The Eyes Have it

What is the most intimate element in the Tango?

The embrace?

An exquisitely executed maneuvre?

A perfectly timed ending?

My opinion - gazing into our partner’s eyes.

The Cabeceo

It is a stroke of genius that the Tango ritualized eye contact -  the cabeceo - as the first and critical element of the dance proposal. This is where it all begins. Eyes connect from across the room with an affirming nod, raised eyebrows, a look of permission, acceptance, expectation.

The ritual was forged in a world of anonymity where immigrants were faceless, nameless, rootless, too many to be counted, too needy to be loved, to desperate be held. The Tango was fashioned out of the desperation to find intimacy and beauty in a desolate world, the hope of being aroused at with the tingle of a soft touch, of melting into a warm embrace.

The intimidating, vulnerable walk across the dance floor could only be risked with the prior assurance of the cabeceo, that there was a welcome response at the other end of invitation.

The Eyes Have it.

Eyes are the window to the soul. They reveal our deepest longings, our treasured secrets, our wisdom.

There are two, maybe three steps in venturing across that great divide, the gulf that separates the solitary dancers.

Where do we find the courage to take that leap of faith into another’s arms,

to challenge the questions that threaten our sense of self:

Are his arms strong enough to catch me? to hold me?

Is her heart soft, open to receive me?

Will the music transport us?

Am I good enough?

Will I be judged and found wanting?

Will I stumble, fall, fail?

Will I be humiliated? exhilarated?

Will we languish wistfully at the end of our dance, basking in the aura?

Trust the eyes, especially the ones with the tell-tale wrinkles in the corners (my beloved calls them “crow’s feet”).

These provide the bridge that spans the chasm, the spark that inspires courage, the call that gives permission to free-fall fall into my partner’s embrace.

(or not)

Trust the eyes to reveal secrets, to betray yearnings, to whisper secrets through the silence:

“I see you. I feel you. I am giving myself to this shared moment.”


Tango is rich with rituals that hold within the essence of the connection and mystery. Unfortunately, these are often rushed through thoughtlessly and hence lose their meaning and power.

Making eye contact is one such ritual.

Before entering into the embrace, pause and gaze into your partner’s eyes. Smile. Share with them in this silence how you feel about them, your excitement about the opportunity to share this special moment, your reverence for them as your partner.

Repeat the eye contact at the end of the dance. Notice the difference. Allow your eyes to express your soul’s satisfaction and delight at the treasured moments of connection and beauty.

Hold that feeling within as you leave the dance floor. Treasure it. Take it home with you.