5 types of cabeceo (by invocation)
We speak about cabeceo as if it was just one. It’s not so.In my limited experience, the whole cabeceo thing is being described way to mechanically. The mechanical explanation, given in part 1, is more or less correct. But it is dry and leaves out all the juicy stuff (pun intended).
Ask yourself: when and how does a cabeceo really begin?I have come to discern 5 basic types of cabeceo, defined by its invocation:

  • Premeditated cabeceo
  • El Classico cabeceo
  • Spontaneous cabeceo
  • Random cabeceo
  • Request

Premeditated cabeceo is like ticking an item of a list. It means you choose a particular woman in the room and go after her, hunting her with your mirada. You do this until she finally notices you and until she finally returns the nod. You might have even planned to dance to a particular lady to a particular song/orquesta. The problem with this cabeceo is the planning. Planning is imagining and it often causes too much excitement in my body, trembling even.

El Classico cabeceo is probably the most common one. You hear a new tanda play, look around, see a woman, know you want to dance with her, send her a mirada, a moment later she looks at you, you nod, she nods and – it’s on. Tango time.

Spontaneous cabeceo, as the name suggests,  has no conscious beginning, no plan. It is a natural consequence of hearing the music and turning around for that someone; you might get an instant ‘picture’ of that someone, or you might not. The point is, that someone is in this moment doing the same thing and finding you.
You get to instantly choose and invite each other. It’s like a double cabeceo. Or like no cabeceo at all, technically speaking. Usually, you would both smile, even laugh and communicate you are going to dance without the otherwise necessary nodding the head and all that.
Spontaneous cabeceo feels like fate at work.

Random cabeceo occurs when you half-deliberately scan the room for a possible match, without having a strong intention you wish to dance at the moment. Someone there is doing the same thing and randomly, your eyes meet.
It usually takes a few moments for both partners to realize who they are actually looking at and if they actually want to dance. Sometimes, a smile would happen, indicating you are happy to be the victims of randomness. Sometimes, it would seem like the woman hasn’t been able to reject you and is kinda giving you a chance to make her feel good against the odds.

Request is ‘pohruškanje’ disguised as a cabeceo, since it more of a demand than a (gentle) invitation. Usually performed in closer proximity with a lot of mimicking and overly signaling body language.

Cabeceo as an embrace
After a few Spontaneous cabeceos I am compelled to conclude, that a cabeceo like this inevitably leads to a greater tanda. The spontaneity itself is immediately perceived as something the couple already shares, even before getting into an embrace and building ‘something’ from scratch.Seeing this I have come to understand, that cabeceo is the first stage of the embrace itself. The embrace does not begin by stepping onto the dancefloor together and the act of »dressing up« the physicality of the embrace. It happens way before. It’s like foreplay, really. The overture. The intro.Qualities of a cabeceo
Remember my First major crisis story? In chapter ‘ Ascension’ I wrote how Barbara B came to ask me for a dance. Barbara’s invitation was not a by-the-book cabeceo, technically speaking. However, in the story I described the intention and energy behind her act.

I understand that the type of cabeceo (Premeditated, El Classico, Spontaneous, Random, Request) already has inherent quality in it. I have thus come to realize that, statistically speaking, the quality of a cabeceo already defines much of the upcoming tanda. At least in my case.
I accept that this might be an issue of my psychological stability regarding tango. So I am very curious what seasoned dancers have to say about it!

Being sentient beings, we have the means to shape the final quality of a cabeceo. Even Request cabeceo can be turned into a feel-good introduction to a dance.

Story posted by: Blaž Branc

About the author: Musician from

Published: 4 May 2016 @ 10:08

Last modified: 25 Mar 2019 @ 13:06

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