Is there a foolproof way to avoid a "no", inviting someone to dance?


La Mirada the Argentine invitation to dance

La Mirada the Argentine invitation to dance

Is there a foolproof way to avoid a “no”, inviting someone to dance?

You probably know the situation. With your last ounce of courage you have made up your mind to ask the nice lady on the other side of the dancefloor for the next dance.

You cross the dance floor for everybody to see, invite her and the only thing you get to hear is a most embarrassing “sorry, no”. Might happen to the ladies as well and in any case it is poison for your self confidence.

So next time you might try it the Argentinian way with “Mirada y Cabeceo” (to look and to nod) which is more elegant and leaves a lot of possibilities to save your face (If your preferred dance partner does not respond to your burning glance no problem. Pretend to not having noticed and try with someone else).

In a traditional Argentine Milonga ladies and gentlemen likewise try to make eye contact with the desired dance partner.

Once the eye contact is made they agree with a nod or maybe a smile to dance together for the next round of dances, the so called “Tanda”.

The man walks over to the ladies seat renewing the eye contact.

Only then the lady stands up to confirm her approval and the gentleman takes  her to the dance floor.

Of course the real gentleman escorts the lady also back to her seat after the “Tanda”.

The Argentinian way of inviting to dance settles also the vexatious and somewhat shopworn discussion whether women are allowed to invite men to dance. Argentinian ladies (and hombres) do it all the time with meaningful glances and tempting smiles. Wow! So nice…

P.S. of course that´s no guarantee to get a dance partner, but at least you avoid the embarassment of getting a “no”

You might also be interested in this article.

Good old Mirada and good old Cabeceo

About Wolfgang Sandt

Mostly nice, patient, humorous, ecoconscious, good tango dancer and tango teacher
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3 Responses to Is there a foolproof way to avoid a "no", inviting someone to dance?

  1. jantango says:


    Being left in the middle of the floor at the end of the tanda is an awkward situation for most women. At least men over 60 in the milongas have learned that escorting the woman where she can leave the dance area and return to her table is proper. The milongas where there are many singles have all seating facing the floor in two or three rows of tables. A man approaches the area where the woman is seated and waits for her to enter the floor. After the tanda he accompanies her to that same place where she can return to her table. Then he returns to the other side of the room to his table. The cortina music runs about 30-45 seconds, so it gives him enough time to be seated before the next tanda begins.

    I agree with Maria del Carmen Romero that I would not accept another tanda with a man who didn’t escort me off the floor. If my table is at the edge of the dance floor, then he returns me to that point; if I am seated in the second or third row of tables, he doesn’t have to leave the floor with me. Maria del Carmen dances in Sunderland and sits with her husband, so she isn’t faced with the situation of being left stranded on the floor.

    These simple courtesies need to be taught in beginning dance classes so that men are comfortable knowing the rules. If no one tells them, they have to figure things out for themselves. Many never get it.

    The cabeceo requires a mutual agreement. In Buenos Aires, if the man doesn’t initiate an invitation with a movement of the head or the lips–“bailas?”, a woman maintains her gaze for a reasonable amount of time before looking elsewhere. Men are given the opportunity to make the first move, something women prefer they do. This custom is a tradition in the downtown milongas of Buenos Aires. Men don’t like to be invited by women to dance in BA. Personally, I respect that custom.

  2. rogaia says:

    Dear Janis, thank you for your comment.
    Obviously there are different opinions about this issue even among Buenos Aires´ milongueros.
    The ones that I know tell me very clearly that they of course do escort the ladies to their tables and that they have done it that way for ever. For them it would be rude to leave a lady at the edge of the dance floor. This goes as far that I have been told by Marita del Carmen only few days ago that she would never dance again with a guy who hadn´t the minimum of politeness to escort her back to her table.
    Seems that few meters distance can make a big difference and that you have to be attent, whom you dance with:-)
    In Europe actually things are not seen so strict and it would be already a progress if no man would leave his dance partner standing in the middle of the dance floor.
    What is concerning the question who invites I´d rather say that it is a real agreement beetween to equally active partners. If the woman doesn´t glance actively towards the man inviting him to answer he has no chance to invite her. Tus the question who invites according to my opinion is fairly open. And I have to admit I like that.

    Kind regards

    P.S. Just wanted to add a short introduction.
    Janis is a tango dancer and teacher from Chicago, enjoying retirement for the last ten years in Buenos Aires. She also has a tango blog on WordPress,
    Have a look and get some first hand information about Tango in Buenos Aires.

  3. jantango says:

    The cabeceo is not foolproof, but when practiced regularly, it is the only way to dance in Buenos Aires. The cabeceo is a mutual agreement to enjoy ten minutes in the embrace of another.

    It is the man who initiates the invitation with a movement of the head while he waits for the woman’s acceptance with a head movement as well. If she isn’t interested in dancing with him, she merely turns her head and looks in another direction. No one is the wiser, and the man doesn’t suffer public embarrassment as he does when inviting a woman at her table.

    Once the invitation is accepted/confirmed by the woman, she waits at her table until the man reaches a spot on the floor for her to join him. He will be making eye contact with her at this point. That is her confirmation that he invited her and not the woman seated next to or behind her. A woman should not go to the floor until the man is there. The man doesn’t escort her to the floor, but merely waits for her.

    After dancing the tanda, the man escorts the woman to the edge of the floor where she can conveniently return to her table; he doesn’t go to her table…ever.

    Argentine women know that it is the man who invites them to dance, but they let the men know by glancing at them from across the room. If a woman never looks at a man, he can never invite her. That’s the way it has been in the milongas for decades. Those who respect the codes continue using the cabeceo.

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