On traditions, rules and preconception

'It's just incredible how much the rules can harm, the moment you bring everything in an extremely strict order'.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Codigos originates from the time when tango finally came to salons and young ladies from good families began to dance it along with the golden youth of that time. An unwritten set of rules arose spontaneously, but it has fixed the ethical norms of that society.

For example, the invitation with a glance appeared for a number of reasons. Salons' space as well as any respectable house was divided into two parts for men and women. All girls under the patronage of the elder woman of the family sat ceremoniously at the tables, men communicated with one another. Let me remind you that milongas of that time were like modern clubs or small cafes with a dance floor, where people came to spend their time with family, socialize, maybe even to dance (but not necessarily). A small orchestra entertained the audience. It was not only improper to come up and ask for a dance, but it was even offensive, compromising. It was necessary for a man to make sure that the girl wanted to dance with him in order not to show her in a bad light and not to disgrace himself. That's how cabeceo appeared. Safe, secure, practical, intriguing.

The non-verbal level of communication, the outer circle. If the woman agreed, then the man was granted access to the next level: he approached and invited her personally after asking permission from her seniors. And only after that the young people were at the third level of communication – together on the dance floor.
There were three levels of communication: glance, speech and dance.
Time went on, emancipation and revolution came to pass, but codigos remained almost unaffected. There were three levels of communication, glance, speech (or any other type of verbalization if the dancers had no common language) and dance.

Tango requires structure and flexibility, that is, codigos is a set of rules and regulations, the application of which is always connected with the ability to adapt to the situation considering all its finer points.

Nowadays we are self-sufficient, grown-up, educated, non-poor citizens. Men and women interact on a par, and to invite me to dance no one will look for my husband to get his permission. Sometimes couples don't visit milongas together, sometimes they do not dance the first and the last tandas with each other. So let's not be too demanding.

What I like about codigos (despite regular discussions about its abolishment since it's an atavism which is alien to the new reality) is that it protects my inner introvert. Yes, I'm an introvert. And, on the one hand I become terribly mad when somebody finds my style of communication too pushy, but on the other hand I don't like when someone is trying hard to get into my private space. I realize that we are all unique in each moment of time: me on this milonga and me on the next one - we are like twin sisters, kind of similar, but not identical. Do you remember the idea about three levels of communication mentioned above?

Sometimes, I imagine these levels to be like the rings of Saturn, which invisibly surround each person. The more introvert a person is, the further away the outer ring is, the more distance appears between the rings. The more similar is his temper to an extrovert and sanguine, the closer are the rings to him and to each other. However, these conditions for each one of us are not permanent. And that's okay!
We want to believe that the other will be delicate and caring in advance, at the stage of cabeceo.
We come to milonga, bring our invisible saturn-rings and hope that the other person's tactfulness will outweigh their desire to dance with us. I want to believe that the other will be delicate and caring in advance, at the stage of cabeceo, and that people will understand: if someone doesn't notice you or gently refuses to dance right now this does not mean that it is forever. That is not a reason to feel offended or declare war, or to assault his inner Troy. But let's be honest: even friends and family don't always know how to interpret us correctly, and we do not always understand ourselves fully. However, we know that we always want to be safe. Especially in tango, which was created for us to be sincere and real. And, indeed, it is difficult to show anybody your inner essence, when you feel like being 'vampired' speaking of your attention and energy.

Maybe we should revive the tact and dignity of the codigos in the true sense of the word, not canceling the friendly easiness of a new time, freedom of communication, when you can invite a woman who is your mutual FB-friend with a hand despite the fact that you have never danced together before and without compromising her.
The rules would be unbearable without exceptions. (с) Jerzy Leszczynski
Following the rules or breaking them (while respecting the needs of the others) gives very interesting results. Most of these stories I remember with tenderness and joy.

I believe that milonga is about mutual respect, tact and the pleasure of socializing and dancing.
This is why I start the game of memories of stories about invitations with the hashtag #weinvitedaswecould
Author: Nataly Maystrenko. Translation: Dunya Valova.
Opinions expressed in articles within this blog may not coincide with those of the editor.
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