The deeper cabeceo


Globally,  the best coffee is served in places with inadequate and injurious seating… Black Star and Blue Bottle in Sydney and San Francisco. Here in Berlin Double Eye and the Barn.  If there are enough chairs accompanied by a table of the appropriate height you probably won’t want to drink the coffee.

So I am drinking my thoroughly excellent espresso on the steps of the church,  meditating on men and art.

Last night was a humdinger.  Some guy interpreted my shoes as an invitation to let me know about his sex fetishes,  for which he anticipated my great interest.  I lurched from this encounter to get drunk at the nearest milonga.

The wine glass was exactly the right shape. I leaned against a gilt mirror and enjoyed the music.

The term ‘Mark’ for leader has yet another nice entendre.  Like an unseen assassin I train my energies on my target.  He’s my victim,  or vessel.

For the third night in a row,  I get my man. It’s too bad I’m not getting paid as a sharpshooter.

He doesn’t hurt me,  but he doesn’t move me,  and I forego the German second tanda for my wine.

I admire a Revel,  who turns out to be a friend with her hair rearranged,  and we dance nicely,  punctuated with her apologies for underestimating me.

The first volcada tests a Revel’s willingness to trust.  After all, this dance rests on willingness.  Which is part of why I was troubled by K’s exercise of a right of refusal to follow any move for which she doesn’t like the mark.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about the cabeceo. One theme we always agree on is the desirability of consent and the importance of contract by eyes to achieving this. (We disagree about the reverse cabeceo.)

But what are we consenting to?   Intimate proximity…and, in Berlin summer,  exchange of sweat.

This makes sense,  but it doesn’t ring true.  After 8 years I am desensitised to the intimacy and I hardly notice the sweat.  The cabeceo doesn’t protect me from the real problems:  excesses of cologne,  voleos marked with sharp cracks to the spine, violently ambitious giros,  and another tender heartbreak.

So what then is the meaningful consent of the cabeceo? I think it is actually about how we are going to do the dancing,  not about how we are not going to do the sex.

It is about the willingness to fully trust this person with your movement.  For the Revel it means giving your body into an unknown choreography.  For the Mark it means trusting her to listen deeply and respond faithfully,  and not just do her own thing – which can be dangerous,  embarrassing,  or dehumanizingly disconnected. (The term ‘dehumanizing’  is not one I use lightly.  It first came to me while marking some girl in Dresden.  I was trying to create something for us and she was so inattentive and autonomous that I felt annihilated. It was awful; I didn’t recover for some hours.)

The most fundamental trust is that we will try to connect.  When that willingness or intention is absent,  it is a betrayal.  Beyond that are many levels,  enabled by experience and skill.  But at every level is a decision to invest fully.  A mark invests his creativity and power. A revel invests her body.

Trust is the antidote to fear, and they do not coexist.  A mark who trusts cannot try to control.  A revel who trusts cannot second-guess,  or underestimate (or estimate at all for that matter),  or hold back.

The mechanics of connection are fundamental, and attractive, but trust is what lights the spirit.

For me the contract of the cabeceo is a commitment to trust oneself to the other. Anyway, that’s what I give.

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

I invite you to join my resolution to take a look at the dark silences of Argentine Tango in our lives. It’s time.


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