Tango Love Birds – Kathy and Mark

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Kathy Burwell

The perfect storm

As the final piece of her divorce settlement, Kathy ended up with a round-trip ticket to anywhere United flies. As her mind drifted through various exotic destinations, her best friend said, “If I could go anywhere, it would be Buenos Aires to dance tango!” That was Kathy’s aha moment. She immediately signed up for Debbie and John’s beginning tango class.

Meanwhile…Mark, also newly divorced and new to California, was invited to the same tango class by a woman he’d recently met. They danced, but didn’t date. Then, one fateful evening, Mark stayed to watch the Level 2 class and in walked Kathy, “the most beautiful woman in the world,” he beams, “and I immediately began to think how to get close to her.”

To prepare for her Buenos Aires adventure, Kathy went to Los Angeles to visit Becka, a well-known tango dancer/teacher.  While talking with other tangueros at Becka’s house, one man said prophetically, “It will change your life.”

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Mark Lewis

Are we dating?
Back in Marin, Mark emailed to invite her to join a group that was going dancing together. That felt very unthreatening to Kathy, “not like a pick-up,” she laughs. She began venturing out to dance spots on her own, and one night she called Mark to see if he and his friends would like to go.  They showed up late, and Kathy thought he was dating one of the women.

Then, on a Saturday night they went together to a class in Sausalito but didn’t change partners.  After the lesson, during the milonga, “no one asked me to dance,” says Kathy.  Finally, someone did, and seeing this, Mark decided to leave. “I’ll get my stuff,” said Kathy, and they jumped into his truck. That’s when he told Kathy he had terminated a relationship. “It was a game-changer,” she says.

They headed into the City and danced til the wee hours (not tango). The next week, after Debbie and John’s class, they went out for a glass of wine. “Are we dating?” asked Mark. “Well, we haven’t had a date,” Kathy responded. So he asked her for a date. “I was totally infatuated,” he says.

Buenos Aires bound
“By late September it became clear to me to invite Mark to go to Buenos Aires with me because we enjoyed dancing together so much,” recalls Kathy. “Buenos Aires was a really exciting time,” adds Mark.  “There was the incredible energy of a new relationship.  We were with total strangers and didn’t speak the language. We were both new to being divorced and new to tango. We were empty nesters. Our kids are the same age…we hit the perfect storm.”

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Kathy Burwell & Mark Lewis in All About Tango 2011

“Tango is another way of solidifying our closeness and communication,” he explains. “When you’re in Buenos Aires and totally afraid to dance with a stranger and there’s only one person you can hold onto, it’s the bonding. You want to succeed at being a wonderful dancer, you want to be with that person who you know won’t judge you so you can relax and be who you are.”

Dancing their story
In 2011, Kathy and Mark performed a choreographed dance in Alma del Tango’s student production, All About Tango. They danced a milonga that joyfully expressed their tango love story.
While other priorities have kept Kathy and Mark from regularly dancing tango, they’re hopeful that will change.  The welcome they received at the benefit milonga for Alex Levin was so heartwarming.  “Look at the community we have,” beamed Kathy. “It was wonderful to feel welcome and to pick up where we left off.”

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