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Literally dying from a lack of touch [Jan. 31st, 2021|02:48 am]
Encuentro in Newport News, Virginia by Ivy Garrenton
Sybille, my wife, and I were talking about the five languages of tango, and I think she formulated what allows people to stay a long time in tango:

"People start dancing tango for different reasons, but those who stay with tango, stay because their dominant love language is the Language of Touch," she quipped.

I think she is has a good point.

Dying to dance tango? No.
At least, I don't think it is dancing that we are so missing. It is probably more that you are dying to have human touch.  A desire to have socially acceptable human touch with many people may add years to your life, according to the research.  This is especially true of certain people. Although research indicates that human touch increases in its pleasantness the older we get, the lack of touch especially as infants and older adults can lead to "the failure to thrive" conditions, leading to an "unexplainable" death.  This idea of having a dominant Language of Touch is another way of understanding how people literally die from a lack of touch, which I mentioned back in November.

If human touch with friends, family, and one's partner is important in a general sense, and you personally especially crave human touch, then tango will be your long-lived friend. Having the luxury of touch adds
 years to your life on the planet.  

Some prefer the other 4 languages.  
Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages, suggests other languages that I believe are complementary to tango-- the languages of Quality Time and Words of Affirmation.  Coupled with the Language of Touch, tango will be pleasant for a long time.  When I wrote the post The Five Languages of Tango, the first draft had problems with the so-called languages of "receiving gifts" and "acts of service."  But it became clear. The freedom of movement and expression is the greatest gift you can give to many people.  In the realm of dances, there are simply some better dances for this than tango.  Seeking a "freedom of movement" high? You might be in the wrong dance studio, and you might be a menace on the dancefloor!

Longevity in life and tango may be correlated, but the dance is so much more enjoyable when we give each other a warm embrace. Is touch your dominant language, your most fluent language? Tango itself needs to stay with this foundational strength; otherwise, I fear that tango itself will once again die out as so many dances have over history. I love other dances for movement, but if tango stays with its own foundation, it will come back strong after the pandemic once again allows a warm embrace.

Photo credit:
The line of dancers in the ronda was taken by Ivy Garrenton at the Newport News, VA (USA) encuentro.  March 2018.
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Collapse of the Tango Social Dance Infrastructure during the Covid-19 Pandemic: An Economic Analysis [Dec. 13th, 2020|10:17 am]
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has caused economic recession worldwide, primarily due to government intervention that has closed or restricted operation of places of business and recreation where people congregate. The resulting increase in unemployment has decreased consumer spending, which has led to an accelerating depressing effect on the economy. In addition, people have made personal decisions to practice social distancing, which has further reduced the income stream of many places of business and recreation.
    • Social dance activities, which are nonessential and bring people into close proximity, in particular have been negatively impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, due to both external (governmental) and internal (personal) constraints. Tango social dance events have nearly ceased to exist during the pandemic, most likely because, among all social dances, tango brings people into the closest physical contact.
  • An examination of the types of tango social dance activities and the variety of facilities hosting these activities in the United States provides the background for understanding the impact of the Covid-19 economic recession on the viability of these different institutions in surviving the pandemic.
    • The types of tango social dance activities that usually occur in tango communities are classes, workshops, practicas, milongas, tango weekends, marathons, and festivals.
    • The facilities that have been used for hosting tango activities include dance studios, houses of worship, fitness centers, coffee houses, bars, restaurants, banquet halls, night clubs, community centers, museums, art galleries, libraries, bookstores, fraternal and veterans’ organizations, social clubs, convention centers, hotels, and colleges and universities.         
      • Weekly tango classes most often have been held in dance studios, houses of worship, community centers, and colleges and universities.
      • Milongas most often have been held in dance studios, houses of worship, restaurants with banquet rooms, community centers, and colleges and universities.
  • Evaluation of the vulnerability to financial failure (i.e. permanent closure) of the various institutions supporting tango social dance activities can indicate the risk of failure of tango community revival after subsidence of the Covid-19 pandemic. This involves an examination of the sources of income and common expenditures of these institutions.
    • Sources of income evaluated are (a) sale of consumable products, (b) fees for service, (c) membership fees, (d) charitable contributions, (e) grants and contracts, (f) return on investment, (g) rental income, and (h) government allocations.
    • Expense categories evaluated are (a) property expenses, (b) loan payments, (c) equipment, (d) operating supplies, (e) utilities, (f) payroll, (g) contracts for service, (h) purchase of products for sale, (i) income taxes, and (j) sales taxes.
      • For most institutions, property expenses (mortgage/rent, property taxes, property insurance) are high and fixed, regardless of the level of activity at a facility. Loan payments comprise a large expenditure commitment for many institutions.
      • Nonprofit organizations [IRS 501(c) tax classification], (e.g., houses of worship, educational institutions, social clubs, fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations, publicly owned community centers) are exempt from paying income taxes and property taxes, which decreases their vulnerability to some degree. However, colleges and universities in particular maintain high payroll and property maintenance commitments that could threaten their viability.
  • The Covid-19 recession has had a devastating impact on the infrastructure supporting social dance activities. Facilities hosting tango social dance activities that have closed permanently or are likely to close permanently due to financial complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are dance studios, bars, restaurants, banquet halls, night clubs, coffee houses, bookstores, fitness centers, private museums and art galleries, houses of worship, some fraternal organizations, privately owned convention centers and hotels, and small private colleges and small regional public colleges.
    • Tango communities dependent upon failed facilities for their social dance activities are at risk for extinction if they cannot find suitable alternative facilities for hosting their events upon subsidence of the pandemic. The replacement facilities need to continue to attract dancers to the events hosted in these locations.         
  • Facilities hosting tango dance activities that are relatively immune to permanent closure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic include large colleges and universities and publicly owned community centers.
    • Tango communities that have utilized these more financially stable institutions for their tango social dance events are more likely to survive the interruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic, all other things being equal.
  • Loss of tango community members due to high normal turnover and lack of social and educational reinforcement during a prolonged pandemic are all factors that also contribute to tango community extinction associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. These effects are magnified for small tango communities.
    • All tango communities will need to focus on recruitment and retention of community members upon subsidence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) and the disease it causes (known as Covid-19) have resulted in governmental interventions designed to minimize the transmission of this deadly virus. Government recommendations and mandates have prescribed social distancing, wearing of face coverings, frequent hand washing, and limiting the size of social gatherings to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result of these policies, certain institutions have been targeted directly for closure or restrictions in operation (e.g., educational institutions, bars and restaurants, fitness centers, houses of worship, community centers), mainly because of high event attendance, high population density, and frequent intermingling of event attendees. The resulting curtailments in facility operations have caused massive employee layoffs and, as a consequence, economic recession, manifested in decreased consumer demand, which has further negatively impacted the financial status of institutions upon which restrictions have been placed.

As a result of the imposed public health measures and their economic consequences, as well as personal decision making based upon knowledge of the epidemiology of the coronavirus, social dance activities have been severely curtailed. This has been particularly evident for tango social dance activities, such that in-person tango dance instruction and social dance gatherings, which have become nearly non-existent worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic, in part because it is recognized by participants that the close physical contact between partners in tango dancing creates a particularly high risk of coronavirus transmission. In person tango dance events have been replaced to some degree by online instruction and ‘virtual milongas‘, but these fail to provide the reinforcement gained through in-person social interaction with other dancers.

The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has placed many institutions providing facilities for tango social dance activities at risk for financial failure and therefore permanent closure. This collapse of the tango social dance infrastructure could result in some tango social dance communities, upon subsidence of the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming unsuccessful in finding suitable alternative sites for hosting tango activities and this, coupled with loss of membership associated with the long pandemic period of inactivity, could result in the extinction of some tango communities.  

A previous Tango Voice post (The Longterm Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Tango) has examined the long term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the future of tango, focusing on the role of individual decision making in returning to tango dancing after the pandemic. This post examines the role of economic factors in causing the collapse of the infrastructure during the Covid-19 pandemic and how these factors will affect tango community revival upon subsidence of the pandemic. The focus here will be upon the United States, the epicenter of the global Covid-19 pandemic and home of one of the largest collections of tango communities worldwide.

Tango Social Dance Activities

The range of usual tango social dance activities is described below. When relevant, events are classified according to attendance as small (≤ 25), medium (26 – 50), large (51 – 100), and very large (> 100). Facility needs for each type of activity are indicated.  

 (1) Classes: regularly scheduled (usually weekly), taught by local community instructors; attendance is often small (≤ 25) and often comprised of the same group of individuals. Flexible seating (e.g., folding chairs) is usually adequate for seating needs (changing shoes, storing excess clothing and personal items). Food is rarely provided and attendees tend to bring their own (nonalcoholic) beverages for consumption, therefore no kitchen or concession stand is needed. Separation from other activities (i.e., in a separate room or undisturbed area) is nearly essential.

(2) Workshops: irregularly scheduled, typically taught by traveling instructors; these are often part of a tango weekend. Attendance for workshops is usually higher than for recurring classes, with many (possibly most) in the 26-50 range. There are usually workshop attendees who do not attend weekly classes regularly, and some may be from outside the immediate geographic region. Snacks and (nonalcoholic) beverages may be provided by the event organizers, and attendees may socialize around a refreshment site. Flexible seating is usually adequate for the workshop environment. Kitchen or concession facilities could be helpful for the larger attendance at workshops. Separation from other activities is essential.

(3) Practicas: are events where considerable time is allocated to dance practice, but differ from milongas in that instructional input is available to dancers. Instruction may be directed to the group as a whole, perhaps as a prelude to practice, or there may be periods of group practice interspersed with group instruction. Regardless of whether or not there is group instruction, instructors are available for consultation or, in some cases, instructors may give advice that is unsolicited. Attendance at practicas varies widely, but is usually small (< 25), except when incorporated into a tango weekend or festival. Not all attendees may be active participants throughout the duration of a practica, and attendees often arrive and leave at different times. Therefore, more comfortable seating (i.e., tables in addition to chairs) is advantageous. Proximity to a kitchen or food concession area may be desirable, although easy access to alcoholic beverages would be counterproductive given the instructional purpose of a practica. Maintaining segregation of the practica from other facility activities is still highly desirable.

(4) Milongas: are social events, with attendance of various sizes, depending upon venue, popularity, and size of the community. Seating setup is typically tables with chairs, often of a durable nature, but still movable in order to accommodate a dance floor. There is space beyond the tables for movement of attendees for the purposes of socializing. Food and beverages are almost always available, in some cases provided by the host or brought by attendees and shared, or available for purchase in a commercial establishment; it is common for alcoholic beverages to be available at a milonga, either sold by a commercial establishment or brought by the attendees. Milongas are usually held in a segregated facility, although in some cases a dance floor may be available and integrated into a commercial environment such as a coffee house, restaurant, night club, or bar. Some restaurants have separate rooms (banquet halls) that are segregated from the remainder of the establishment and these appear to be the more common sites of milongas when held in restaurants.

(5) Tango Festivals and Marathons: are very large gatherings of tango dancers (> 100) that occur over an extended period of time, usually a weekend or extended weekend (e.g., 3 or 4 consecutive days). If instruction is available, as in festivals, it is standard for there to be multiple simultaneous workshops. For milongas, multiple rooms for social dancing may be available simultaneously (e.g., to provide an opportunity to dance to tango or non-tango music). Most festivals and marathons provide space for venders to sell shoes, clothing, jewelry and other items.

Types of Facilities Supporting Tango Social Dance Activities

Listed below are the characteristics of the type of facilities most commonly used for hosting tango social dance events.

(1) Dance Studios

These are privately owned dance academies, often small to medium in size, i.e., in many cases not able to accommodate more than 50 people for a social dance event. Many have only one room designed for dancing; therefore, it is unlikely that a social dance event will have to share space with another simultaneous event, or have the presence of people not associated with the event. The most extensive use of these facilities is for teaching group classes, although private lessons may also occupy these facilities for a significant amount of time. Almost all dance studios dedicate a certain amount of time to social dance activities. Usually social dance activities are held within the same space(s) as instructional activities, with tables and chairs moved into place temporarily for social events. Some dance studios allocate a certain amount of time to activities other than partner dancing, such as line dancing, ballet, hip hop, jazz dancing, belly dancing, or fitness classes such as yoga, tai chi, or zumba, either as part of their programmatic structure or rented to outside parties. The dance studio facilities may be owned by the dance academy managers or the space may be acquired under a rental contract from the facility owner.

Dance studios dedicated to tango dancing only are rare. When tango activities are held in dance studios, they may be nested within a larger program, particularly ballroom dance (broadly defined) or Latin dances (salsa, merengue, bachata et al.), i.e., within a more inclusive programmatic structure or, alternatively, tango organizers may rent space on an hourly or event basis from the dance academy renters or owners of the facility. When tango activities are hosted within a dance studio, event size is usually small to medium (< 50), although some dance studios are large enough to host large milongas (≥ 50) and workshop weekends.   

Dance studios usually lack kitchen facilities and bars, and rarely have food or beverages for sale, although at social events it is commonplace for finger foods and beverages to be available at no extra charge to attendees. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is usually permitted at social events.

(2) Bars, Night Clubs and Restaurants

Bars and night clubs are business establishments where the primary source of income is the sale of alcoholic beverages. Food is usually available for purchase, but the menu is usually more limited than in a restaurant, and food prepared to order may not be available at all hours that a bar is open for business. A night club is a bar that offers live entertainment on a regular basis. When social dance events are held in night clubs, it is common for a live band to play music for dancing. Night clubs tend to be larger than bars and, if having a dance floor, they tend to be larger than those in bars although, in both of these types of facilities, dance floors tend to be small relative to the establishment seating capacity. In both bars and night clubs, dance floors and dancers are integrated into a larger social environment that includes non-dancers who have other motivations for being present, including alcohol consumption and socializing. For this latter group the dancers are a form of entertainment, or perhaps an extension of their social goals, which may include wandering onto the dance floor while lacking the prerequisite skills.

Restaurants rarely have permanent dance floors imbedded within the main dining area, although in some cases seating can be altered to create a dance floor, usually during hours when dining is not at high demand. The social dance event that can be created in these situations is typically at most medium sized (≤ 50 people). Nevertheless, there are some restaurants that have separate large rooms that are rented to groups for special social events. Some of these rooms have flooring suitable for dancing and can be configured for social dance events; these rooms can often accommodate up to 100 people. In this setup, food and (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic) beverages can be ordered from the restaurant. Restaurants of this type are often popular locations for milongas. However, rental cost and limitations of space availability usually prevent these facilities from being available for events of longer duration, such as tango weekends, festivals and marathons, although some milongas within the schedule of a tango weekend or festival may be held at a facility of this type.  

Some restaurants may have outdoor areas for dining, such as on patios, terraces, verandas, and decks; in some cases, these areas may be suitable or transformable for hosting social dance events.

