For some reason, people often assume I dance competitions when they hear I’m a tango dancer. Not so, I tell them. The only competition is to get to dance with the best dancers.
And while I still believe that to be true to some extent, a friend (who is an excellent dancer himself), put me on a better track. Why is it so important to dance with the “best”, he asked. Is not the point to dance with someone you may give a nice experience? And he was absolutely right, of course. So it is better to think of compatibility rather than ability. We have different strengths and weaknesses, and value different qualities in our partners.
And that is one reason I find the cabeceo so wonderful. It enables you to make sure you only dance with people that would actually like to dance with you. Having a tango star accept a dance out of mercy and feeling her bored disconnectedness through an entire tanda would be unbearable for me.
But for convenience, I still use the catch phrase for my non-tango friends. And in a sense it is still valid. It is a competition between me and the other guys: who will be the most likely to give the lady a good dance.