The impact of reduced access to Argentine tango

Originally published at: The impact of reduced access to Argentine tango – Awaken Tango

The nature of the impact of reduced access to tango on wellbeing, caused by COVID, varied a great deal. 

For some, tango had been all-encompassing: the central focal point of their life; tango met many different needs via a single activity. For them, the loss of tango was most difficult. For others, tango was one among many social activities, creative pursuits, and ways of contributing, making the adjustment easier. 

For 75% of the survey participants, reduced access to tango had had a negative impact on wellbeing — either somewhat negative (52.2%) or significantly negative (22.8%). 

Lack of purpose

Several described loss of tango as leaving them feeling lost, aimless, purposeless, adrift, homeless, or even useless. 

“I feel rudderless” 

“My life lacks focus and meaning. Tango gave it both” 

“Lack of a structure for daily life, lack of purpose” 

Loss of a part of the self

Many described the impact of losing tango as akin to losing their identity or losing a part of themselves. They felt a void, a vacancy, a feeling of incompleteness, a sense that a part of me is missing. Some described this on a bodily level as feeling paralyzed, imprisoned. 

“I feel that I’m suffocating without dancing tango and seeing my dancing partners” 

“It has left a hole in my heart”  

Intense grief

Several acknowledged that lack of tango had made them depressed; they shared a combination of intense sadness and loneliness, saying that losing tango was “devastating,” catastrophic, heartbreaking, and they were filled with grief and uncertainty bordering on hopelessness. 

“In one fell swoop, my access to friends, community, touch, fun fitness, physically expression, meeting friends and lovers has dropped to 0. It is harrowing. Also, with stress of lost income, higher work/sress, and nearly no social contact, I have gone from the healthiest I’ve been emotionally in a decade to really on the edge. I am coping as best I can but without tango it is a real disaster.” 

Lonely, sad, longing

For many, the negative impacts were slightly less intense. They felt lonely (40.7%) and sad (45.6%); they simply missed and longed for many aspects of what they loved about the tango experience, such as the qualities above, their friends, and the experience of interconnectedness that community provided at its best. 

“I feel disconnected and joyless” 

“My heart feels heavy & tired a lot of the time” 

“I miss my tango friends and fear I will never see them again” 

“I miss shared movement and focus. Tango feels like floating and I wonder if I ever will again” 

Less healthy

Several were concerned about gaining weight, losing tone, eating more, getting lazy; they acknowledged spending many hours per week consuming passive entertainment instead of dancing. Many reported working out less (39.8%).  

“I feel stuck and stiff in body and mind”

“Tango was my reason to close my laptop, dress up nicely [and] go move my body” 

“Dancing [tango] has been my best therapy for nearly 20 years” 

Needed a break anyway

On the other hand, several said they actually embraced the break from tango. About 5% of the survey participants said that reduced access to tango had actually had a positive effect on their wellbeing.  

“At times tango can be/has been socially exhausting without many/any positive gains” 

Many said they were introverted, and a moment of solitude was welcomed. Among other things, they used the time reflect on the role they want tango to play in their lives; to consider their learning journey and how they wanted to engage with the dance. They also enjoyed the opportunity to explore other parts of their personality and develop in new ways. 

Several were glad to get a break from stressful aspects of tango that created social anxiety, social exhaustion, fomo, toxic or upsetting community dynamics/politics; or what they experienced as an excluding or oppressive atmosphere. 

For several, the break was a helpful for more practical reasons: more sleep, less rushing/stress caused by traveling to tango events, and less spending. 

Two participants captured the complexity as follows: 

“My feet and achilles are recovering. I wear less makeup. I worry less about fitting in and being evaluated. I worry less about vanity. I miss the community and expression. I miss the transformative, dreamy tandas. I spend less money.”

“I miss the hugs, connection, community and inspiration which tango brought. But I am enjoying a regular sleep schedule. I don’t miss the uncomfortable social elements of being good enough, known enough, socially relevant enough to dance. the uncomfortable part of choosing and being chosen.”

Worried about teachers and organizers

Many expressed a lot of care, worry, and concern for their teachers, schools, community organizers — and for their communities in general. They wanted them to be okay; they wanted them to still be there after COVID; they wanted to help. The most frequently chosen “silver lining” of COVID was that, as a result, community members have increased awareness of the financial challenges of organizers — which 31% of participants selected as a positive side of the situation. 

Not very affected

There was a group of participants who were not strongly affected by the lack of tango. Many of them had very full lives outside of tango, with very involving jobs, children, or other creative pursuits; or, they had been reducing their focus on tango anyway due to health considerations or other reasons. For 19% of participants, reduced access to tango had had no impact on their wellbeing. 

“tango is not my whole life nor should it be anyone’s” 

In closing, it’s important to acknowledge that not only have many members of our community lost access to an activity that met a wide-ranging set of needs, they are also facing the additional stress and challenges of the pandemic.

“usually in times of catastrophe people come together, hug and support. this time we have to stay apart.”

We wish our peers peace, safety, and comfort and hope that together we can co-create ways to extend the energy of the embrace to one another despite the physical constraints we face.