More Cabaceo

17th August 2009

"Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation" ~ Max Euwe


Another new venue and a chance to reflect over the past year of experimenting with the cabeceo and I think I've finally made some progress.

My original premise was that the man and the woman start seated. The man makes eye contact, usually across the room, he gets up, goes over to her, she gets up, they embrace.

My feeling at the moment is that this either does not work in London, or that it's extremely difficult to get it to work.

Effective range

What I've realised is that for a cabeceo to work whether I'm cabeceo-ing a lady or she's cabeceo-ing me, the person initiating the cabeceo needs to be standing and within about ten feet.

I think it works off the natural social reaction that when a standing / walking person approaches within about ten feet they shift from being "background" to "cursory check" level. We are aware of them, and we run through a set of quick-check routines, such as:

  • Do I know them and should I say "Hi"?
  • Are they an official person and are they interested in me for some reason?
  • Are they drunk and I want to be somewhere else right now?

Whether you're in a shopping mall, pub, church or dance hall, this loosely applies. You're very unlikely in those situations to be paying attention to whether someone is looking at you from 40 feet away. And as a group of us recently discovered, the natural reaction to this is actually to turn away defensively rather than make eye contact.

Take a stand

So quite simply if you're a guy and you want to get a dance - Stand Up!

Then start walking to where you're within 10 feet of who you want to dance with.

But not too fast. You want enough time for either her to accept the cabeceo or for her to basically ignore you and let you continue to walk past her as if you had no interest in her either.

If you walk too fast, it's easy for both of you to get confused about the signals.

The Line of Approach

Also consider your approach position. You need to be in her field of vision when you get to about ten feet. If you come in from her blindside and she's only aware of you at say 3 feet, the process is too fast and again it gets messy and confusing.

The absolute best line of approach is when you've finished a dance, leaving the dance floor, and strafing the surrounding chairs from 10 feet out. Most of the people sitting down will be either facing or strongly aware of the dance floor.

Or, once you've decided who you want to ask, work out where you need to be at 10 feet to be in her field of vision. Then work out the easiest walk that will carry you to into that space. Or if you just want to dance, strafe the chairs surrounding the dance floor (but be aware of the dancers). Just look like you're going to get a drink or see a friend or something. No-one really cares.

And finally

Lastly don't rush it.

You're (hopefully) going to spend the next 10-15 minutes dancing with this person. Take the time to get the beginning right. If it doesn't work cleanly, let it go, you've probably spared yourself a rubbish dance. Try again later and hopefully get the tanda you wanted then.

 - Christopher O'Shea, 17th August 2009

Related articles