the cabeceo, and the follower the mirada. But I agree with the Tango Therapist in his post The Power of the Mirada that there is no reason why leaders can't also use the mirada. I would add in reply to his post that there is also no reason why followers can't use the cabeceo.   At milongas I usually find myself practicing both cabeceo and mirada and there is often a fine line between who is actually inviting and accepting!

The power and effectiveness of cabeceo / mirada will be determined by how much it is part of a particular milonga's code and practice. In Buenos Aires it is de rigueur at many of the most popular milongas but in Sydney the practice of ocular invitations is quite hit and miss! Given this diversity, my recommendation is to observe what the practices are, how the people you desire to dance with are inviting / accepting dances and as they say "When in Rome, do as the Romans"

#3 Be and feel great to dance with!

Last but by no means least, it goes almost without saying that tango dancers need to strive to have great technique, musicality and feel good when they dance if they want more acceptance than rejection of their dance invitations.

You may also enjoy these related posts:

1 The video was created in 2013 by Arthur Khismatulin of Buenos Tangos Club (Chelyabinsk) 2013 . The tanguera is Leysan Khusina. Music is Rumba by Aljan Janrac