In most facilities that host tango social dance events, tango organizers rent space on an hourly or event basis. However, when milongas are held in facilities that sell food and beverages (i.e., bars, restaurants, coffee houses), particularly when the milonga is integrated into a more inclusive dining or drinking environment and provides a type of entertainment for the non-dancing clientele, alternative financial arrangements may exist; e.g., the host establishment may collect the admission fee, or the tango organization may use the facility rent-free as long as food and/or beverage sales reach a certain criterion level.

(3) Coffee Houses

Coffee houses are typically private businesses whose primary income is from the sale of coffee, tea, and other nonalcoholic beverages, although some coffee houses also sell alcoholic beverages. A limited variety of (usually) pre-prepared food is available for purchase. Some coffee houses have flexible enough seating to hold social events and there have been cases where small to medium sized milongas (≤ 50) have been held in larger coffee houses that have appropriate flooring. This usually occurs during evening hours when sales of coffee and other stimulants is lower and may be more likely to occur in coffee houses that also sell alcoholic beverages.

(4) Banquet Halls, Convention Centers, and Hotels

Banquet halls have large dining rooms that are typically rented for weddings and other rite of passage events, as well as for conferences of various types. If the flooring is appropriate, a banquet hall can be rented for milongas, typically in conjunction with tango festivals and marathons. Catering of food is rare at tango social dance events, but is an available option, particularly at festivals where there are dance performances. 

Convention centers have a greater variety of rooms of different types, and may have more than one banquet hall. Convention centers are often used as locations for tango festivals because there are typically multiple rooms with suitable flooring available to allow for simultaneous workshops, as well as additional smaller rooms or open areas that can accommodate concessions that sell shoes, dance clothing, and other tango related merchandise. Convention centers may have food concessions, bars, and restaurants, or offer catering for events. Often convention centers are associated with hotels, being adjacent to or within the hotel grounds.

Banquet halls are usually privately owned businesses. Convention centers can be either privately or publicly owned, although daily operations and small businesses operating on the premises are typically run by private corporations. Hotels that have banquet halls or can serve as conventions centers are usually privately owned, although public ownership of these facilities may occur. In some cases, colleges and universities (both private and public) have conventions centers and hotels with banquet facilities, although usually on a smaller scale than nonacademic settings for these types of facilities.    

(5) Fitness Centers and Yoga Studios

The primary function of fitness centers is to provide fitness machines for exercise. However, it is not uncommon for fitness centers to offer group fitness classes (e.g., aerobics, Zumba, yoga, tai chi). Some fitness centers may offer classes in social dances, although rarely classes in tango. Larger fitness centers (e.g., some YMCA facilities) may rent space to tango event organizers for classes, workshops, and milongas.

Yoga studios are designed to accommodate group instruction and practice in yoga. In some cases, yoga studios have been rented by tango organizers for the purpose of hosting tango classes and sometimes even milongas.

Fitness centers and yoga studios rarely have kitchen facilities and therefore generally do not provide food for sale. In some cases, fitness centers have snack bars providing beverages and pre-prepared foods for sale. It is unusual for a fitness center or yoga studio to provide or allow on site consumption of alcoholic beverages.

(6) Community Centers

Community centers are broadly defined as:

… public locations where members of a community tend to gather for group activities, social support, public information, and other purposes. They may sometimes be open for the whole community or for a specialized group within the greater community. Community centres can be religious in nature… or can be secular, such as youth clubs.

For the purposes of this article, community centers administered by religious organizations will be considered separately under ‘Houses of Worship’ below.

The type of community center hosting social dance activities is one that focuses on social, recreational, educational, or cultural activities. These community centers often contain multiple rooms of various sizes that can serve as locations for tango dance activities such as classes, workshops, practicas, and milongas. Regularly scheduled dance classes can be part of an educational program, and social dances can be part of a social program managed to varying degrees by the community center administration, or space may be rented by dance event organizers.

It is common for community centers to have large rooms than can accommodate more than 50 people, sometimes more than 100 people. Therefore some community centers can serve as locations for tango festivals and marathons. Most community centers have kitchen facilities but do not sell food or beverages, except possibly through vending machines for soft drinks and snack foods. At social events, event organizers or attendees usually provide food and beverages free of additional charge to attendees or event attendees may bring food to share. Consumption of alcoholic beverages on site may or may not be permitted. 

(7) Houses of Worship

Houses of worship are designed primarily for providing religious services for a community. However, many houses of worship have rooms of various sizes that may be rented to community members for instructional and social activities; sometimes these are in a separate facility (e.g., religious community center) administered by a religious organization.

The dance activities that can be held in houses of worship (and their community centers) are similar to those hosted in public community centers, although event capacity is often smaller. Use of facilities, e.g., with respect to provision of food and beverages, food preparation in a kitchen, may be comparable, although consumption of alcoholic beverages is likely to be restricted to a greater degree in facilities administered by religious organizations. Given the use of houses of worship for worship services and related congregation based social activities on weekends, opportunities for weekend social dance events tend to be somewhat limited, and therefore it is unlikely that houses of worship or their associated religious community centers would be used for tango festivals and marathons.  

In contrast to public community centers, it is unlikely that cultural, educational, or recreational programs would be incorporated into the programmatic structure of a house of worship or its associated community center. Therefore, any social dance activities that occur in a house of worship are likely to occupy the facility for only several hours per week.

(8) Museums, Art Galleries, Bookstores and Libraries

In the US, museums tend to be either publicly owned or run by privately owned non-profit organizations. Art galleries are smaller operations that tend to be run by non-profit organizations or exist as part of an establishment selling art or having another commercial function (e.g., coffee house, bookstore). Bookstores are privately owned businesses. Libraries are almost always publicly owned. Some museums and libraries have large rooms that can accommodate social functions such as milongas; these milongas would be segregated from other activities at the facility, but are also likely to occur outside normal hours of operation. Even within existing display space, museums and art galleries sometimes can be reconfigured (e.g., by moving of tables and chairs) to host smaller milongas, also usually at times outside normal hours of operation. Some of these facilities have cafes where food and beverages can be purchased, and these may be adjacent to an area where a social dance event can be held. Some bookstores have cafés where seating can be reconfigured to host a milonga; this type of event may occur within the normal operating hours of the facility but is also likely not to be separate from normal commercial activities, including at the café.  Alcoholic beverages are unlikely to be available for purchase at these facilities, although attendees may be offered alcoholic beverages or bring their own at some events at museums and art galleries.

(9) Colleges and Universities

Although the primary purpose of colleges and universities is formal education towards an academic degree, there usually exist extensive facilities for hosting educational, social, recreational and cultural activities. Many facilities with flooring suitable for dancing are typically available for hosting social dance events of various sizes, including group classes, workshops, practicas, milongas, festivals, and marathons. Most colleges and universities also have coffee houses and restaurants with flexible seating arrangements that can accommodate small to medium size social dances. Likewise, there may also be art galleries and/or museums that have rooms with suitable flooring that can be reconfigured for dancing. Some colleges and universities have reception or lounge areas within such facilities as performing arts centers, cultural centers, and student, faculty or alumni centers that can be configured for social dance activities, and can usually accommodate large events (> 50 attendees).

Social dance events at a college or university may hosted by officially recognized student and cultural groups (which may obtain access to such space at little or no cost), or some of these spaces may be rented to outside groups on an event basis. However, in some cases, there may be significant competition for space. Another limitation in events held on college/university property is that the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages may be restricted, perhaps to areas that are primarily designated for faculty or alumni use.

Colleges and universities usually offer the widest variety of space facilities of different sizes available for social dance activities within a community where they exist. There is no other single institutional type that has the flexibility and capacity for hosting social dance activities that colleges and universities have. Many large (and some small) colleges and universities in the US support viable tango dance communities.  

Not only do the colleges and universities themselves provide facilities suitable for hosting tango activities, but in the neighborhoods surrounding their campuses, there are often houses of worship, restaurants, bars, night clubs, coffee houses, bookstores, art galleries, fitness centers, banquet halls, hotels and convention centers that are also suitable for hosting tango social dance activities.  These institutions all benefit from the economic activities associated with college campuses.

(10) Fraternal and Veterans’ Organizations

Facilities operated by fraternal organizations (e.g., Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, Elks) or veterans organizations (American Legion, VFW) often have large halls with floors suitable for dancing. These facilities also often have bars selling alcoholic beverages and kitchens available for preparing food. Tango organizers sometimes rent facilities of these types for hosting instructional and/or social dance events.

(11) Outdoor Facilites

Open air facilities such as verandas, decks, patios, gazebos, bandstands, and pavilions have been used for hosting milongas in some communities. Some of these facilities (those attached or adjacent to buildings) may be an outdoor section of a restaurant or even occasionally a bar, but most of these facilities are in publicly owned or non-profit establishments such as parks and fairgrounds, community centers, botanical gardens, museums, and colleges and universities. They serve as attractive locations for hosting tango social dance events when the weather is favorable. In some public facilities, it may be possible for tango organizers to take possession of a space for dancing on an ad hoc basis, subject to availability, without being charged for the usage.    

(12) Hybrid Facilites

Larger establishments such as colleges and universities, community centers, museums, hotels and convention centers often have multiple spaces that can be configured for tango social and instructional events, including not only large rooms that can serve as dance halls, but some also have restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and art galleries that can be reconfigured to host milongas. 

(13) Private Homes

In some cases, tango organizers may own (or even rent) a home that has a large area (e.g., remodeled basement; dance studio addition, attached or detached) that can serve as a site for tango instruction and milongas. In some cases, homeowners who have a large living room or sunroom with a suitable dance floor can move furniture to create a space for a small social dance event. In some other cases, there may be an outdoor area (e.g., patio, veranda, deck) that can be suitable for a social dance event under favorable weather conditions. It is unlikely that a tango organizer hosting a milonga in a private home will charge admission, although it would be normal to charge for tango instruction. The use of private homes for tango social dance activities is most likely to occur in small tango communities where most members of the community are already familiar with one another.  

Vulnerability of Tango Facilities to Closure and Failure during the Covid-19 Pandemic

(1) Evaluating the Financial Status of Tango Supportive Facilities

Government restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic have forced many businesses and recreational facilities to close or restrict operations, albeit for limited durations. All of the facilities mentioned above (with the possible exception of outdoor facilities) have been targeted for closure or reduced operation at various times in various geographic regions in the US, due to high patron density, high event attendance, or frequent movement of individuals throughout the facilities. Concomitant with this has been decreased consumer demand for services in many of these facilities due to reduced earnings by potential patrons as a result of the unemployment or other economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there has been decreased use of these facilities due to individual decisions to maintain social distance in order to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection. Dance activities in general have experienced reduced participation for these reasons, and tango dance activities in particular have been virtually eliminated from the social dance landscape in the US during the pandemic.   

Political, social and epidemiologic factors have exerted significant influences on establishment viability during the Covid-19 pandemic, but ultimately it is the financial balance sheet that determines whether a facility will remain open or reopen after the pandemic has run its course. Establishments are at high risk for failure when their primary sources of income have been severely compromised while expenditure commitments remain high. Within this perspective, the examination of sources of income and expenses for each type of facility supporting tango activities is critical in assessing their risk of failure. Common categories of sources of income and expenses are listed here.

Sources of income:

  • Sale of consumable products (e.g., food, beverages)  
  • Fees for service (e.g., tuition, educational fees, admission fees)
  • Membership fees
  • Charitable contributions
  • Grants and contracts
  • Return on investment (interest, dividends, capital gains)
  • Rental income
  • Taxes (government allocation)

Expense categories:

  • Property expenses (mortgage/rent, property taxes, insurance, building maintenance)
  • Loan payments
  • Equipment
  • Operating supplies (e.g. office supplies, tableware)
  • Utilities: heat, electricity, water, sewage, trash collection, telephone, internet
  • Payroll: wages, salaries, benefits, payroll taxes
  • Contracts for service (e.g., equipment maintenance, cleaning services, pest control)
  • Purchase of products for sale (e.g., food & beverages)
  • Income taxes
  • Sales tax

For most facilities, property expenses are high and relatively fixed regardless of the level of activity. Loan payments are often substantial and remain constant. Utility costs decrease with decreased activity, but a certain amount of heat and electricity is consumed even if the facility is closed or operating at reduced capacity. Telephone and internet contracts, which are not insubstantial, are typically maintained during temporary closure in order to be prepared for immediate startup in anticipation of imminent reopening and these costs will remain constant under conditions of reduced activity. The expenses that are or can be decreased during closure or reduced operation are operating supplies, purchases of equipment and products for sale, as well as expenses due to payroll and income taxes.

A major factor affecting the budget of establishments is their tax liability. Certain institutions receive federal and state exemptions from some types of taxation, which greatly reduce expenses even during normal times. Nonprofit organizations [501(c) IRS classification] are exempt from paying federal income taxes. These include charitable organizations that have a religious or educational mission [501(c)(3)] (e.g., religious organizations, colleges and universities, museums, the YMCA), social clubs [501(c)(7)], (e.g., country clubs, sports clubs), fraternal societies [501(c )(8) & 501(c)(10)] (e.g., Knights of Columbus, Freemasons, Elks), and veterans’ organizations [501(c)(19)] (e.g., American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars). State and municipal owned organizations such as libraries, museums, community centers and convention centers are also exempt from paying federal income tax.  All nonprofit organizations [as classified under IRS Code Section 501(c)] are exempt from property tax in all 50 US states. In almost all cases, nonprofit organizations are also exempt from paying state income taxes, although they are required to pay payroll taxes of employees. Property taxes and federal and state income taxes are major expense items for for-profit businesses.

The sources of income for establishments that are reduced most during closure or reduced activity are fees for service, sales of consumable goods, and rental income. Other sources of income, such as membership fees, charitable contributions, grants and contracts, return on investment, and state and local government allocations (through taxation) are also likely to be reduced, to varying degrees for different institutions, during an economic recession.

Federal legislation (the CARES Act) has provided some economic relief during the Covid-19 pandemic through loans to small businesses and direct payments to state and local governments. Payroll Protection Program loans to small businesses have been designed to maintain employees on payroll for 8 weeks; these loans are forgivable if certain conditions are met. This program ended August 8, 2020. Small businesses and private nonprofit organizations have also been eligible for Economic Injury Disaster loans to meet normal operating expenses. SBA Debt Relief provides small business a mechanism for deferring payments on previously contracted loans. CARES Act funding, to the degree that it has been available, may delay the financial failure of small businesses. All funding from the CARES Act will have terminated by December 31, 2020 (Forbes). At the present time, inaction in the US Congress has resulted in the failure to provide additional needed financial assistance to businesses and government agencies.

(2) Risk Assessment for Financial Failure among Tango Supportive Organizations

Social dance studios have been severely negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic (Washington Post). If they have not been closed outright, classes have been restricted by government ordinances limiting the size of social gatherings. Attendance has been reduced further by dancers’ fear of coronavirus infection due to close proximity and lack of interest to participate in dance activities because masks may be required and fewer people attend events, thereby limiting opportunities for social interaction. Decreased disposable income among dancers during the pandemic has further reduced attendance at activities in dance studios.  

