Separating Asking to Dance from Conversation

Sometimes, it happens that we like talking to a person but don’t like dancing with that person. If that person likes dancing with you, then after a bit of talking he/she may ask you to dance, especially if that person is a man. This situation can be burdensome. Out of politeness, we may accept and suffer. If you decline, it can be awkward and he/she may suffer. In a worse case, you may avoid talking with that person in the future out of fear of his/her asking you to dance, which can result in an estranged relationship. A milonga with an enough number of such estranged relationships is a strange place lacking a humane atmosphere.

There is an anecdote about a milonguero and a milonguera in Buenos Aires. They were good friends, knowing each other and dancing together at milongas for many years. One night, the milonguera came to a milonga earlier than him. As he arrived at the milonga later and passed by her table, he greeted her and they talked a bit. After a while of talking, he told her, “I’ll go to my table.” She said OK, he went to his table, they looked at each other, he did a cabeceo to her, and she accepted it by a nod. He walked to her, and they danced a tanda.

The key here is the separation of asking to dance from conversation. Without this separation, a milonga can soon become a dry, non-humane place where people avoid normal human interaction out of fear of receiving social pressure for dancing with someone whom they don’t want to dance with.

One good way to achieve this separation is asking to dance non-verbally. Mirada-cabeceo is a very good non-verbal way of asking to dance, but regardless of whether you use mirada-cabeceo or not, avoid using a talk with someone as an angle for asking that person to dance. When you greet someone and talk with that person, even if you want to dance with him/her, do not segue into verbally asking him/her to dance. If you do mirada/cabeceo, you can try it while having the conversation. If he/she does not respond, carry the conversation normally until the end and part with him/her. If you don’t use non-verbal asking, end the conversation without asking to dance and ask to dance later.