Fairy tales do come true…
One evening last fall, Tanya decided to go to the milonga at Magdalena in Oakland with Debbie Goodwin. It was a spur of the moment decision as she was getting ready for a trip to Europe, but an evening of tango sounded good. When the women arrived, the room was crowded and dark.
Tanya recalls a man standing by the door as she was trying to make her way to get a glass of water. He invited her to dance but she declined. Later he reappeared and asked again. This time she accepted his invitation. Dancing with him felt very warm and comfortable. “Between tandas we discovered we both speak Russian,” says Tanya.
During the evening, they danced a couple more tandas and she noticed he was wearing a wedding ring. Ilya told her he lives in Santa Barbara and has been dancing for many years. On alert, Tanya asked if his wife dances, too. “Yes,” he replied. “I didn’t even listen,” she says. “I have a rule that if a man is married I don’t waste my time. Whatever I felt, I put it aside.”
At end of evening he asked if she would be dancing the next day, and where. When she responded he said “Ok, I’ll be there too.” Tanya admits she was a little excited by the prospect of dancing with him again, “but I was holding myself in a neutral space, not wanting to get too excited,” she says.
“The dancing was wonderful, he made me feel good. The embrace was incredible. Later I heard the same from other women. In tango, it’s not how many moves the man knows, it’s how he makes you feel,” says the tanguera. (Leaders, listen up!)
Tanya went on her travels to Europe and when she came back, a couple months went by with no word from Ilya. Meanwhile she did some sleuthing on Facebook and friended him. She looked at the pictures he’d posted and saw that everything he told her was true. His life looked picture perfect. “I thought how unlucky I am…I felt all this but he’s unavailable,” says Tanya.
Finally, Ilya called. “He said he was coming to San Francisco to visit me. I thought, why is he coming to visit me? I never asked him to visit me…I said we could dance together.” When he invited her to dinner before the milonga, she thought, “Ok, now I can ask questions.” Tanya was frank. She told him, “I don’t want to waste my time, so if you’re married it’s not going to work.”
Then he delivered the news she wanted to hear –he had left his wife. “Don’t think it’s because of you,” Ilya told her. “It was coming for many years. Living alone gave me time to think and analyze what I want to do.”
“Once he told me he was available and I wasn’t the reason, I completely lost my head,” Tanya admits. “And I’ve never looked back.” Since then the couple has been inseparable. “Nothing is perfect in life,” Tanya says philosophically. “There is always a spoon of dirt in a jar of honey. Everybody looks at this from their own angle. I look at it as a miracle for me, and he looks at it in the same way.”
After dancing the lead role in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story, in which Ilya also performed, Tanya moved to Santa Barbara to be with her tango lovebird. Now the couple goes to milongas in Los Angeles every weekend.
“It is a fairy tale that I’m living,” she says with a happy sigh.
Watch Tanya and Ilya dance here:
Video filmed and edited by John Campbell – Alma Video Production