Most social dance studios derive their income almost entirely from fees-for service, i.e., payment for group and private social dance classes; this income falls substantially during closure, with online instruction replacing it only to a limited degree. Online instruction and virtual social dance events do not substitute adequately for in-person participation in meeting the social needs of dancers.

Dance studios are an integral component of many tango dance communities. They frequently are the primary sites for recruiting new dancers and they also typically offer reinforcement of learning within the same physical environment in their hosting of practicas and milongas. This is particularly important for beginners. Some dance studios have multiple tango instructors to offer developing tango dancers continued engagement within a tango supportive environment. Small tango communities that rely primarily upon a single dance studio for continued recruitment and social and educational activities could face significant challenges in surviving if the business fails during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bars and restaurants rely heavily on sales of beverages and food for income. Reduced capacity requirements and closures due to government mandates have severely reduced income for these businesses and many have failed (ABC news; Marketplace). The role of these facilities in tango communities is that they often are the site for milongas. A business failure for one of these facilities may not have a significant long term impact on a tango community, although if an organizer had been able to rent a facility of this type at a reasonable cost and milonga attendance had been high because of the location, time of availability and atmosphere, it may become difficult in post-pandemic times to find a replacement facility offering these amenities. For small tango communities in geographic areas with limited alternative options for hosting tango social events, it may not be possible to recreate the same advantages in a new environment of this type. This could have a significant negative impact on tango community survival.

Banquet halls and night clubs have faced the same financial challenges as do bars and restaurants, albeit on a larger scale; i.e., these larger facilities have higher property expenses but face common restrictions on the size of social gatherings. 

Coffee houses, with balance sheets similar to restaurants, also have been at risk for business failure during the Covid-19 pandemic (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Fitness centers also have experienced permanent closures during the Covid-19 pandemic (IHRSA).

Privately owned museums and art galleries occasionally have provided attractive facilities that have been rented by tango organizers to host milongas. These museums and art galleries have been at risk for permanent closure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (Artsy News).

Many bookstores also face the prospect of permanent closure due to the economic consequences of the Covid-19 recession (Hartford Courant; Los Angeles Times).

The permanent closure of coffee houses, fitness centers, museums, art galleries, and bookstores are only likely to have a significant impact on the viability of a tango community if one of these facilities is the only site for a milonga in the community and alternative sites are difficult to find. 

Privately owned convention centers and hotels have suffered financially during the Covid-19 pandemic due to government imposed travel restrictions, self-imposed cancellations of conferences by organizations, as well as by personal choices in limiting travel during the Covid-19 pandemic (Los Angeles Times; Eater Chicago). Permanent closure of these facilities is likely to limit the ability of a tango organizer to host tango festivals and marathons; however, since it is primarily well-developed tango communities that have the population and resources to host festivals and marathons, closure of hotels and convention centers that have hosted tango activities is unlikely to have a negative impact severe enough to threaten the existence of tango communities that have been able to host festivals and marathons.

Almost all private businesses carry loan debt incurred with the establishment of the business or renovation of the facilites. The amount of this debt is correlated with the size of the facility and the degree of remodeling needed to establish or modify the business. Inability to meet loan payments can cause business failure for any of the facilities mentioned above.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant negative financial impact on colleges and universities (Brookings; US News). Most transitioned to online instruction during the initial wave of infection during the spring of 2020, many had delayed a return to in-classroom instruction in the early fall, and the renewed acceleration in infection rates in the late fall has resulted in additional curtailment or cessation of in-person instruction. Both in late spring and late fall, at many colleges and universities, students were dismissed from campus housing, obligating them to return to their parents’ homes. Restrictions on entry into the US and health concerns have led to lower rates of matriculation of foreign students, which often comprise a large percentage of the graduate student populations (PEW). Loss of opportunities for in-classroom learning and restrictions on social gatherings that are an integral part of the college experience have led many graduating high school students to delay entry into college, as well as causing many continuing students to take a leave of absence from their educational programs. All of these impacts on the social organization of college campuses has resulted in decreased enrollment and therefore decreased tuition income. Dismissal from dormitories has led to decreased income from housing rental and dining hall contracts. Economic recession has decreased charitable contributions to colleges and universities. Decreased state funding has significantly reduced this source of income for public colleges and universities.

Despite exemption from federal and state income taxes and local community property taxes, colleges and universities still maintain large expense responsibilities. Large fixed expenses such as salaries for tenured faculty and other contracted personnel remain a financial liability. Building maintenance, utility costs, and service contracts, even if lowered somewhat, still represent large expenditures for these institutions with expansive facility development. Although to date there have been only a few colleges and universities that have closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, continued viral spread resulting in abandonment of in-classroom instruction (and on campus residence) will exacerbate budget shortfalls and cause additional colleges and universities to fail and close permanently. It has been predicted that small private liberal arts colleges (WBUR) and smaller regional public colleges (PEW) are at greatest risk for permanent closure. (See also US News; Marketplace; Foundation for Economic Education).

Numerous colleges and universities support active local tango communities, both in terms of providing the necessary infrastructure for holding events, as well serving as a source of potential dancers (students and staff) for the development of tango communities. In college towns, the college or university is usually at the center of tango activity. Although college students usually comprise the largest proportion of dancers in a college town tango community, older dancers associated with the college or university, as well as local residents, are also attracted to its tango activities.

Permanent closure of a college or university in a college town is almost certain to cause extinction of the local tango community. However, despite the fact that the facilities of many colleges and universities potentially will be available after the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided, as the pandemic persists into 2021, the prospects of tango community revival in college towns remains at risk, for several reasons. If one assumes that social activities on college campuses return to normal in the Fall 2021 semester, something that is likely but not guaranteed, there will have been no new recruits to a tango community for about 18 months (since March 2020). With no reinforcement provided to beginners during that interval, plus an expected turnover rate (through graduation, withdrawal, and transfer) of 25% or more per year, the size of a college town tango community could be greatly reduced, perhaps to the point of inability to thrive upon resumption of normal activities. Thus, given the central role of colleges and universities in tango community development, the impact of Covid-19 upon these institutions is likely to have a significant negative impact on tango communities as well.   

Numerous tango communities host tango instructional and social dance events in houses of worship and their associated community centers. Houses of worship often operate with limited income (charitable donations, rentals, fees for service) that has been curtailed by temporary closure, event size restrictions, and economic hardship imposed on congregation members during the Covid-19 pandemic, while maintaining a financial burden of fixed or relatively fixed expenses (salary of clergy, loan payments, building maintenance, utilities). As a result, some (mostly smaller) houses of worship have been placed at risk for permanent closure during the Covid-19 pandemic (Christian Post; Akron Beacon Journal). Tango organizers have often been able to rent space in houses of worship or their community centers at low cost; therefore, the loss of one or more of these options for hosting tango events could have a negative impact on tango community viability.

It has not been possible to determine whether there has been permanent closure of social clubs, fraternal organizations and veterans’ organizations due to loss of revenue during closure during the Covid-19 pandemic; however, this possibility cannot be precluded. The financial situation is particularly precarious for fraternal organizations, which have been experiencing membership decline for decades (Washington Times). The Covid-19 pandemic could be the tipping point causing the permanent closure of already financially struggling fraternal organizations.

Publicly owned community centers throughout the US have experienced partial or complete closure at times during the Covid-19 pandemic. In a few cases (e.g., Bloomington MN), some facilities have been closed permanently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The saving grace for publicly owned community centers is that they themselves are exempt from property taxes, while their funding can be replenished through government allocation of the property taxes paid by others when the economy recovers from recession. Therefore, it appears that, overall, publicly owned community centers are relatively immune to permanent closure during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Summary and Conclusions

As of the time of publication of this post (December 2020), the Covid-19 pandemic has caused over 1.6 million deaths worldwide (Worldometers-1) and over 300,000 deaths in the United States alone (Worldometers-2), including over 3000 deaths per day (New York Times). Government mandates and recommendations have attempted to limit the spread of the coronavirus by reducing population density, which has decreaased economic activity and caused a severe worldwide economic recession. As a result, many businesses have failed, resulting in the permanent loss of access of their facilities to the general population. Recent acceleration in the spread of the coronavirus is likely to lead to further government restrictions on economic and social activity, further unemployment, decreased consumer demand, and therefore more business failures. Nested within these business failures has been the permanent closure of many facilities available for recreational activities. These losses, as well as future losses that will occur before the pandemic subsides, will cause many dance communities, including tango communities, to lose familiar and desirable facilities that have hosted their social dance activities. This will create the need for social dance event organizers to seek alternative facilities upon resumption of social dance activities, which may not be as desirable or may not even be available. Therefore, the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic will place many social dance communities at risk for failure to revive after the pandemic has ended.

When considering the facilities most often used by tango organizers to host their social dance events, those at greatest risk of permanent closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic are those that have high fixed expenses and income greatly lowered during the pandemic, i.e., dance studios, bars and restaurants, and houses of worship. Small colleges and universities are also at risk for permanent closure. Prior reliance on these facilities for hosting tango social dance activities could place a tango community at risk for failure to find attractive alternative sites for tango social dance activities. For example, it may not be possible to replicate the night life atmosphere of bars and some restaurants that is an attraction for some dancers. Replacements may not be found for dance studios that can reliably offer a variety of classes on a predictable schedule, and also be available for private lessons and social dances at the same location. The loss of dance studios, which exist on fragile economic grounds to begin with, could have the greatest negative impact upon the future development of a tango community.

The institutions most likely to have survived the Covid-19 pandemic are large colleges and universities and publicly owned community centers although, in individual cases, any type of facility that has hosted tango activities may have survived, despite the economic challenges faced. These and other facilities that still will be available for hosting activities may not have the same convenient set of characteristics as those that existed prior to the pandemic (e.g., location, parking or access to public transit, hours of availability, attractive atmosphere). Some facilities (e.g., at universities) may not be available to event organizers not affiliated with the institution, or available only on an unpredictable low priority basis. In any case, post-pandemic shortage of available facilities for social events of any kind will create competition and perhaps even increase rental costs, which could be formidable obstacles for small tango communities.

Another limiting factor in seeking new facilities for hosting tango social dance events after the pandemic is the almost inevitable shrinkage in tango community size as a result of the pandemic. It is likely that there will be a shrinkage in community size for several reasons. There will be significant losses in the cohort of beginners recruited in the months before the pandemic, due to lack of reinforcement of tango skills and social involvement. There will also be the normal turnover among existing dancers, which may be higher than usual because some dancers may have been uprooted from a community in search of employment elsewhere. Turnover is expected to be higher in communities that normally have high turnover, such a tango communities in college towns. Even among former dancers still residing in a community, a depressed economy (and lowered consumer spending) will persist beyond the point when the health risks of interpersonal contact have subsided. However, in contrast, it is also expected that dancing desires repressed during the pandemic will be unleashed when it is deemed safe to gather to dance again and many communities may experience a renewed excitement about social dancing when it once again becomes available.   

The post-pandemic risk of tango community failure will generally be greater for smaller tango communities. Smaller communities may not be able to afford the rental costs for hosting events in the facilities still available to accommodate tango social dance events. If the facilities available for hosting tango social dance events are less attractive to dance community members, attendance will decrease and this alone can cause further subsequent attendance decline. Failure to recognize these hazards, for example due to complacency that may have existed in a community that coasted along for years without expansion or even slow decline, could cause a sudden collapse in involvement in a tango community. Even in vibrant medium- to large-sized tango communities, viability prior to the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be considered to be the inevit

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Musicians who make us get up [Dec. 4th, 2020|12:47 am]
Worldwide 17 December 2020 we celebrate Bethoven's 250th birday.  This is a good time to ask what great tango musicians have in common with Ludwig van Beethoven?  It is simply this: They all keep people on their feet. If you have never been brought to your feet by Beethoven, read this story:
Only the best keep people on their feet.
The year, 1824, and the place is Wien, Österreich. An absolutely deaf man is conducting his newly composed 9th symphony for the public. Although it is a tradition not even to clap after a movement and wait until the end, you have already stood with others four times, driven to stand and cheer.

Police in the auditorium try to stop the fourth ovation because only royalty are supposed to get three ovations, and now you have disrespected the Viennese royals by putting a lowly musician ahead of them. The fifth standing ovation is yet to come. You have never seen a chorus used for a symphony. You may have wondered if they would ever sing since they have sat in silence through every movement of the symphony. Finally, the chorus dramatically stands.

The music is so powerful tears are in your eyes. You stand for your fifth ovation in spite of the police.  At the glorius end, one of the lead vocalists, a woman, turns the composer/director around to face the audience, and he realizes that everyone is on their feet. Certainly you will want to go home and listen to it again.  But that is not possible. Sorry. The radio doesn't exist. You cannot buy the CD or even get the vynil. None of these exist. Unlike modern audiences, you now go home, knowing that you porbably will never get the chance to hear Beethoven's 9th ever again.  

What precious moments!  There will be no record of this momenteous night beyond impressions on paper--the music manuscript and impressions from the audience in the newspapers and streets.  

Tango Audiences: The lack of being present
This brings us to the great difference of great tango music and Bethoven's music:  Beethoven's listeners were attentive and quiet and then boasterous in their praise between movements. On the other hand, rarely have I seen concert goers so loud and unattentive as in a live tango concert.  We are all used to tango musicans being dead, and then seem to forget that some are young and alive, playing for us in the flesh!  Dead or alive we disrespect them.

In the 1800's generally the audiences were absolutely quiet and listening. If you did not listen at the concert you may not ever hear it again!  It was a rare person who heard any of Beethoven's symphonies twice.

Interestingly, the pandemic has us back to listening attentively and not just talking as tango music is in the background.  Does it take a tragedy for us to return to mindful attention?  Maybe we have learned something.

Note for music lovers:
If you have never been brought to your feet, please read this wonderful introduction that appeared in the New York Times: "Five Minutes that wil make you love Beethoven."

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Post-Pandemic Body and Tango [Nov. 27th, 2020|03:15 am]

Will tango survive the pandemic?  

What helps the body survive is exactly what will help tango survive. But surviving is not the same as thriving.  If you ask a pediatrician or geriatric physician about what "failure to thrive" means in medicine, they will tell stories of vulnerable children and mature adults who died from a lack of touch.  A "failure to thrive" tango community has a problem with touch too.  Death looms.

