Having got back into the milonga social scene, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and experience again the different ways a man will ask you to dance.
There is the direct approach: the man approaches the woman and requests a dance, straight forward and transparent but slightly tricky if she refuses without a good reason.
Then you see the more formal approach, the cabezeo: rare in my experience of London milongas and generally only observed by visitors or those who learnt tango abroad. I’ve only successfully experienced the cabezeo once, although possibly I’ve missed it a couple of other times! (I think it soon becomes apparent to the foreigner that the women are not deliberately ignoring them but just are simply not in tune to this subtle approach!)
My latest bugbear however, are the men who approach a woman to dance with an arrogant ‘hand out’ gesture. No words will cross their lips, it will merely be a hand and a stance that says they don’t expect a refusal. Several times, I have seen women co-erced into dancing with someone this way and often it tends to be the more forceful dancer who you see dispensing this kind of invitation. I don’t like it. If a man wants to dance with me, I like to feel some kind of connection, even if it is just a simple hello and a smile. It shows courtesy and I am more likely to respond in the positive. The only way, I can see this anonymous approach working is if the tanguero turns out to be an amazing dancer, in which case the scenario has something akin to a dramatic stranger sweeping you off your feet! – the unexplainable connection between two strangers and the whole drama of the dance can build into a wonderful experience, which you will bore your friends with long afterwards. But for many though, this is unlikely to happen – so men, do the courteous thing and ask with words!