with Graham and Nathalie
At the start of the month I wrote an article about the Tangocrisis, that moment in everyone’s tango journey where they start to doubt everything they think they know and they wonder if anything will ever make sense again. I was writing in response to a friend’s moment of tango self-doubt, but little did I know that within a matter weeks from then the whole tango world would be thrust into a tangocrisis the like of which has never been seen before. I am of course referring to the global shutdown of tango - and all other dance events - as part of the attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
Over a period of about seven days in mid March, every tango class, workshop, milonga, marathon, and festival around the world closed its doors for an as yet undetermined amount of time, leaving dancers and teachers alike reeling from the shock. It was so sudden and with almost no warning that no-one had any time to prepare for what was to come. Dancers were left with nowhere to dance, and their regular weekly social connection with groups of friends and like-minded individuals was abruptly severed. Some groups continued to run for a little longer than others, but within a few days even the most determined of them realised that closure was necessary for everyone’s health and they too joined the global shutdown.
This has hit the tango community - and the wider dance community - extremely hard. People go to dance events for more than just dancing, and for many of us it is an essential part of our mental wellbeing. Tango brings us together in a way that simply does not happen anywhere else, and those of us that have made it a part of our lives rely on that regular coming together of minds and spirits to keep us in one piece. Without that regular connection and rebalancing we need to find new ways to connect, and in these early stages of an impossible situation we are still working out how we can do that.
Many of the venues where we dance are owned and run by small community non-profit organisations that barely make ends meet, and who rely on volunteers to run them even in the best of times. These venues now have no income and they are wondering how they will continue top pay the ongoing bills for electricity, telecoms, gas, water, rates, and any permanent staff that they may have with no external support whatsoever. Some of these are turning to crowdfunding, goodwill, and hoping that local authorities and national government will come up with a plan to support them, but no-one has any experience of dealing with something like this so we are yet to find out what will be effective and what will not.
And then there are the tango teachers themselves. Some people teach dance as a second job or even an unpaid hobby and largely do it for the love, but for many of us it is our main source of income. We have built up our dance schools from nothing, putting everything into a business that we love and that provides a valuable contribution to the lives of those that come to our classes, and in the space of two or three short weeks all of that has been swept away. We are back to square one, looking for temporary career changes or ways to ride out the down-time. And it’s hard.
Prior to 2013 I had spent the best part of 20 years in the extremely corporate world of quality assurance and regulatory compliance. Part of my role had been the creation of disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans, defining what a business would do to get back on its feet in the event of flood, fire, theft, equipment failure, and the like. This was the definition of “worst-case scenario planning”, and yet I cannot remember ever wondering about what would happen in the event of a global pandemic shutting down entire industry sectors - and even whole countries - for months. It was an “impossible” event that had I put it on any of my plans would have seen me laughed out of the meeting. But it’s here, and now we have to work out what to do about it.
We are fortunate in one way that this has happened at a time when more of us than ever have good access to communication technology, and we can stay in touch and support each other without having to mingle. Many businesses are exploring new ways of continuing at least some part of their trade online throughout the shutdown, and tango teachers are no exception to this. We, like many others, have been creating as much content as possible and uploading it to our Video on Demand channel to keep you entertained and supplied with challenges and exercises to practise during the isolation period. This is as a service to our customers and friends, but also as a way of ensuring that we can get back to dancing when this is all over.
So wherever you regularly dance, if your teachers have set up an online training programme then subscribe to it, purchase it, or pay them by whatever means they can accept. Support them through this, as we all need something to tide us over until some version of normality is resumed.
Our channel is here - https://vimeo.com/ondemand/tangosynthesis - and is only £5.48 per month to subscribe. We will be updating it weekly as far as lockdown and isolation allows, and intend it to be a resource that will support our classes into the future when everything gets back to normal.
Until then, keep in touch with each other and do not let the communities we have spent years building up collapse. Message each other; phone each other; get on social media and make sure your dance friends are okay. Because some of them are not, and they will need the support of people like you to get through this.
See you online. And please send us a message if there is anything you would like us to add to the channel that we have not already included.
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