The need for human touch is correlated to human longevity itself.  That is what "thriving" is!  However, once the risk of a dangerous virus is gone, fear can remain for a lifetime.  World Wars and the Great Depression are examples of tragedies replayed in the psyches of many for their entire lives. People go to their graves with this fear of losing everything again. Even so with the Pandemic of 2020, unfortunately, we will have those who will never get over this experience.  Being traumatized will halt what needs to happen.  We will continue needing touch on two levels. First, on the biological level, the microbiome needs social interaction because of the biological need for diversity of the bacteria in our bodies. Scientists have been ignorant about this until more recently, and the general public and many physicians do not know it. Post-pandemic, some dancers sequestering themselves for a lifetime will unwittingly create the likelihood of a weakened immune system.  That's where a short lifespan comes into play.  Second, on the psychological level without touch, failure to thrive starts--all the food and comforts do not keep children, the elderly, and yes, the forlorn dancer alive, who are all dying of a lack of touch and interaction--it's more than just the dance.  The body and/or tango die out if the population is now avoidant of one thing: Touch. But that won't happen, at least to you, if you know how important touch is.

What are some of the foreseeable challenges for the Tango community?
  • Some milonga venues will be lost, never to return.
  • Some organizers were truly harmed financially by the pandemic and will not want to face the risk again.
  • Many teachers will have gone on to some other way to make their living.  Being a teacher was already hard, but the pandemic had them take their talents elsewhere. 
  • Some dancers just cannot afford to go dance as they did before.
  • New blood, that is, the new dancers who would have come to tango has stopped flowing for nearly a year.  What does that do to a village when reproduction stops and the toddlers also died out? (Tango "toddlers" are the dancer who were one- and two-year-olds tanguer@s when the pandemic started.) 
  • And my biggest concern as a therapist mentioned above:  Some dancers have been traumatized by this pandemic.  The tragedy is abundant: Friends and family have died, even dancers you knew. Many dancers will be forever changed in the way they understand a hug from a stranger.  The pool of people who will continue to hug may shrink.  That, I fear will shrink a dance whose foundation is a musical hug.
How was the pre-pandemic embrace in your community?
Something else adds to my concern: A warm tango embrace was already rare in many communities. That should send off an alarm bell if you love tango.  If indeed touch is the epicenter of tango's survival, then many communities may have already been in decline before the pandemic even started.  Does the "close embrace" make many in your community uncomfortable?  I have a frank suggestion for touch-avoidant dancers: Consider learning how to dance ballroom which is mostly a museum of dead dances.  Do you have any friends going out to dance the Viennese Waltz, the Quick-Step lately? No? How about the Paso Doble? Museums have signs everywhere: "Don't Touch!

Once it is safe again, just as it was after the 1918 pandemic, tango will live again as long as the embrace is warm and gladly given.

Note:  This post completes 12 years of Tango-Therapist and the 418th post.  Many have stayed with me that long. Thank you for your kind words and support.  The research I have put into many posts has been a great education for me, and I hope for my readers.
      --Mark Word,  Thanksgiving Day 2020.

Photo credit: This photo is about the importance of children pointing, but I like the image of God as a child giving life to Adam (humanity).  God knows that touch gives life.  Children know.  Adults have to think about it, or discover it late in life when going to a milonga.

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    Tai Chi and Tango [Oct. 28th, 2020|11:06 am]

    I have been introduced to tai chi, a slow-motion Chinese martial art, and was immediately hooked by its attributes pertinent to tango - rhythm, precision, balance, flexibility, control and beauty. Here is an example of tai chi.

    Tai chi is practiced in a half squatting posture that requires the strength and flexibility of the legs to enable one to move like a cat. The body weight is placed on one leg and slowly transferred to the other leg back and forth while the torso remains upright in the movement. All body parts, including the arms, the hands, the torso, the waist, the hips, the thighs, the knees, the ankles and the feet, are used in the making of the movements, demanding good coordination, balance and control. Every movement is well defined to meet the aesthetics and must be done precisely according to the standard. The request on the strength and flexibility of the legs is extremely high due to the slow motion in half squatting posturing, which can help to develop the strength, flexibility and control of the legs.

    All these are relevant to tango because, like tai chi, tango, too, is mainly a leg exercise, although all parts of the body including the arms, the hands, the torso, the waist, the hips, the thighs, the knees, the ankles and the feet are used and must be well coordinated to form the steps. Tango dancers often do not realize that their lack of lightness, balance, control, coordination, precision and elegance is a result of the lack of strength and flexibility of the legs. Those who want to overcome these shortages can benefit tremendously from practicing tai chi.

    Although tai chi does not need to be practiced to music, its movement has a rhythm of its own, as you can see from the first video. Tai chi is deliberately designed to be practiced in slow motion for health and fitness purpose, which can help tango dancers to improve their ability to dance in slow motion. However, tai chi can also be practiced in fast motion to help develop nimbleness and speed, as showing below.

    All these traits make tai chi an excellent exercise for tango dancers to build up their body strength and improve their dance ability. Those who are interested in learning tai chi can start from here.

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    Dancing through life with balance [Oct. 24th, 2020|09:10 pm]

    The tango community is filled with people who are a rare breed of humanity.  

    Throughout time, people who learn the arts with passion often look at the world in a different way.  What makes tango and my tango friends special, I think, is that this art form has its origins in social connection and improvisation.  

    Tango is a rare "performing art" for just two people.

    Even though tango has a special place among the arts, all artists--passionate dancers, artists, musicians--have at least a chance of looking at all of life in a deeper way.  I think the passion for dancing tango helps people to find a more harmonized world view.  Ancient civilizations or any modern country that appreciates the arts has more of a three-dimensional view of life in general. Tango, with its social, improvisational core, makes it especially wonderful for helping people gain a multi-dimensional world-view.

    I have garnered many close friendships from dancing tango with people from all over the world.  And the one thing that is most amazing is not that tango is a universal body language, but it also helps all of us be more balanced in our world-views. The world around us tends to try to understand reality empirically.  That is good but limited.  In a sense, it is the "body" or "outward manifestation" model. The ancient Greeks had a great way of explaining three ways to understand reality.  This is the artist's view, a three-dimensional model to look at the perceptual world:  Body, soul and spirit.  This 3-D model is a common way for truly amazing tango dancers to see the world, and here below I think, is how they understand their art. 

    Harmonizing of a 3-D World Body (outward expression model) Soul (the balance of intellect & emotion model) Spirit (energy & flow model)
    BODY (Greek: soma): Health Model: Wellness-focused dancers take care of their body's health. They avoid over-use, which leads to injury and pain. She sleeps, eats, and exercises to maintain bodily health. A healthy body relies on other qualities from soul and spirit. A healthy middle ear is the only reason a dancer can physically balance. This type of balance is only an analogy of the balance of intellect and emotion (soul).
    SOUL (Greek: psyche*). Balance Model: A long-term excellent dancer who has emotional and intellectual balance is creative, passionate but intellectually aware. The balance (soul) model is dissimilar to the body wellness/sickness model of the soul. "Mental health" exists in ancient literature but only as poetry and analogy. Still today, "mental health," is simply a way for "therapists" (from Greek "healers") to be accepted into the payment side of insurance and the medical system. Have a balanced soul but a healthy body! Even then with balance and wellness, finally, where does energy/flow come from? Something is missing, and that is the third model of Spirit.
    SPIRIT (Greek: pneuma*). Energy Flow Model: Certain dancers, although older, may have a huge reservoir of energy flow or Chi. Where does that come from? Sometimes the ONLY time they really have great energy is when they are dancing. When the music stops, they may even limp off the dance floor and are weary again.

    How well are you harmonizing these three models in your dance, or for that matter, your life? Look around. Many apparently good dancers may have dead-end dance and personal lives. They mistreat their body with over-use, poor sleep, too much alcohol, or push themselves to dance when they are not well. Even if the body is well, perhaps they may not be balanced in their psyche because they spend too much on intellectual choreography or are passionate but too much in their own world. Or perhaps, they are healthy in body and balanced with emotion and intellect, but some dancers may be burnout, leaving tango because they lack energy flow. Their energy may wain or be totally blocked by events in their life which will cause this energy to go off on some other tangent.

    Harmonizing body, soul, and spirit is the ancient way of harmonizing everything, including dancing. Isn't dance one of the most ancient wonders of the world? Being a healthy, balanced, and spirited dancer makes you a living ancient wonder in our modern myopic health-and-body-focused world. You, a tango dancer, have learned, indirectly perhaps, a three-dimensional view. That is why you love the dance and the people in the community who organically see many of the world issues similarly and harmonize with the planet more than most communities to which they belong.

    My hope is to my body, soul, and spirit into everything you do.

    *Spirit in Greek is pneuma. and means breath, wind, and spirit in Ancient Greek. Other words used by ancient writers used shakti (Sanskrit) and chi (Chinese). **Psyche does not mean the "mind" in Greek but means "soul" which is a balance of emotions and intellect. Note: Did you notice that I did not have to explain soma, "body." Everyone seems to understand the empirical, externalized, non-contemplative, what-you-see-is-what-you-get model. :-)

    Photo credits:

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    The Lessons of Tango [Oct. 10th, 2020|02:19 pm]

    Having a broad vision, or being petty, the results are different.

    Viewing from the perspective of the team, or viewing from the perspective of the individual, the results are different.

    Zooming out to see yourself as a part of the whole, or zooming in to see yourself as everything, the results are different.

    Focusing on what's in common, or focusing on the differences, the results are different.

    Being sympathetic, or being unsympathetic, the results are different.

    Taking the concerns of others into account, or rejecting different views, the results are different.

    Being agreeable, or being disagreeable, the results are different.

    Moderate and balanced, or rabid and extremist, the results are different.

    Meeting in the middle, or having your own way, the results are different.

    Accommodating with each other, or fighting with each other, the results are different.

    Cooperating, or being uncooperative, the results are different.

    Building bridges, or building walls, the results are different.

    Working for the common cause, or working for self-interests, the results are different.

    Striving to achieve harmony, or striving to win competition, the results are different.

    Teamwork, or self-display, the results are different.

    The former are magnanimous and patriotic, the latter are self-centric and small-minded.

    The former, which are germane to tango, lead to a better society.

    The latter, pertinent to individualism, lead to dissension, disunity and failure as a nation.

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    A Sexless Marriage and the Mystery of Tango [Sep. 6th, 2020|11:45 pm]

    When I was new to tango, I was single.  I was in a new job, and for three years I was a perfectly happy single man. This was the longest period that I was not in a relationship in my whole life. Tango was enough--at least for a time.  It was a good time to get to know myself. Social dance filled a void.

    As a therapist, I have been fascinated by social interactions in tango, my own and others'.  Let's say that I was distracted a bit from this mysterious phenomenon, I will call the "tango-is-enough phenomenon."

    The Sexless Marriage
    A while back, I was astounded
    with a story from a confidante that she was having an extra-marital affair before starting tango. But tango was enough, she said. She stopped seeing her lover.  Her sexless marriage drove her to seek out what she was missing, but the extramarital affair, she found, was not as fulfilling as tango. Tango was enough. She didn't have time for something that suddenly felt shallow.


    Then I heard the story again! And again! But then I thought about it.  Why am I astounded when that was my experience too that tango is enough? 

    Mystery versus the Myth of Passion
    I realize that for those who understand the social interaction in a tango community, these stories will not seem that unusual. All I am suggesting here is that the tango-is-enough phenomenon is unfortunately overpowered by stories of tango passion and gossip-worthy scandals. Something is very precious about this phenomenon of tango being better than an affair. You know, people meet each other in bowling clubs, or book clubs, at work, or whatever. Then the love affair/marriage might follow.  But do other activities you know of stop extra-marital affairs?* There is a mystery here. Something is strange at the quantum biophysics level.   :-)

    Lock-Down to Think About Things
    During this pandemic, as we go into flu season, we have a chance to realize more about the mystery of life and what is important to us. What brings us to be grateful? Pandemic or not, many of the elements of the beauty of life are requesting our intention and attention.  The many facets of tango are still there--connections with others, listening to music, dancing ecstatically alone, learning more about the music and orchestras, and most of all being in the zone, mindful in all things.  

    I suggest staying in the present, full of joy. Tango is not just a dance but the way to understand that life is meant to be a mystery, lived in the present, and that the mystery of happiness is enough, joy is enough, life is enough.  Tango is merely a sweet signpost along the way to keep us on this path.

    *Even though tango just indeed may be enough, my suggestion to the sex-deprived spouses (sometimes both having affairs) is that they seek marital counseling, specifically a sex therapist.  

    Photo credit: Need a ring?

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    The Best Pandemic Tango Ever [Aug. 22nd, 2020|09:11 pm]


    What is pandemic tango? 

    Or even
    hat is endemic tango?

    Endemic and pandemic are not words only meant for disease!  In fact, these words have nothing to do with disease directly.  They have the same base meaning: -demic means "population."  En-demic is in-the-population and pan-demic is throughout-the-population from the original Greek. 

    For those who follow this blog, I have suggested the four endemic M's in tango--Music, Motion, eMbrace, and Mindfulness.  Some friends even have suggested Manners (etiquette), and eMotion to make it six M's.  These "Ms" are pandemic to tango--present in the tango community no matter where you go.  Some of these M's may be really a lot more important to you now that you have not been dancing much.

    So be mindful of what you miss during this time of being separated from your love of dance.  That defines what your body and mind seek out the most essential elements of tango.

    The Element We Most Miss
    Endemic to tango, at least for social tango, is the embrace, and many tango dancers miss the embrace the most during our physical distancing during this pandemic phase of our lives.  A colleague at work was the first person to touch me. We worried that she would die, and she was in the intensive care unit. I really didn't know her very well, but when she came back to work, I told her that I had prayed for her every day.  She wanted to embrace me, but she settled on a handshake. It felt so amazing to have social contact again. 

    Let's be positive and proactive
    Using the word "endemic"--prevalent or characteristic--helps us get back to basics to what dance really means.  Maybe it is not the social touch for you.  But what is the positive pandemic element in tango for you? What is always present and important to you?

    A Prediction
    At least for me, I think that I have also found what is endemic to a healthy life. This forced break from tango has brought me to see some of the positive things that have sprung up:  More reading, more deep sleep, more important projects that have been neglected, more conversations with my partner--these are also endemic to a healthy life.  As horrible as COVID-19 has been--as with all its tragedies--we humans can also find ways of surviving and being better. It is not a normal outcome of tragedies, but it can and does often happen.  I predict that many will transform their tango to be more regulated with earlier milongas and better sleep, and certainly, we will all be much better huggers when this is all over.

    If you wish to contact me: .

    Definition of pandemic is from Webster's

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    Tango and Reincarnation [Aug. 12th, 2020|02:01 am]

    Reincarnation means something different in tango. 

    Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra plays and you embody the music in a totally different way than if Troilo's orchestra is playing.  When your body changes so much, I would argue that this is a type of new "incarnation."  A new tanda starts, and then the next orchestra is Di Sarli. Now your incarnation of the music transforms you yet again.

    So this sort of "reincarnation" is possible when we dancers let go of all the steps we have learned.  Reincarnation happens by listening to the music rather than nervously trying to knit one' "moves" all together during a tanda.  Let that go!  Breathe. Reincarnate as the music guides you to a new embodiment, moving uniquely through this present tanda.

