7 August 2013

On cabeceo and charity

"I don't like the cabeceo concept. It's undemocratic." (quote from friend)


I'm convinced that at every milonga, especially here in Scandinavia, there are women who spring obligingly out of their chairs and onto the dance floor with guys they don't want to dance with. We've been taught from childhood to be polite, to be kind, to be including, and this is deeply rooted in many of us.

The obvious irony is that since we've been taught to be polite, the seemingly democratic *) system of asking directly just shifts the right to choose from the "ask-ee" to the "asker". You have to be strong to say 'no, thank you' to a person who stands in front of you.

The cabeceo system, on the other hand, is democratic in the sense that it's bilateral. It takes care of both asker and ask-ee, both men and women. The cabeceo makes sure that rejections are hidden and smoothed over. No one needs to be publicly humiliated - which is a good thing. But the system also makes it a lot easier to reject people, and we won't feel so bad about it because we don't have to interact with the person we reject.

Effectively, the cabeceo system grants us the right to decide who we want to dance with.

As a natural consequence, it also grants us the right to decide who goes home feeling like crap. It grants us the right to decide which personal qualities should be rewarded - and, in the end, to say something about who should be allowed to dance tango.

This is where it quickly becomes undemocratic. Because who has the right to dance tango? The young? The socially adept? The quick learners? The girls who follow meekly? The technically advanced? The super musical?

Does the cabeceo grant any rights for the socially awkward, the introvert, the beginner, the unconfident, the old, the slow learner, the guy with the back problem?

Don't get me wrong. I'm 100% for the cabeceo because I want to choose for myself - for several reasons. Some guys use too much force. Some have a history of teaching on the dance floor, a habit that I dislike so heartily that I'm unwilling to dance with these persons even if they don't try teaching me. One particular guy I know just messes around and makes a joke of everything, thinking the chicks should be grateful for getting a dance with him. I won't even consider dancing with He of the Creepy Sexual or Blatantly Sexist Remarks.

And, to be brazenly honest, my inclination is to prefer a tanda with an advanced dancer to a tanda with a beginner.

I, too make undemocratic choices, and the cabeceo makes it easier and at least seemingly less painful. But - and this is the beauty of it - since the cabeceo system gives me the freedom to choose, it also makes me a bit less choosy, a bit more willing to accept dances with someone who hasn't figured it all out (because who has?). If I don't feel forced, I might become more generous.

But in the end, the cabeceo isn't an autonomos device that relieves us of responsibility. It takes care of appearences and etiquette, but it doesn't take care of ethics. If I want the cabeceo system to be an ethical system, I need to make it so myself.

I'm voting for Cabeceo with a little bit of Heart. Use the cabeceo system for your own wellbeing, without constantly putting other people's joy and comfort before your own, but with a bit of consideration.

Why I'm coming over all biblical here? Well, I guess it's because we've all been granted charity dances, but tend to forget about this as we improve. Charity dances could actually be one of the reasons why we have improved - or even why some of our current favourite dancers didn't quit seven years ago.

Or why you didn't quit.

(This post will not be open for comments. I've seen all the pros and the cons already. Hopefully, you still might want to bring this thought with you.)

*) I'm using the word "democratic" in the meaning "for everyone" in this post.