In Defense of etiquette 2023: Part I: Codigos

Many people these days reject the tango etiquette as old fashioned, “macho”, or irrelevant. They don’t consider that the tango etiquette protects us. Even (or especially) when we are friends or frequent dance partners.

In defense of etiquette: Part II: Cabeceo

The woman told me  “well maybe in Germany the men can’t say no, but here we say that men can say no”. I said “I’ve lived all over the world, and nowhere are men comfortable to be rude or humiliate a woman.” Her overt demand is coercive regardless of her fantasies about his “freedom” to say “no”.

No means no


Like women who would like to be able to say “no” or “not now” with just a gesture –twisting the torso away– and have that well-perceived by amorous dates, Marks would like to be able to say “no” with their eyes and body language, and not have to deal with a verbal or otherwise unavoidable request.

Pleasures of the Cabeceo


The cabeceo is promoted as a way to avoid embarrassment and non-consenual dances. But it’s not only a prophylactic, it also has pleasures of its own.

Why I don’t ask Marks to dance…

Fábian Pérez tango painting

The line of dance is not the only thing that circles. So do the arguments about tango. It feels more productive to use the term ‘spiral’, because then we feel we are getting somewhere, either spiraling out away from the familiar territory, or getting in closer to the deep truths. Pick your direction. (But please […]

The deeper cabeceo

wpid imag

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 […]

The reverse cabeceo


It’s when a follower does the man’s cabeceo to a leader. She walks directly up to him, establishes eye contact, and gives him a nod. Um…There’s more to the cabeceo than the repudiation of sound. Perhaps more fundamentally, it’s a repudiation of demand, from either party.

The power of desire

eye cabeceo

One of the most painful parts of tango for aRrevel is waiting, or sitting. It makes us feel passive and powerless when we wait for someone –anyone– to ask us for a dance. This is a mistaken perception of the situation and revels can develop a deeper understanding of what is going on.

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

Romain Baillon Tango Photography

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, […]

How do I ask someone to dance? (the cabeceo)

Argentine Tango Cabeceo

The Argentine style of asking for a dance is that the leaders ask. They ask in a particular way, often from across the room, by seeking eye contact with followers. If eye contact is held, the leader nods toward the dance floor (or raises one or both eyebrows). This is the cabeceo.