    Really it's bad karma to dance the same way to no matter what music is playing.

    Why wait to die to be reincarnated the old way?  Each tanda, each orchestra, really each song gives you the chance at reincarnation.  I do not want to be flippant about Hindews or others who truly believe in reincarnation, but isn't it sad to leave your partner behind in reincarnation? Tango offers reincarnation with a partner; nirvana with a partner; heaven-on-earth with a partner.  If we get to choose, I choose reincarnation with every tanda and with every partner.  During a pandemic, it may mean dancing with a broom, dancing alone, but whatever you do--experience reincarnation regularly.

    Photo credit
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    Generalizing Tango Ecstacy during the pandemic [Jul. 14th, 2020|01:30 am]

    Moments of tango ecstasy are generalizing to other places in my life.  Did you ever feel like you were walking on the streets of heaven--even a bit lost? Well, with any luck, you will stay lost!

    Let me explain "generalizing." If a person has a specific anxiety for driving over tall bridges, for example, that anxiety may become generalized into being afraid of any bridge, such as an overpass. Now the fear is starting to grow to the point that no driving is possible without debilitating fear.  Driving and perhaps even going out of the house becomes difficult. This person probably has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). COVID-19 is creating temporary and even permanent GAD symptoms in the world. What can we do to help others or ourselves?*

    GAD is not you
    Today's disorder-focused world of psychology tends to see the world with dark glasses on, that is, modern psychology focuses on what is wrong--something that psychologists would quickly point out as being abnormal if one of their patients did this. But whose calling who crazy here?!  

    So let's do just something more positive:

    Generalized Ecstasy Delight (GED not GAD)
    A more positive generalized emotion is ecstasy, or joy, or happiness. Worry can be "nurtured" but other emotions can also be nurtured. Why not? Positive experiences make this possible only when we generalize the positive emotions we found with tango.  I think that tango has enriched my life so much as to generalize its beauty to other activities, other new or old passions. My connection to my partner, my meditative spiritual practice, my joy at work, my love of nature--all these help me to nurture my GED.  Thank you tango!  I see tango--really dance and music--as a path, pointing to other ways to find joy in all things. The pandemic cannot take away ecstasy if this emotion becomes generalized.  It doesn't just happen; it's a Quest.

    Generalized-Ecstasy-Delight moments show us a path, the way of and to joy and ecstasy.  The path is the process, not just some destination.  Meet you on the golden streets of Nirvana? Let's get lost there!


    Maybe you or another person you love is fighting with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?  Here is a step-by-step alternative to the symptoms which describe GAD:

    GED (Generalized Ecstatic Delight) versus
    GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
    By Mark Word

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder  GAD symptoms

    Generalized Ecstatic Delight
    GED resiliencies

    Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events

    Persistent ecstasy and delight in more than one avocation, person, group, activity. Even the simple things in life bring enjoyment

    Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes

    Visualizing plans and ideas that give great enjoyment in creative thought

    Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren't

    Finding ecstasy in situations and events even as others may see these as “mundane”:  Connection to others, a simple walk alone, gratitude that comes easy

    Difficulty handling uncertainty

    Riding the wave of uncertainty as a chance for psychological or spiritual growth

    Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision

    Allowing decisions to be an example of being human and doing our best from what we know

    Inability to set aside or let go of a worry

    Living in the present (mindful) rather in the past (regret/depression) or future (worry/anxiety)

    Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge

    Living in serenity & courage with wisdom coaching when one or the other is chosen for the moment

    Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind "goes blank"

    Credit: Mayo Clinic’s symptoms of GAD

    Practicing using a balance of intellect/emotions (psyche) beyond just constant inner talk, such, as visualizing, feeling the pulse in different places in the body, being attentive to sensations, noises, the awesome sound of silence or music. Blank is good

    Note about GAD: Many people have unresolved PTSD and not GAD.  Medication alone is usually insufficient to help combat anxiety.  Ancient peoples did not call it therapy, but the same principle is what "treats" it: One must face the anxiety in order to overcome it.  "If you fall off the horse, get back on."  Sounds simple, but it's not for the person who must do it.

    *Feeling safe is not necessarily good. 
    Grandiose Delusional Disorder allows people to believe they are safe when they are not during this and all other pandemics in human history, but that is another story.)

    Photo credit:  Streets of Gold

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    Why I am not ready to dance yet [Jun. 29th, 2020|01:57 am]

    Are you ready or not?

    I am not. 

    Perhaps, if it were safe, we'd all be ready to go.  But it's not safe, and I have things to do!

    I don't want to spend a moment of time pining over the pandemic, and then miss what I can work on under the circumstances.  I wish it were all over for everyone--especially those who are sick and dying--but wishing for an early end seems unrealistic.

    What is realistic is avoiding futile wishes for it all to disappear, as a few politicians have predicted and wished.  Please join me in a search of personal growth as a dancers and as a people during this tragic time. The pandemic gives us all an opportunity to learn something.  Here is a list of things that I am working on:

    1. Build a robust immune system insomuch a as I am able before dancing again.  If you dance long enough, you will join me in the over-65 risk group for COVID-19 or other possible epidemics in the future.  This is the time to get really smart out bolstering my immune system.  Before the pandemic, I had completed a post's draft on some insights for tango about tango's unique help in building our immune system. Pre-pandemic, I had read the book, 10% Human, and I do everything I can to build and maintain a robust immune system.  It was perfect timing to read that book. See footnotes for more on the immune system for dancers.

    2. Become a better breather before I dance again.  It will make you a better dancer. I incorporate better breathing into my own dance-alone practice.  The pandemic teaches us that our respiratory system needs to be exercised. I regularly do breath-work.  Let me give you some resources and ideas that may change your dance and even help increase you level of wellness (given at the bottom of this post). 

    3. Establish the best sleep discipline of my life before I dance again.  Then you will realize how often tango may have been harming your health.  Be part of a revolution of early milongas, encuentros, festivals.  It is already happening in my area.  Before the pandemic, organizers gave 7-10 or 11pm a try, and more people came out than ever for these Saturday milongas.  Be a part of the Early Milonga Revolution, but start good sleep habits now while you have the time and focus. Sleep scientists came up with the simple equation:  Sleep better = dance longer in life with a better sex life too.  No kidding.

    4. Establish foot health--the best I have had since starting tango.  Have you noticed the healing process of your worn-out feet?  My feet are so much better off! Pay attention to your feet so they do not wish that the pandemic is their best friend.  You'll need your whole body-with-feet, soul, and spirit happy to dance again.

    5. Take lessons online to support your own development and your favorite teacher.  You can get a degree online, meet with your doctor online, meet with a therapist online.  You can learn tango online too. Amazing but true.

    6. Finally, learn more about tango music.  Can you name a rock band when it plays?  Can you even tell which album or approximate year your favorite band played a particular song?  Do that with tango.  It's easy:  I suggest a book like Tango Stories, or simply write "Laurenz tanda" or "DiSarli tanda" in a YouTube search.  Play only one orchestra as you are doing chores or dancing by yourself or with your partner.  Become good at the game "Name that Tune" when i comes to tango music.

    I have a lot of work to do to prepare for the return of our milongas. We may be in solitary confinement, but I can hear you dancing in the cell next to me, and that brings me joy.

    Footnotes for tasks 1 and 2 above.

    1. Immune system ideas
    • I learned that one's immune system is harmed on a long-term basis by social distancing because sharing our individual microbiome through social contact makes us healthier.  However, this is not true during a pandemic, but we need to get back to dancing eventually!  Many people are older in our tango community and make up many of the best dancers. So if you want to dance long, work on this first task more than anything else. 
    • How old were you when you heard the word "antibiotic"? What about "probiotic"?  My spell checker still has not heard of "probiotic." This is our problem. We kill micorbes and viruses and fungi without knowing that through good nutrition we get all of these living in our bodies and helping us. Nutrition and knowledge about the microbiome are essential to overcome even what your primary care physician does not know about your health.  Learn now and dance longer!
    • My experience working in as a behavioral health consultant in a primary care clinic is that our habits, behaviors, and emotions are the things that keep us healthy or get our bodies unwell.  Far fewer of the problems we confront in primary care are from our patients' genetic disposition. So change some habits, maybe? A long list of immune system diseases creates a certain equation:  Immune system disorders = less dancing in your life. Do what you can in order to dance long and well.  Prepare now.
    2. Better breathing resources:
    • Read "Breath: The Science and Lost Art of Breathing by David Nestor.  This book has changed my life.  It was just published in May 2020.  I am a better breather than ever before and no longer breath through my mouth at night because of this book. At least, I suggest listening to the NPR podcast with the author.  I sleep so much better now.
    • Yoga breathing.  Make one or more of the many breathwork styles your own. Follow them exactly at first and then improvise tango-style. :-)  I like this breathing technique, but I use my heartbeat to determine how long I hold my breath.  Get curious and learn more from a yoga teacher.
    • Learn about the Wim Hoff Method.  I started in 2019.  The method includes breathing and retention.  I like this video the most. After a long retention, I feel euphoric all day. Cold-water exposure is a part of this method. The Method has changed my immune system for the better. I am less and less reactive to allergens.  
    • May I suggest my own invention I use with anxiety patients?  My style of the "Game of Thrones" is breathing more often and as a habit. That means, deep breathing each time you are on the "throne." (Men: it's time to sit down.)  People who die, pee their pants because finally they are fully relaxed.  I was frustrated that people did not practice.  So this is a "health coach" hack:  If you breathe deeply for at least 8 times, then retain for a while and exhale on the toilet, you will empty your bladder some more because you are more relaxed. Important: do this on the throne. Here's the game of "thrones" motto: "Don't wait until you're dead to finally relax and pee."  

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    COVID-19 and Tango [Jun. 22nd, 2020|09:49 pm]
    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.

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    Tango Withdrawal Symptoms [May. 25th, 2020|06:49 pm]

    I have some good news for tango addicts:  It's unlikely that you are going through a true tango addiction withdrawal.  It's been hard, but you will come out better on the other end.  This is why:

    What many dancers I know are experiencing lately has been refreshing:  More time to read and do things they wanted to do. As for me, I am sleeping really well.  I have read several great books.  I meditate a lot.  I am in contact with more old friends.  I see that others have been talking on social media about all the things they are doing.  "I am not dancing tango, so I did this instead..." they write.  Life has gone on, and in some respects because of tango, we are better at being social animals even without tango in our lives.  The pandemic has given a reprieve to our world's environment and our internal world too.

    Were we ever really addicted?  The word "addiction" is now used to market video games and food; so sure, in the new meaning of the word, everyone reading this blog is probably "addicted." We all might be having a new-aged tango withdrawal!  But thank goodness it is not a withdrawal in the outdated medical meaning of the word, which the medical world needs to abandon, as other words have been such as "mentally retarded."

    But for the few of you who are addicted, this is what addiction would look like in the medical sense of the word:

    Sudden Tango Cessation Disorder
    Consider Mary.  Because of the pandemic, Mary has the common withdrawal symptoms from STCD (sudden tango cessation disorder).*  Like typical addiction withdrawal, she suffers from four things:  (1) anxiety--panic attacks, restlessness, irritability; (2) depression--social isolation, lack of enjoyment; fatigue, poor appetite; (3) insomnia--both falling asleep and staying asleep; and (4) her mind doesn't work well--she has poor concentration, poor memory.  She has many of the physical symptoms of COVID-19 too.  That is how she went in for help.  The physician reassures her that she will live.  The doctor goes to the waiting room. "She will probably go back to dancing at the end of the pandemic," the doctor tells her grieving family.  Her mother sobs. 

    True, Mary did not need long hospitalization.  Will she ever recover?  She may not. 

    But you will.

    Your withdrawal is probably just a withdrawal from tango and not a tango withdrawal.  There is a difference.  In fact, the next time we meet, you may be all the better for this withdrawal from tango. You have a deeper appreciation of the joy of dance and the miracle of a warm embrace.  During your withdrawal from tango, you really listened to the music more carefully, and as you dance you better recognized the orchestra you learned to identify better during the pandemic.  

    You are grateful for the things you took for granted.  This probably means that you are now addicted to life.  And that is a good thing.

    *I am making this diagnosis up, of course.  But medically defined addictions?  They have all these symptoms and can include stroke, heart attacks, and hallucinations.  

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    The Long Term Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Tango [May. 16th, 2020|02:05 pm]
    • The coronavirus pandemic has caused a cessation of tango activities worldwide.
    • An epidemiologic model is presented to elucidate the factors involved in the spread and control of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for Covid-19 disease.
      • In this model, a population is divided into several distinct disease states:
        • Susceptible individuals, who have not been exposed to the virus
        • Infected / Infectious individuals, who have been exposed to and are shedding the virus, consisting of two classes:
          • Asymptomatic: Infected with the virus, but not having disease symptoms
          • Diseased: Infected individuals having Covid-19 disease symptoms
        • Deceased: those who have died from Covid-19
        • Immune: individuals with antibodies against the virus, recovered and protected from disease, no longer Infectious
      • The model also takes into account several interventions:
        • Social Distancing, which reduces exposure of Susceptibles to Infectious individuals
        • Treatment: assists Diseased individuals in recovery to the Immune state
        • Vaccination: induces immunity in Susceptible individuals, transitioning them to the Immune state
      • This model provides a framework for discussion of the risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the means of limiting its spread. 
    • The role of diagnostic testing in controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is also addressed.
      • Viral detection tests identify individuals who are infected and shedding the virus.
        • These tests have been used primarily to confirm Covid-19 cases (Diseased individuals).
        • These tests can also be used in Contact Tracing to identify individuals at risk of infection due to contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
          • Confirmed cases and their Contacts are Quarantined.
        • There are a high number of false negatives associated with these tests, resulting in the release of Infectious individuals into the social environment.
      • Antibody tests identify individuals who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
        • In populations with a low prevalence of infection, there are numerous false positives associated with these tests, providing false security to test positives if they reenter the social environment.
        • There are insufficient data to determine whether presence of antibodies protects against subsequent infection, or how long any such protection would last. This diminishes the value of any Immunity Certificates based on detection of antibodies.
      • Most estimates that have been made of infection or disease prevalence, based on viral detection diagnostics, as well as inferences regarding herd immunity, based on antibody testing, give a biased view of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in a population, due to small sample sizes and nonrandom sampling.
    • Social Distancing limits the spread of coronavirus, but causes a depression in economic activity. Government executives, while making efforts to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2, are motivated by economic and political pressure to reopen the economy, which relaxes Social Distancing measures. Under most circumstances this also leads to an increased spread of the virus.
    • It is expected that resumption of tango and other social dance activities will follow a certain pattern.
      • At first, only small social gatherings (≤ 10 people) will occur (e.g., private dance lessons and small classes). It is likely that dancers will be required to bring a partner and dance only with that partner. Face masks and use of hand sanitizer are likely to be required.
      • Sometime thereafter, somewhat larger social gatherings (e.g., up to 50 people) will occur, including larger classes and smaller social dances. Partner exclusivity requirements may still exist. Tango dancers may organize private or semi-private milongas to limit attendance and thereby protect dancers against itinerant dancers who may bring coronavirus into their restricted milonga environment.
      • Tango festivals, marathons, and encuentros will only occur after widespread herd immunity is achieved, most likely through vaccination, or through the spread of virus to infect most members of the population. This is unlikely to occur until at least 2022.
      • The reopening and persistence of social dance events is dependent on the willingness of dancers to participate under various conditions of risk, as well as the anticipated profitability for event organizers.
    • The criteria used by individuals in deciding whether to resume social dancing will be different than those used by government executives. The costs and benefits of reengaging with social dancing will differ depending on demographic factors.
      • Older individuals, at greater risk for Covid-19 disease, will be more hesitant to resume social dancing. If partners are required for dance events, dancers without partners will be excluded. Even if partners are not required, in most dance communities, women are more numerous than men and will be more reluctant to resume dancing.
      • With respect to tango, more younger dancers on a less crowded floor may lead to more expansive and exhibitionist dancing, which would further inhibit the return of older, more traditional dancers. However it is likely this outcome would be temporary.
      • Fear of physical contact as a risk factor for disease transmission will limit participation in social dancing, in tango in particular because of its reputation for physical intimacy, and especially for Traditional Tango dancing in a maintained embrace with cheek-to-cheek contact.
      • Recruitment of new dancers to tango will be more difficult because of the associated close physical contact.
      • Some milongas will fail because of lower attendance. Some tango communities will become extinct for the same reason.
    • Despite the disruption of tango activities worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, tango as a social dance will recover, although it may remain at lower numbers for several years. Delay in the development and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine could be a significant factor having a negative impact on the recovery of tango communities worldwide. Start-and-stop reopening and retraction of economic activity due to repeated outbreaks of Covid-19 would deny dance communities the stability they need to survive.
    • The primary reason tango will once again become an integral part of the social dance scene is that tango offers to many people around the world a much needed emotionally safe physical intimacy that is desired and is therapeutic.     

