Tony Walker circulated a link to an article about tango in Times Online: if you don't get his emails, the article is here. The article points to the emotional seriousness of tango, as of relationships in general. But isn't it fun? Yes... but can it really be fun if we don't take it seriously?
This relates to this ongoing discussion about cabaceo, but to me the discussion is about an approach to the milonga in general, even about how seriously we take each other, rather than about whether we should follow an arguably outdated piece of tango history.
Some time ago I went to ask an acquaintance to dance. She was busy chatting with a (girl) friend; I 'hovered' for a moment but she didn't look up, so I walked away. Later she asked me why I hadn't danced with her that evening. Well, it's impolite to interrupt a conversation and, although I was sure my interruption would have been welcome, in the back of my mind there was the feeling that she wasn't 'ready' to dance. Sure, she would have jumped up immediately to dance, but uppermost in her mind would have been another way of relating, another mindset, a lively verbal activity, and it would have felt a little uncomfortable because, for a moment, I wouldn't have trusted her sudden involvement in dancing.
Tango needs a degree of commitment to the partner you are dancing with. The importance of cabaceo doesn't seem to be as the traditional method you use to ask your partner to dance, but as to whether you are maintaining a receptive mood for a dance, and whether you want to dance at that moment with that partner; and cabaceo is still the best way to deal with all that. If you sit watching for a sign – which male or female can ignore or accept – you are ready and committed to your dance, and to your partner, in a way you aren't if you are enjoying some jolly socialising, and sort of fall into a dance casually. & if you start off in a receptive mood, you're going to enjoy your dance a lot more, and get a lot more out of it.
We might be able to think of more appropriate and contemporary ways of organising a milonga than the cabaceo, and if they work as well, fine. I think the principle to keep in mind is how we maintain a focus on a dance we think is important enough to focus on. We might treat tango as more than a recreational activity. We all know it's seriously good for us!