Monday, June 22, 2020

COVID-19 and Tango

The last milonga we attended must have been back in February before the lockdown.  We had just received news on Facebook before we went to the milonga that a dancer with the coronavirus attended a festival in Italy and many people fell ill after contact with that dancer.

The atmosphere at the milonga was quite tense.  Many people stayed away, there were temperature checks at the door and a box of anti-septic wipes on each table.  The organizers were doing their best to keep the attendees safe from what they knew about the coronavirus at the time, and, to try and keep tango going in our city. People tried to be calm but there was a lot less hugging and kissing hello for sure.

In fact, we had been afraid since November/December last year hearing the news and rumours coming from Hong Kong and China (Man Yung always keeps abreast of the news from that region) about the mysterious and deadly coronavirus.  The Chinese Government can't be trusted to be transparent about what is actually happening.  It was just a matter of time before the threat reached our shores.

I felt extremely relieved that after that milonga, all the milonga organizers in Toronto decided to shut down their milongas due to the coronavirus.  This was before the government mandated lockdown, before everyone was ordered to social distance and to stop gathering in groups larger than 5 people.  Close proximity and close contact in Tango is just too dangerous, it takes just one sick person to attend a milonga and so many others will also fall sick.  I really applaud the tango organizers in our City for taking that difficult step of closing down quickly.  It shows how much they care for the safety and wellbeing of the tango community and the public.

I don't think Tango will start up in earnest again until a vaccine can be found.  Well, maybe some people may try to get milongas started up before a vaccine is available but we won't be going to any Tango events until that time.  From what we know, washing hands often, checking temperatures, wearing a mask, dancing outside, head-to-toe disinfection etc. etc. reduces coronavirus transmission rates but they are not foolproof, people can still get sick if they get in contact with someone who has it.  Man Yung is a senior citizen with "pre-existing" medical conditions and I am no spring chicken.  We aren't going to risk it.  We won't even be going to practice in the dance studio we usually rent each week by ourselves. People using that studio will be exerting themselves physically during exercise/dance and if they have coronavirus, they will aerosol it into the air with every breath.

I know it is very tough for all the Tango organizers and teachers right now.  We hope they will be able to pull through and that the vaccine is only months away rather than years away.  As for us, we have been very lucky. Man Yung is retired and can stay at home and even though I have to go to work (the nature of my work doesn't let me work from home), my office is taking all precautions by making all staff wear facial masks and not allowing any outsiders into our office.

Yes, there is no tango dancing but we are comfortable, we can stay home and watch Netflix and drink more alcohol than we would normally drink.  I've gained 4 pounds since the lockdown started and it's all from gin and tonic.

Man Yung listens to tango music every evening on Youtube. I think he is practicing a million steps whenever he closes his eyes. He told a friend on the phone that he would be "fine" if he doesn't dance tango again but I think he is just putting on a brave front.

I have been having several bad dreams in which Man Yung drags me to a milonga while COVID-19 is still raging.  People are dancing without any face masks.  I have also had several dreams of finding myself in a supermarket and people are shopping without any face masks.  I just had a dream last night in which a horde of angry clients (without face masks) burst into our office and we have to call security to remove them.  I think this is becoming a recurring nightmare and phobia.  Instead of crowds of zombies I'm afraid of crowds of people without face masks.

As far as we know, our friends in Buenos Aires have also been in lockdown.  They aren't dancing, they aren't going out.  But that's ok, they are healthy and keeping safe and they assure us through email and Facebook that they are prudent and listening to what the government is telling them to do.  They are also quite hopeful we will all return to dancing soon.  The most important things right now are health and family and they are making sure to maintain their health and to keep their families safe and we totally agree.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


Some people like to study with championship tango dancers and watch videos of championship tango dancers dancing tango so some day they may also win a championship.  And if you don't win this time, try, try, try again!

Some people like to study stage tango movements because if they can't get people to pay attention to their low key, boring social dancing, they can kick it up a notch by flinging their partner into outer space (and other people)!  

Does anybody really want to study how to dance well on a crowded dance floor anymore?  Where the best dancers can express the music with the simplest movements while they are shoulder to shoulder with the couples around them?

Maestros Blas Catrenau and Myriam Pincen dancing on a VERY crowded dance floor.  Perfection!

I don't know about others, but I think this is the highest form of Tango expression.  I leave ambitions about winning championships and showing off for other people!

Sunday, March 10, 2019


Osvaldo and Coca performing a beautiful Vals at La Nacional - "Con Tu Mirar"

Today would have been Osvaldo's birthday.  We remember the first time we celebrated Osvaldo's birthday, we were at Confiteria Ideal on the closing night of Martha and Manolo's Camicando festival in 2007.  It was the first time that we were in Buenos Aires, and Osvaldo and Coca were teaching milonga at the festival.  It was a wonderful night - live performances by all the maestros of the festival, live music by Tubatango, and even a group performance by the students.  A night to remember!

Our dear milonguero friends and maestros were full of life, living their tango lives to the fullest with milongas every night, busy teaching schedules and teaching tours lined up for months in advance.  In a blink of an eye, we have lost Alberto, Martha, Osvaldo....and we miss them every day.

Last night we were talking to two veterans of Toronto Tango, both have been dancing Tango for over 20 years.  They had seen and experienced even more of the old maestros than we had, the ones that passed before we even started learning.  How quickly things change in life and in Tango!  A mere five, ten years ago, tangueros and tangueras all around the world wanted to dance with the milongueros and like the milongueros.

Now everyone wants to train and dance with the newest and shiniest cookie cutter competition winning couple, learn the fanciest figures and adornos, and maybe even win a competition themselves.  Milonguero?  What is that?  Those old people danced strange and funky.  They didn't follow competition rules.  We don't want that!

Luckily we have the magic of Youtube to keep examples of the old style milonguero dancing alive and accessible to all - along with hundreds of videos of performances by Osvaldo and Coca.  When Osvaldo was alive, they performed almost every night and everywhere they went.  They were beloved, and they always brought down the house.

Would there be a day when everyone will become tired of Tango turning itself into Ballroom dancing?  Would they re-discover the Milongueros and want to dance in the old way?

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