    The impact of the current coronavirus pandemic upon tango social and instructional activities has been extensive. As a result of the implementation of Social Distancing to limit the spread of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the disease Covid-19, tango social events (milongas, festivals, marathons), instructional opportunities (classes, practicas, private lessons), and concerts and shows have been cancelled worldwide (Tango in Times of Pandemic). There has even been evidence that large scale tango gatherings have been the source of SARS-CoV-2 infection (Tango Marathon Directory). Not only has there been a social, educational, and emotional impact upon tango dancers, but the financial impact has been devastating for many tango instructors, performers, musicians, and event organizers who depend upon tango for their income. The economy of Argentina, in particular, has suffered from the loss of tango tourism (Reuters).

    At some yet undetermined point in the future, the coronavirus pandemic will be brought under control and it will be deemed safe to relax Social Distancing measures and resume normal activities, including tango social dancing. The purpose of this post is to evaluate the long term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on tango activities. The focus here is on the United States, the country with the most Covid-19 cases, but this discussion is relevant for all countries where tango is danced and there is significant SARS-CoV-2 infection.

    Epidemiologic Model of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

    The factors affecting the spread of a pathogen can be understood within the framework of an epidemiologic model. Any population can be defined with respect to a particular disease by the division of the members of that population into several different compartments representing different disease states. The basic SIR Model (Wikipedia) includes 3 compartments – Susceptible, Infectious, and Recovered; this can modified for specific diseases to represent the dynamics of movement of individuals between disease states. Presented here is a model for the movement of individuals within a population between disease states for SARS-CoV-2. (See another model (Nature).

    Prior to exposure of a population to SARS-CoV-2, all individuals in the population are Susceptible to infection. Upon exposure of the population to the virus, some proportion of the population (beta: β) becomes Infected. It is believed that these individuals can shed virus shortly after being Infected, without having disease symptoms (Discover), i.e., they are Asymptomatic. At some point, some proportion of those Infected (delta: δ) develop clear symptoms of disease, i.e., they are now classified as Diseased. This time between initial infection and the development of disease symptoms is the Incubation Period, estimated to be 5 days (median), with 97.5% of those developing symptoms doing so within 11.5 days (Science Daily). There is some proportion of individuals (alpha: α=1-δ) that does not become Diseased; it has been estimated that 25% of those infected with SARS-Cov-2 remain Asymptomatic (NPR)  ; therefore approximately 75% (= δ) of those who are infected with SARS-Cov-2 develop Covid-19 disease symptoms. However, some studies (e.g., British Medical Journal) have asserted that as many as 78% of SARS-CoV-2 infections are Asymptomatic. Nevertheless, at any point in time, depending on the recency with which SARS-Cov-2 has invaded a population, 50% or more of the Infected individuals may be Asymptomatic (NPR). Children and young adults are more likely to remain Asymptomatic than older individuals and those with underlying health conditions (CDC). Notably, the ability of SARS-CoV-2 Infected individuals to transmit virus to other individuals when they are Asymptomatic increases the difficulty in controlling the spread of the virus.

    Some proportion (mu: μ) of Diseased individuals die from Covid-19. The probability of mortality for Diseased individuals, usually reported as the “case fatality rate”, increases with increasing age and the presence of underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, and cancer) (Worldometer). There are also geographic differences in the case fatality rate, which could be due to such factors as community living conditions, quality of medical care, and public health reporting criteria, as well as genetic differences in the strain of SARS-CoV-2 (Chicago Tribune). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate of the worldwide case fatality rate is 3.4% (Worldometer). This is an underestimate of mortality for Covid-19 cases because it does not take into account the final outcome for hospitalized patients, as well as unreported cases who die at home, but is undoubtedly an overestimate of the “infection mortality rate” (probability of mortality once infected) because it fails to take into account Asymptomatic Infected individuals, as well as symptomatic individuals who recover at home; it has been estimated that the infection mortality rate is less than 1% (CEBM), although this estimate also varies according to age and presence of underlying medical conditions.

    The application of Treatment to Covid-19 cases can, in theory, improve the probability of recovery, depicted in the model by the parameter rho (ρ). Recent randomized clinical trials have shown some promising results for the antiviral remdesivir (JAMA) (Pharmacy Practice News), and remdesivir has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the treatment of Covid-19 (FDA). There is also some evidence that transfusion of plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 to patients with moderate to severe symptoms can be effective in decreasing the risk of mortality (PNAS).

    There is a belief that recovery from Covid-19 provides some degree of immunity to subsequent infection (Immune status), as well as terminating the shedding of the virus and therefore transmission to Susceptible individuals (Lancet). This assumption is based on the detection of anti-SARS-CoV-2 serum antibodies in Covid-19 recovered individuals. Individuals who remain Asymptomatic also eventually acquire some degree of immunity and therefore cease being Infectious (Nature). The model parameter alpha (α = 1-δ) designates the proportion of infected individuals who remain Asymptomatic (and develop immunity), compared to those who become Diseased (sometimes designated post hoc as “pre-symptomatic”).  It is not known how long anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunity persists, but it is assumed that it persists for some time (Science Alert). However, the World Health Organization has warned “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection”. (WHO

    Vaccination against Covid-19 would, in theory, provide a route to Immune status for Susceptible individuals that bypasses the Diseased state. The model parameter sigma (σ) represents the proportion of Susceptibles in the population who transition to the Immune state via Vaccination. At the present time, there is no effective vaccine against Covid-19, although numerous vaccine candidates are being evaluated worldwide (WHO). It is expected that 12-24 months will be required before a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine will be available (AAMC), i.e., not until 2021 or 2022 (NIAID). It is not known whether a Covid-19 vaccine would provide lasting immunity (US News & World Report).

    In the absence of safe and effective treatments and vaccines against Covid-19, the most effective strategy recommended to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is Social Distancing (CDC). This includes the recommendation that individuals Shelter-in-Place (at home) and only leave their homes for necessary activities such as grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, and medical appointments. Of course, some individuals are employed to provide these essential services and therefore some proximity between individuals will occur. Under these circumstances, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet / 2 meters and wearing facial masks and gloves reduces the probability of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Frequent hand washing and sanitization of objects brought into the home complement Social Distancing measures. 

    The most stringent forms of Social Distancing are Quarantine and Isolation (CDC). Infectious individuals are Quarantined, i.e., separated from the social environment, either in hospitals for severe Covid-19 cases requiring constant medical supervision, or at home for mildly symptomatic or Asymptomatic individuals. Quarantine also requires a person who has been in contact with an identified Covid-19 case to not leave the home; Isolation is the segregation of a Covid-19 case from other individuals in the home.

    The logic behind the Social Distancing is that Infectious individuals, by social isolation, will transition out of the Infectious compartment before they have the opportunity to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to Susceptible individuals. Once the reservoir of Infectious individuals has been depleted, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is terminated; the disease is eradicated within that population.

    It is also important to note that immigration into and emigration out of populations can also affect the distribution of individuals in the different disease compartments within a population (unlabeled large arrows attached to each compartment in the model). Specifically, the immigration of Infectious individuals increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for the population in focus, and emigration of infectious individuals increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in other populations into which Infectious individuals migrate. Therefore restrictions on travel between populations become important in hindering the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from highly infected populations to populations with little or no infection.

    The Role of Diagnostic Testing in Covid-19 Disease Control

    Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 has received considerable media attention (NBC News), and lack of sufficient testing has been identified as a deficit in the effort to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, the goals of diagnostic testing are often insufficiently elaborated and therefore incompletely understood.

    There are two types of tests used in the control of the spread of SARS-CoV-2, those detecting presence of the virus and those identifying antibodies to the virus.

    Most of the early testing in the Covid-19 pandemic has been conducted using a Real Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, which detects the genetic material (RNA) of SARS-CoV-2 in samples obtained from the respiratory tract, usually nasal, oral, or pharyngeal samples (CDC). To this point in time, this test has been used primarily to confirm Covid-19 (One Medical) in patients with symptoms characteristic of the disease [e.g., shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, fever, muscle pain (CDC)], in order to commence treatment. The RT-PCR is also able to detect SARS-CoV-2 in Asymptomatic individuals. This test has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) (FDA) for diagnostic purposes. More recently, the FDA has given an EUA to an ‘at-home’ saliva collection test for detection of SARS-CoV-2 (FDA). The FDA has also given EUA recently to a SARS-CoV-2 antigen test (FDA) that detects viral proteins, for use in identification of infection. This test provides results more rapidly than PCR tests, but is not as sensitive for verification of presence of the virus. These viral detection diagnostics do not confirm the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies; i.e., they identify individuals as Infectious, but not as Immune.

    Viral detection diagnostics can play an important role in a Test-and-Quarantine strategy, where individuals in the population are tested to determine whether they are Infectious and, if so, are isolated according to their presenting symptoms, i.e., either to a hospital if severely ill, or to their homes if presenting with mild symptoms or are Asymptomatic. An addendum to this methodology is Contact Tracing (CDC), where identified Infected individuals provide information on other people with whom they have had close contact since they were infected, and these people are contacted and advised as well to quarantine.

    One limitation in the use viral detection diagnostics is their imperfect sensitivity, i.e., some SARS-CoV-2 Infected individuals will be diagnosed falsely as negative (e.g., a 60-70% sensitivity estimate in one study in China (Al Jazeera) indicates that 30-40% of infected individuals tested were diagnosed as non-infected).

    Viral detection diagnostics could be used to provide some insight on changes in the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a population, which is important information for developing a containment or eradication strategy. However, random sampling of the population would be needed to arrive at unbiased estimates of prevalence (Stat). In addition, it would necessary to obtain a sufficiently large sample size to minimize the (standard) error in estimating this prevalence. 

    Notably, since the RT-PCR is usually targeted towards identifying Covid-19 in suspected cases, in this nonrandomly selected subpopulation, the prevalence of disease is high, and therefore the percentage of false negative tests is higher than it would be in a low prevalence population (NCBI); thus, this sampling and testing methodology will release a large number of Infected individuals back into the social environment.

    Detection of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is the most direct method of estimating the proportion of individuals in the population who have developed immunity (i.e., whether herd immunity has been achieved). It has been suggested that confirmation of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies could be used as a guidepost for allowing immune individuals to return to work during the relaxation of Social Distancing measures (Immunity Certification) (The Guardian). Presence of antibodies in an individual also could qualify that person as a candidate for donation of plasma for infusion into patients with Covid-19 (MIT Technology Review).

    At the present time, the FDA has issued an EUA for one serological test for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, that developed by the Cellex Corporation (Biospace). Although the FDA encourages the use of SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests, caution is advised in their interpretation because the accuracy of these tests has not been evaluated sufficiently (FDA). SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests have limited utility because they could release into the social environment a significant number of individuals lacking immunity, particularly when the overall infection rate is low; e.g., for the FDA approved Cellex test, at a SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence of 5%, 50% of test positives would be false positives (Evaluate Vantage).

    The utility of SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests for providing Immunity Certification and for evaluating the course of the Covid-19 pandemic is limited not only because of population prevalence and sampling conditions, but also because it is not known to what degree or how long presence of antibodies protect against future (re)infection, disease, and virus shedding. Therefore, the WHO warns against the issuance of ‘immunity passports’ designating individuals as prepared to reenter the work force; i.e., the assumption that a positive antibody test ensures that such an individual is protected from future infection or no longer shedding virus is premature (WHO). However, one practical use for SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests is that (assuming random sampling and large sample sizes) it assists in identifying trends in the proportion of members of a population who have been exposed to the virus (Healio), which can indicate the effectiveness of Social Distancing measures and the prospects for limitation of further spread of the virus.

    Return to Normalcy in the Course of the Covid-19 Pandemic

    Social Distancing can be effective in reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but it comes at a cost. Associated with Social Distancing is reduced commercial activity, causing increased unemployment and reduced income to both businesses and their employees. Decreased economic productivity can have negative political consequences for government executives. Government decision makers and economists are motivated to minimize the economic costs of Social Distancing by relaxing the measures associated with it. Because relaxing Social Distancing measures is likely to lead to increased spread of SARS-CoV-2 (Advisory Board), this decision usually comes into conflict with the goals of epidemiologists and public health officials, who aim to minimize the spread of the virus, and health care delivery system managers, who wish to minimize the hazards and strain placed on health care facilities.

    From a public health perspective, an easing of government-imposed and self-imposed restrictions against social proximity is more likely to be warranted as the probability of transition of Susceptible individuals to the Infected state (β) is substantially decreased. This can be accomplished by movement of individuals out of both the Infectious and Susceptible categories, preferably into the Immune state (rather than to the Deceased state). An increase in the portion of Immune individuals can occur through Vaccination, but currently this is not an option for SARS-CoV-2. When the proportion of Immune individuals in the population increases to a certain level (e.g., ≥ 70%), “herd immunity” (Johns Hopkins) is achieved.

