If you’re so openminded about tango, why do you use the cabeceo?

It’s painful to sit as a revel waiting to be asked for a dance. Marks feel a lot of stress in having to make the approach. And many people feel that the codigos and the cabeceo reinforce old fashioned gender roles about male privilege and female passivity. I’ve felt the anxiety that accompanies both roles, but I believe that the cabeceo is essential to good tango. Three reasons:

ART The mark’s job is to create art. S/he needs to feel moved by the music, the revel, and the moment in order to do this. Otherwise it’s like commissioned artwork, which sours the experience of creativity and generally produces lesser work. When a revel asks a mark to dance she are commissioning work, and it’s not going to have the inspiration that the dance will have it comes from the mark’s own vision.

CONSENSUALITY  Tango is a very intense experience, so I believe it should be totally consensual. The cabeceo is consensual, verbal requests are not, because people don’t feel comfortable turning someone down.

DESIRE Tango has many fruits, many bittersweet. One of the sweet ones is the experience of mutual desire. Mutual desire, expressed and contracted with the eyes, is a very different thing than one-way desire, expressed with a confrontational invitation that amounts to a nearly unavoidable demand. Marks who wait, rather than insist, will find an entirely different character to the experience.

I recommend that revels read my post on the Power of Desire. This post has been updated regarding the reverse cabeceo, and a bit more on desire.

For more on tango etiquette (and the queer cabeceo!), see my Etiquette Guide to the codigos and beyond.

Photo by Romain Baillon.

I want you to know that you are not alone…

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?




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Important Insights


Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

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.

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