Igor Polk, April 4 , 2007
Cabaceo is the way of invitation to dance by exchanging glances. Once this "invitation" is made and "confirmation" with the glance "received", a man walks to the lady. Formal invitation may not even needed - if it is done - it is a part of the "play".
Some people think it is some sort of a special Argentinean tango code. Some people say Cabaceo could and should be learned. I think this is a mistake. Of course, if a woman or even a man talks to a friend not looking around, especially if her friend is of the opposite gender, she has much lower chances to get invited. So, she has to "radiate" readiness for the dance, readiness to look at people with friendliness and that is most important. And that is about as much as one can do.
Real Cabaceo happens mostly between friends and people who are already used to it in communication with their other friends. It has very little to do with tango - it is the thing of a much broader scale.
Friends understand each other without words, isn't it?
People at any milonga dance mostly with friends. They know each other. They just look at each other and understand immediately: "We are going to dance", or "Not now, I am busy", and many other things. The same way it is done in any other not-tango situation.
There is no substitution to making friends. That is what is your pool of partners is, not the ones you painstakingly are trying exchange glances with. That is why classes are for - meeting and making new friends. That is what show performances are for as well as other tango activities - making new friends to dance with later. That is why it is worth to dance with beginners - you are making friends by helping them, and some of them will become much better dancers than you soon - but still they will dance with you because you are their friend, and helped him. I am not able to count here the ways to make friends. Well, kiss your friends, praise your friends, ask your friends for help, smile to your friends, wear nice cloth for your friends, make an embrace a little more intimate for your friends, care about your friends, love your friends ( as friends, that is what I mean, of course ), talk to your friends, forgive your friends, do not complain to your friends, make their life a little bit better ....
What is a formal invitation to a dance? A man or a woman? It is first of all an attempt to make a new friend ! Go for it ! Invite ! Talk ! If you refuse, you might loose an opportunity to make a new friend ( who has other friends ) and may be even make a "tango enemy".
But who is the best tango friend? The one who dances better. This is the number one quality. So, learn!
Conclusion: Make more friends, learn dancing better, and you will know the way of cabaceo without any trouble - it will happen itself.