    For epidemiologists, a minimum requirement for relaxing Social Distancing measures is that each Infected individual transmits the pathogen to less than one Susceptible, on average [i.e., Reproduction Number R0 < 1 (U Michigan) (Nature)], so that the number of new infections decreases over time.

    Estimation of the proportion of the population that is Immune and determining whether R0 < 1 are undertakings requiring extensive sampling and testing of the population. In actuality, due to insufficient testing, public health officials have made (and are likely to continue to make) recommendations about relaxing Social Distancing when the number of new Covid-19 cases or number of new SARS-CoV-2 infections in a population has decreased steadily over a substantial time period, preferably also when a certain minimum prevalence has been achieved. (Ideally these data would have been collected using random sampling of the population.) Another factor taken into consideration is whether hospital ICU capacity is sufficient to handle the increased number of cases that are expected to occur when Social Distancing is relaxed.

    Accordingly, official government policy regarding relaxing Social Distancing measures usually has addressed issues of health care system capacity and population trends in new Covid-19 cases. For example, in its statements the US White House Guidelines for Opening up America Again (White House) rely on establishing mechanisms for surveillance (testing) for Covid-19 cases and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals, Quarantining and Contact Tracing, assuring adequacy of hospital capacity and supplies for Covid-19 cases, as well as using Social Distancing to protect the health and safety of individuals working in essential industries and in a limited commercial environment. Prior to opening up commercial activity, US States need to demonstrate a 14 day downward trajectory in the number of Covid-19 cases or percentage of positive tests. After meeting these initial ‘gating criteria’, states are advised to gradually allow reopening of businesses in stages. Phase One of reopening encourages working at home, avoiding nonessential travel, maintaining Social Distancing, and not congregating in groups larger than 10 individuals; restaurants, places of worship, movie theatres, gyms, and sporting venues can open for operation during Phase One. After meeting the criteria of an additional 14 day downward trajectory in Covid-19 cases or positive tests, states can advance to Phase Two, which allows social gatherings up to 50 people, opens up schools and bars, and removes the restriction on nonessential travel, while still maintaining a ‘moderate’ degree of Social Distancing. After once again meeting the testing criteria of a 14 day downward trajectory, states can advance to Phase Three, which opens most commercial and social activities with the exceptions of retaining Social Distancing criteria for vulnerable individuals (the elderly and those with underlying health conditions). Notably absent from these published guidelines are any mention of random sampling of populations to obtain unbiased estimates of disease or infection prevalence, or requirements of a statistically adequate sample size to obtain a precise estimate (low standard error) for these measures.     

    [The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently issued a set of ‘decision trees’ for opening different segments of the economy (APHA).]

    In actuality, decisions made by government executives with regard to relaxing Social Distancing measures have been influenced heavily by a combination of economic and political factors (The Guardian). Most US states have proceeded to relax social distancing requirements and expand commercial activity prior to the demonstration of a downward trajectory in cases (using whatever sampling methods were available), some instead relying primarily on having sufficient hospital capacity to catch the expected increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. (US News & World Report) (Washington Post) (Associated Press). Placing a higher value on economic recovery than public health places the lives of millions of people at risk for Covid-19 disease and mortality (USA Today).

    Personal Decision Making with Respect to Covid-19 Hazards

    Individuals have different criteria than government executives when making decisions about social distancing. Whereas a certain amount of disease and mortality may be acceptable to government executives in reopening the economy (The Guardian), individuals will consider the mortality risk for themselves, family members, and other loved ones with whom they come into contact in deciding whether to relax Social Distancing; i.e., in almost all cases [exceptions noted (CNN)], individuals will be more conservative than governments in opinions about relaxing Social Distancing (The Atlantic). Factors such as age, family status (married, children, elderly household members), health status, financial resources and security, employment environmental conditions, etc., will have an impact upon the willingness of a person to relax Social Distancing. For example, a young adult with lower risk of disease and mortality and fewer economic resources is expected to be willing to accept some risk of disease and mortality due to economic necessity, and therefore tolerate and engage in more relaxed Social Distancing practices; in contrast, an older person with a higher risk of disease and mortality, but having a guaranteed retirement income, is more willing to accept and participate in more restrictive Social Distancing practices.  

    The personal decision making process with regard to Covid-19 also needs to be examined with respect to the quality and quantity of information used in making decisions. Low information individuals are more likely to trust government decision makers (or at least those representing their political interests). These trusting individuals are more likely to engage in moderately risky behaviors sanctioned by government policy, believing that their trusted political leaders have their best interests at heart. They also may be manipulated by political and economic opportunists who appeal to their emotions in order to entice them into performing actions (ABC News) that are in conflict with their personal interests. In contrast, high information individuals, in making their decisions about relaxing Social Distancing, generally examine the data and diverse opinions that are taken into account (or ignored) in the formulation of government policy. The educated high information individual will recognize that there are health hazards and, at times, misinformation incorporated into government guidelines for relaxing Social Distancing. Although not necessarily the fault of the government, there exists a naïve assumption among many that when government executives relax Social Distancing measures, this indicates that there will be no or minimal increased risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection in the more relaxed social environment. However, the reality in most environments is that the number of new cases of Covid-19 will increase significantly upon relaxing Social Distancing measures (CNN).

    The high information individual is also likely to understand the limitations of Covid-19 testing programs, realizing that viral detection tests fail to identify numerous infected individuals, and that positive antibody tests are unreliable indicators of immunity. A particularly well-informed high information individual will place little credence in Covid-19 public health statistics based on changing sampling methods and small sample sizes.

    Therefore, the high information individual is more likely to continue practicing strict Social Distancing measures until either an effective Covid-19 vaccine or effective antiviral treatment is available, or at least until the number of newly identified Covid-19 cases within the local population has persisted near zero for a reasonable amount of time. A high information individual is most likely to maintain strict Social Distancing measures if that person is at high risk for severe Covid-19 disease or mortality (e.g., older individuals, those with underlying health conditions) and has a guaranteed source of income (e.g., retirement income).

    Relaxing Social Distancing Measures for Tango and other Social Dance Related Activities

    Government actions associated with the relaxation of Social Distancing measures have not been uniform across geographic regions, with local factors such as disease prevalence, population density, hospital capacity and local political and economic pressures affecting the specific courses of action taken. Some government decision makers have placed public health welfare at the forefront of the decision making and others have placed greater value on other criteria, such as stimulating the economy or promoting their own political ambitions. An assumption made here for the sake of discussion, is that government executives make their decisions based primarily on public health criteria, i.e., that Social Distancing guidelines are relaxed only when there has been a sustained decrease in new Covid-19 cases and infections, and relaxing them only to the degree that a sustained decrease can be maintained. This assumption will be the basis for making predictions about reopening social dance activities.

    The actions taken by business owners in response to government relaxing of Social Distancing measures also are not likely to be uniform. Business owners need to take into account their expected income under reopening conditions, weighed against their costs of business operation, as well as any legal liability costs that may be incurred if disease spread (to employees and customers) could be attributed to practices in place and activities occurring at a particular business site.

    Under the assumption that government executives are rational actors guided primarily by public health and safety, certain trends in the reopening of commercial and social activities can be predicted, based on (at least) three criteria: (1) In resuming a certain activity, the risk in transmission of the coronavirus will be low. (2) The activity is of high necessity for human livelihood. (3) The resumption of the activity has a positive stimulating effect on the economy. Taking these factors into account, it is likely that social dance activities are likely to receive low priority in the temporal ordering of activities slated for reopening, primarily because they present a high risk of transmission of the coronavirus due to the interpersonal contact and a high social density, but also because of their status as recreational rather than as essential activities, and because social dance activities have only a minor stimulating effect on the economy due to the relatively low amount of money injected into the economy. (An exception is noted here for tango in Buenos Aires),. For most social dances (tango, ballroom, swing, salsa, country & western), distinctions between dances in the degree of social distancing are likely to be ignored by regulatory officials, although differences among these dance genres will be relevant for individuals deciding for themselves whether to reengage or initiate participation in social dance activities.

    The discussion about resumption of social dance activities begins with the assumption that the expected temporal pattern in expansion of dance activities follows loosely the stages of reopening envisioned in government guidelines for reopening the economy. Dance related activities such as performances and concerts also are considered within this framework. However, after elaborating a plausible framework for reopening, the discussion will return specifically to the issues raised by the addition of the physical contact involved in social dancing to the relaxation of Social Distancing.   

    Under the assumptions stated above, it is expected that initially, only small gatherings of dancers (e.g., ≤ 10 people) will occur; this would include private lessons and small group classes. It is likely there would be a requirement of bringing a partner to class and not changing partners during the class. An additional requirement may be wearing face masks and sanitizing hands before class, although the former may not be very well accepted, especially for tango, which has a reputation for intimacy. Musical and perhaps even dance performances may resume in clubs and restaurants where customers are separated by a sufficient distance. However, limitations on income due to reduced attendance may prevent some dance enterprises from opening.

    After some time, assuming no new Covid-19 disease outbreaks in a community, moderately sized gatherings (e.g., ≤ 50 people) would be considered acceptable. Larger classes and workshops would be expected to occur, but perhaps still requiring no change of partner during a class, and still recommending use of hand sanitizer before class, and still encouraging wearing face masks. These larger instructional settings are unlikely to include inviting visiting instructors to teach, because these instructors travel between communities and also are likely to attract dancers from other dance communities. Closing communities to dancers outside the community limits the spread of SARS-CoV-2 between communities.

    Somewhat later, it is expected that the first social dance events will reappear. Social dances represent a further breakdown in Social Distancing because unlike classes, where movements of the group are coordinated by instructors, in social dances attendees are free to move around in the enclosed space. It is highly likely these first social dances will be local events, i.e., not advertised beyond the local dance community, in order to limit participation of dancers from other communities. At these social dance events, changing partners may be restricted or advised against. (In Buenos Aires, the first milongas to resume are likely to be Milongas del Barrio [Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression)], where couples do not change partners.) It is likely that personal protection measures such as wearing masks and using hand sanitizer still will be recommended or required, but face masks are still unlikely to be adopted widely, especially among tango dancers. There may be attempts to decrease floor density (e.g., by limiting the number of couples on the dance floor), but maintaining a ‘safe social distance’ of 6 feet / 2 meters or more between couples on the dance floor is not manageable; therefore, an additional challenge to Social Distancing is created here. For tango in particular, a crowded dance floor is a characteristic of the culture and an empty dance floor is likely to discourage dancers from attending milongas. For social dances of all kinds, requiring spacing in the seating areas would reduce social interaction, counteracting one of the motivations for attending social dance events.  All of these considerations suggest that the demand for social dances will not be high under some set of Social Distancing restrictions. To some degree, hosting social dance events outdoors (e.g., outdoor milongas) may circumvent some of the spacing restrictions that would be imposed on indoor social dance events, and events of this type may increase in number or proportion relative to their existence prior to the pandemic.

    Specifically with respect to tango, but not limited to tango, perhaps early in the resumption of social dances there may be smaller events such as private milongas in people’s homes or in relatively obscure public places, or in private rooms in public places, with advertisement primarily or only by personal invitation. Perhaps private tango clubs with a small fixed membership will form for the purpose of limiting dance contacts. These measures would provide some degree of safety against the visitor or outsider whose SARS-CoV-2 infection status is unknown, even if there is a false sense of security with respect to the infection status of known fellow dancers. These events would be more attractive to couples than to individuals without partners because the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection is reduced when dancing exclusively with a partner, and the possibility of meeting someone with whom one could establish a relationship (dance or otherwise) would be limited in these small social gatherings. If these small social events are hosted in private homes or inexpensive venues, these undertakings could circumvent to some degree the cost demands of hosting social dance events.

    Likewise, concerts and dance performance venues probably will be modified gradually to allow more attendees, most likely still maintaining some distance between attendees. Relaxation of Social Distancing is likely to occur sooner for concerts and dance performances than for classes and social dances because the former do not require physical contact between people, and movement around the enclosed space is more limited. It is also likely that outdoor performances will comprise a higher proportion of events of this type than prior to the pandemic.

    Larger social dance events such as workshops given by visiting instructors and large social dance gatherings (e.g., tango festivals, marathons and encuentros), which attract dancers from other communities, are expected to be the last social dance events to reappear, probably only after the Covid-19 pandemic has ended and likely in conjunction with widespread vaccination of the populations involved. It is expected that it will be late 2021 at the earliest, but more likely 2022 or later before these events will reappear in large numbers. Greedy or foolhardy event organizers may resume these activities earlier and perhaps require an Immunity Passport for admission (which is an unreliable indicator of immunity and can also be forged), and desperate or foolhardy dancers may attend these events.

    As stated at the outset, it needs to be emphasized that the condition of physical contact between individuals is a major deterrent to the resumption of social dance activities. The calendar for reopening these activities is likely to lag significantly behind the opening of other (noncontact) social activities. If dancer participation is limited, event organizers will cease hosting them, and event organizers will have their own concerns regarding providing an environment in which the coronavirus can spread. It is perhaps more likely that initially some unconventional gatherings of social dancers will emerge, such as private dance parties and impromptu outdoor dance gatherings, most likely organized and attended primarily by younger dancers. Under all of the circumstances described, physical contact between dancers and high social density are likely to result in some cases of newly acquired coronavirus infection, which would result in a reduction of these activities once again. Therefore, it is possible that a stable dance community of any kind will reemerge only after herd immunity has been achieved, which in all likelihood is not until the overwhelming majority of the population has been vaccinated.

    If there is a condition which will delay indefinitely the resumption of social dance activates, it is that in which an effective Covid-19 vaccine is not developed and administered widely. Likewise, even if the number of new Covid-19 cases is reduced to near zero, but there are sporadic outbreaks, it will be difficult to maintain a persistent interest and commitment to social dancing of any kind.   

    Personal Decision Making with Regard to Resumption of Tango Dance Activities and the Consequences for Tango Communities

    Government directives and actions of business owners are a prerequisite for the resumption of social dance activities, but ultimately the outcomes for reopening social dance activities are dependent primarily upon the participation of dancers in these activities. A person’s choice to engage in or resume dancing is based upon the perceived personal benefits and costs of this engagement. The calculations made in personal decision making regarding Covid-19 are likely to be different from those made by government executives in their efforts to stimulate the economy. The costs of social dancing have been altered by the coronavirus pandemic; perhaps the benefits have also changed, although more subtly.

