by Lanny Udell
March 15, 2020. It was a sad night when the lights went down on Alma del Tango. Gaston was our guest teacher and due to the Covid-19 shelter-in-place order, he had to jump on the last plane to Buenos Aires the next day.
No fun. No dancing. No socializing would be allowed for the foreseeable future. Certainly no tango, with its requisite close embrace!
But we hardy tangueros thought we could endure with a few months off. Never dreaming that 8 months later, our beloved tango studio would be reopening on tiptoe. Thanks to Debbie and John for their brilliant idea of dividing the studio into 9×9’ squares, with one dedicated couple per square, the soul of tango could be revived in Marin.
We talked to some AdT regulars to find out how they’ve managed over these long months with no tango.
I’ll go first.
I’ve been known to dig my tango shoes out of the closet and caress them
Since I’m working from home, like many of you, I listen to Pandora while I work, specifically my Gotan Project channel. Just hearing the music lifts my spirits and lifts me from my seat. I also watch tango videos on YouTube and have been known to dig my tango shoes out of the closet and caress them. (I don’t have a wood floor to practice on.) Staying in touch with our community through the Alma del Tango newsletter has also been helpful. Luckily, my Jazzercise and Pilates classes have all remained online so I can get movement and exercise daily to keep my tango legs in shape!
Here’s what some of you had to say:
I feel loss yet looking forward to when we’ll all dance together again, safely
Managing? Barely, it’s just not the same. Dancing between the droplets and the aerosol. A little of this, and a little of that, and the day goes by. The evenings are not as exciting as they used to be. I’m grateful I feel good, but where’s the fun? It was before, during and will be after when we’re all on the dance floor again! Periodically I listen to the music and watch tango videos. When I do my heart soars.
Nothing has been able to replace the special feeling that tango gives me
But I think it’s been healthy to take a break. I’ve thought about what it is that tango gives me, what nourishes me, what challenges me. What do I want from this obsessive pastime? Social connection, opportunities to work on honing physical and social skills. Opportunities to grow emotionally.
What I’ve been doing is mostly working, riding my bike, and knitting. Just lately I’ve starting practicing tango weekly with a partner, and it’s wonderful to get some of that old tango tonic again.
Our Tango will persevere, and I can’t wait!
The loss of our Tango Community, especially the milongas, has been an immense loss to me, and I know I’m not alone in experiencing the emptiness. I find comfort in walking, Yoga, a rare Tango and in my bubble of some friends and family.
I was recently standing in line at Fed Ex. A stranger, masked and socially distant, turned around and stared at me. A cabezeo? I almost nodded in my delusion.
It feels like part of my soul was sleeping
I have greatly missed tango, and while I listen to music (regularly) and sometimes practice footwork in my tiny kitchen, I became painfully aware of just how much I’ve missed dancing at Saturday’s tango conditioning class. It feels like part of my soul was sleeping. Tango is such an integral part of my being now, and there is no replacement for it. I have been practicing Qi Gong since the pandemic which has been great to keep me limber and has allowed me to be in the moment (like tango.) While I am grateful and will continue with it, tango is my greatest love.
We’ve found no perfect replacement for tango
Initially, Covid almost stopped our tango practice in its tracks; but the AdT studio offered the opportunity to practice privately on a regular basis. Left arm bicep tendonitis slowed Dottye down, but the final blow was her encounter with the garden hose which disenfranchised the use of her right arm making the tango embrace impossible.
A myriad of substitutes followed: baking bread, gardening and pouring concrete. Then, the air quality sidelined most of our outside endeavors. Refusing to give up, we decided that the legs had to stay strong for Tango even if the arms were not. Northgate Mall became our indoor track, furnishing us with the perfect daily two-mile walk.
Despite our endeavors, we’ve found no perfect replacement for tango, the tango embrace, or our Debbie and John. We miss them all!!
Dart and Dottye Rinefort
Debbie and John, I miss you very much.
Your warmth, humor, enthusiasm, and the encouragement you’ve so generously given to me these last two years have been precious gifts for which I am deeply grateful. Like everyone, I miss tango in general, and ADT in particular as it is a terrific community. But I’m too afraid of Covid to sign up for classes. I’m taking a bunch of Zoom technique and conditioning classes. I practice every day. Been familiarizing myself with tango orchestras old and new, and watching tons of videos, including the many I have of you and John. I watch repeatedly, hoping to absorb the techniques and learn some new steps. I hope it all translates well when we can dance with a partner again!
From 100 hugs a day to zero…well, almost
Well, not exactly zero. John and I make it a point to hug several times a day to help make up for the loss of connection with our beloved Alma del Tango family. While our tango world suddenly dissolved from one day to the next, we have found that other parts of our lives have become richer. As in tango, we have discovered that pauses throughout our day have helped us reconnect to each other in a more profound way. Slowing down the speed of our hectic pre-covid lives is a wonderful thing and we hope to hang onto this.
I have spent hours with my daughter hiking the hills around our home discovering and appreciating the beauty of our neighborhood. Yoga (online classes) has kept my mind and body flexible while navigating the crazy rollercoaster world of our politics. John has been finishing up work on our home remodel project and has discovered that he really enjoys carpentry. He spends hours at “YouTube University” and it turns out that the man is quite talented! Our house is almost done. Last August I wrote in my journal “ I wish the world would just stop for a while to allow me to catch up” – HA! Careful what we wish for…. I have cleaned all my cupboards, closets and drawers, updated our wills and bank accounts, set up an AirBnB business with our rooftop addition, and am enjoying cooking vegan vegetarian meals.
We can’t wait to see you all back on the dance floor!
Debbie and John