    The costs and benefits of participating in activities vary according to a person’s demographic status. The risk of Covid-19 disease and mortality is higher for older individuals than for younger individuals and this will be a major factor inhibiting older dancers from returning to social dance activities. A single unattached person is likely to perceive greater benefits from participating in social activities, particularly after a period of social isolation, than would a person who is married or living with a partner. Specifically with respect to tango, for single people there is the additional benefit of achieving a close physical contact with someone (The Intimacy of Dancing Tango: Therapy for Contact Deprivation in North American Society), something that may have been absent during the Shelter-in-Place phase of the pandemic. However, if partners are required for participation in social dance activities during the reopening phase, dancers without partners will be denied the benefits of new social experiences and, in tango, close contact with a person who is not a life partner; this would inhibit the return of people without partners to social dancing. Due to greater physical fitness, a younger person is likely to have more options for engaging in physical activity and therefore social dancing is less likely to be one of a limited set of choices for physical activity, as it may be for most older people. Amount of disposable income, which tends to be higher for older people, will allow greater participation in costly dance activities than would be available, in general, to younger people. More highly educated people usually have higher incomes; they are also likely to make different cost and benefit calculations. Since most social dance communities have more women than men, the benefit for participation is usually greater for men than for women. All of these factors and undoubtedly others affect an individual’s decision about returning to participation in a dance activity during the subsidence of an epidemic.

    Dancers may choose to attend social dance events depending on the social and environmental characteristics of these events. Some dancers, particularly older ones, might avoid dances with high attendance and crowded floors. They might avoid dancers with a lot of young dancers, who are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus. Some dancers, particularly older dancers and those preferring Traditional Tango (i.e., danced in a maintained embrace) would probably prefer smaller venues and would be more likely to initiate and seek private and semiprivate events (e.g., by invitation only), as described above. 

    In general, during the early stages of resumption of social dance activities, attendance is expected to be lower because many dancers will perceive the costs of resumption of social dancing to be too high to risk reengaging in these activities. It is likely that during this early period three will be a higher proportion of younger dancers at social dances than prior to the pandemic. For some social dance events, in particular ballroom dances and some milongas, which normally attract a greater share of older dancers, there may be insufficient attendance for the events to be sustained financially. In some cases, smaller venues will be sought, which is often a viable option for milongas, which require less space than, for example, ballroom dances.

    When comparing social dances with respect to the rate of return of experienced dancers to the activity, it is apparent that the perceived risks of disease transmission are highest for tango among the social dances. Tango is a dance that many dance in an embrace that is maintained throughout the dance, with a significant number of dancers also maintaining cheek-to-cheek contact, with a partner association lasting for the duration of a tanda (10-12 minutes). This maintained close contact, and facial contact in particular, can promote the spread of the coronavirus. Among those dancers who return to tango, the Tango Traditionalists, who achieve and maintain the closest contact with a partner, are going to be more hesitant to return to dancing tango than those who prefer to dance in an open frame, and some of the former may modify their partner hold to be more distant upon their return to tango, abandoning the maintained embrace and cheek-to-cheek contact. Some dancers may no longer participate in dancing tango socially because with these changing conditions they will be denied the emotional satisfaction of dancing in a maintained embrace (The Intimacy of Dancing Tango: Therapy for Contact Deprivation in North American Society). Thus, the character of some milongas will change substantially – there will be more dancing in an open frame. If this is associated with more exhibitionism, even dancers who dance only in a maintained embrace and only with their partners may cease or reduce their participation in milongas (Tango Community Growth and Development: Tango Sociology, Politics, and Economics), resulting in milongas becoming even more characterized by dancing in an open frame and, due to lower floor density, most likely also more exhibitionism.

    There will be variation among milongas in their probability of survival when Social Distancing measures are relaxed. Overall, milonga attendance will be reduced and milongas with lower attendance will be less likely to survive. Milongas known for a greater tolerance for exhibitionism and those favored by younger dancers will have a greater probability of survival than Traditional Milongas and those favored by older dancers.

    The preference for open frame dancing and intolerance for dancing close will have an impact on tango instruction. Class instruction will focus more on movements employed when not embracing one’s partner; instruction associated with dancing in an embrace will become less common.

    During the period of relaxation of Social Distancing measures, there will be a significant negative impact on recruitment of new dancers to all social dances, but this negative impact is likely to be greatest for tango, because of its public image as a dance danced closely; new dancers would be more likely to choose ballroom dancing or swing dancing, where there is some distance maintained between partners. People who participate in multiple types of dancing may decrease or cease their participation in tango in favor of other dances where contact is more limited. Another safer option might be to explore line dancing (YouTube), where there is no contact between dancers on the floor. The safest option for cautious people interested in social activities is to choose an activity that does not involve physical contact with another human being. Therefore, due to concerns about the health risks of acquiring coronavirus infection, there will be increased difficulty in recruiting new dancers to tango and some difficulty in enticing former tango dancers to return.

    There will be a significant negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on tango communities in general, but the impact will be greater on some communities than others. Communities where the number of Covid-19 cases was high are likely to have greater decreases in attendance at tango instructional and social events upon reopening of the economy. Communities at the crossroads of travel (centrally located or near major airports) will have greater decreases in attendance than those in more geographically isolated areas. Smaller communities and those that had difficulty recruiting new dancers prior to the onset of the pandemic would be more likely to become extinct (Tango Community Growth and Development: Tango Sociology, Politics, and Economics).

    The last social dance events to reappear on the tango scene will be festivals, marathons, and encuentros. These events will be scarce prior to the time when and if an approved and proven Covid-19 vaccine is available and a large proportion of the population has been vaccinated, which is likely to be no sooner than 2022. If an effective vaccine does not become available, the coronavirus will remain endemic in many populations, and governments are likely to resort to cycles of tightening and relaxing Social Distancing in response to increases and decreases, respectively, in the number of new Covid-19 cases. If the du

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    Dancing Alone with a Warm Embrace [May. 10th, 2020|02:49 am]

    Tango is just a dance, you know. It allows us to be in our bodies.  It makes time stop or race. It makes regular people feel as if the music has them doing things better than anything else they have ever done in life.  It's an excuse to hug people and be transported to oxytocin heaven without even knowing each other's names.  It transfers warmth to everything we do in life.  But it's just a dance. 


    The pandemic is likely going to bring Jerry to psychological ruin.  Tango had pulled him out of a deep depression in 2008.  He didn't even know he was depressed, or at least how depressed he was.  He found refuge in dancing salsa, and that was fun.  Depression's best medication is fun, but tango was not a psychotropic medication--it was therapy and medication.

    "I told myself that I would never be so vulnerable," Jerry tells himself as the first milongas began being canceled.  Being cut off from dancing is as scary for him as was getting a divorce.  He is afraid that he has let himself fall in love again. He thought he was safe because a dance should not be able to abandon him as a woman could.  "This is only a dance!" he tells himself over and over like a mantra.

    He knows this is a bad omen when he starts catastrophizing with slogan-like phrases:

    "A close embrace will never be the same."

    "Everyone will be afraid of microbes and viruses." 

    "Even if things get back to normal, I will be all rusty and lose the flow." 

    "I'll be lonelier than ever before." 

    He looks at himself in the mirror and tells himself to slow the onslaught of negative thoughts.  "It will only take over my mind and make me spiral down into despair," his internal psychologist tells him.  

    Tango is just a dance, but his fear of being depressed--not the lack of dancing--is what he truly dreads. Another episode of his blood flowing slowly in his veins looms. Depression knocks at the door.

    But that's not going to happen. Tango did not leave him; his wife did.

    Now he has skills he never had before.  He just doesn't really know it yet.  Like many others in the tango community, life indeed goes on during a pandemic or if a dance partner dies or if a foot gets broken.  Jerry, like others, starts connecting to family and friends on video chats and messages and texts. They read books. And tango dances with them through life, but just in a different way.

    His mother is the most amazing connection during the pandemic and this dearth of social touch. Going to his therapist, David, helped him most reconnect to his mother.  "I don't want to get on medications again," Jerry warns his on-and-off therapist. "But I am dreaming a lot. Some are okay dreams but they are very vivid.  I keep dreaming about my mother, who died in 2018, along with my grandparents the same year."


    It is good to reconnect with David, who is his old self, even on a normal video chat, which now Federal law allows patients to use during the pandemic.  David peers over his glasses and stares at Jerry.  He's silent for longer than usual--as if he is stumped by this dream problem.  "Well, well ..." he finally says haltingly.  "I know you are an atheist, but you are presenting me with a spiritual issue."

    "How's that?" Jerry retorts.

    "If you're haunted by your dead mother.  She is a spirit, and therefore, is this not a spiritual issue?"


    "Okay, then. Do you want to talk about something besides ghosts, then?"

    "Actually, I want to talk about my fear of another bout of depression now that I cannot go dance. But these dreams are bugging me the most."

    "Okay, then tell me what you dream about."'

    "I dream over and over about her casket going into the ground, and I have no feelings. I cannot cry. My ex-wife and my Mom kept in touch after our divorce.  I was kind of jealous.  Then, just as it truly happened, Nicole comes to the funeral, staying on the out edge of the funeral party. Then and now, these scenes are like a close-up zoom lens. I can only see Nicole there crying as I am numb and cannot cry. I feel jealous that she can cry and I can't.  At the same time,  the audio is turned up, and I hear the casket being lowered into the ground.  People in the funeral party take a shovel full of dirt and throw on the casket.  They wait for me to do it too, but I am paralyzed."

    "So who is the producer of this film in your head?" David asks Jerry.

    "I guess, I am."

    "Right.  And who is the director?"



    "Yeah, who else?"

    Again David is silent and looking over the top edge of his glasses.  "You are watching a B movie that no one wants to watch; not even you.  And that is because there is no director.  Jerry, what do you want me to say?  Should I be like a psychoanalyst and find the archetypes and deep meanings of your cast of characters?  Should I be a shaman and help you speak with the dead?   Or would you prefer that I help you be a better film director to change this shitty movie into something worth watching? It's your choice."

    "Okay, help me with that.  That is better than having a spiritual problem."

    "That is your spiritual problem that you have not spoken to your mother except in B movie films at night.  And even then you are the emotionally paralyzed child who has no voice.  How would you make this a better film?  A film that you would want to watch or want to show to some intimate friend.  Would you wait for your dream life to come up with better storylines or would you sit down during the day and create a better film?"

    David and Jerry go on about his worries about the pandemic, how his anxieties are returning, and how depression is his greatest fear.  But all of that is a blur.  The thing about showing up as a director, that is all he can really remember about their video call.  Now the empty director's chair haunts him rather than his mother.


    Jerry sits at his desk and pulls out some things he still has from his mother:  A cross that she had from her mother.  A ring.  And some papers that he has forgotten, including a completed a genogram from an undergraduate sociology course.  He recalls his mother. She tells him about the family as far back as she knows. He charts dutifully as he had learned in class--that square boxes are for men and circles are for women.  Then came the amazing stories from his mother.  Her first husband's father had raped her.  She has told no one until they sit there together, filling out the genogram. Also, she admits that she had given away her first child to adoption. On a lighter note, she recounts how Jerry's sister is such a natural ballet dancer; how his half-brother is a musician; and his brother is a natural artist and sculptor. She recounts how Jerry was playing guitar even as a toddler.  Jerry connects the dots. He is the musician/dancer in a family of artists.

    Jerry stops to think. "Here is a movie worth watching right under my nose."  Well, at least he realizes he has something better than the B movie he has been watching in his dreams.

    Memories pour in.  Mom teaching the kids to cook, taking them to church, and the words on the wall in light blue, painted with a 3-D effect:  "God is Love."

    "I don't want a melancholy movie," the Producer says, leaning over Jerry's Director's Chair.

    "Fuck off.  Fire me and get another Director."

    "Mom, I want to tell you how it felt when I visited you. I could finally really hug you.  I have to admit something.  I learned that from tango.  I learned to hug people.  I had forgotten how.  I knew how to do it as a kid.  I relearned with my first girlfriend, but after my divorce, I had forgotten. I was even afraid.  But I had long stopped hugging you since my teen years.  I wish I could've hugged you more. From tango, I learned to dance with the young and the old.  I hug the young women, the daughters I never had. Yes, I hug the sexy ladies who miraculously allow me to dance with me because of my musicality. I hug friends who giggled with my playfulness. I hug the older ladies like they were my aunts or even you. So when I visited you, it was easy to hug you again. Do you remember the time we went back to church, and I kissed my old Sunday school teacher on both cheeks as if she were a venerable tango teacher visiting from Argentina? I could see it in her eyes. You both were as surprised as you were delighted.  But I just had learned how to do this because of tango.  It was a reflex. It was etiquette. It is the new me."

    "And Mom?" Jerry went on, then pausing.  "I want to keep hugging you.  Holding you long.  This feels right.  David tells me that I can have a growing relationship with you. And I know how I can do this.  When I dance by myself, please come with me.  I have danced with others who were hurt like you were in your divorce and sexual assault.  They found healing.  And I too will find healing dancing with you.  I am glad Nicole came to say good-bye to you.  It was her right and yours too.  It was your right to have all the people who love you to come to your funeral.  And she had the right to say goodbye.  Maybe death talked to her and told her that we are all connected and the times we loved were the only moments we were truly alive. I am grateful for those moments. Anyway, it was your funeral, sorry that I have been so fucking selfish. . . "

    "Don't say that word, okay Jerry?" a motherly voice says in his head.

    Jerry knows that he has reconnected with his mom at that moment.  That voice.  It isn't what his mother would say; it is what she is saying.  "David was right," he admits to himself. "I have had a spiritual problem."

    The pandemic will give him plenty of time to get back to dancing by "himself."  He can work on knowing the music better, knowing Laurenz and Tanturi and some other lesser-known orchestras better.  But mostly, he is sure that he can find a deeper sense of himself and a healed past--or better said a "revised past, a different storyline."

    In a video group room with tango friends three days later, he hears someone in the group say, "Tango is only a dance, you know."

    "Not in my Movie," he whispers under his breath.  The voices in the chat group dim as he reflects: "It is who I am. The musician/dancer who learned his warm embrace from his mother."

    Art credit:  Tom Kollins.

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    Post-Pandemic Chance for Musicality [Apr. 15th, 2020|01:05 am]

    Musicality has a chance in our post-pandemic world. 

    A wonderful, maybe even radical change away from dancing-like-always-before is upon us. Musicality has a chance to grow because we have no milongas and the meaning of a warm embrace will be forever changed for the entire planet. Life seems more precious and fragile too. The good news is that we can take this time to feel the music in our body and come back to the milongas in the future with a new vision and return as better dancers, even better people.

    Father and Dancing Son Advice
    My 21-year old son misses dancing as I do.  He is in Europe and very restricted in his movements.  He wonders about being a very rusty dancer too.  So some of the following ideas were from some father-son advice that I will allow you to eavesdrop in on.

    There's a good reason that when we return to dancing, that we can be better than ever before.  I told him to forget figures from his ballroom classes for now. "This is a time to put on music and just let your body move without a partner," I told him.  "Let it be a time to find musicality--being attentive to how the music moves your body. Your body's physical response to music is what dance truly is."  "Yeah, Dad," he said, "I have been doing that when no one is looking. I'll do it some more."

    The Dancer/Musician
    My son is a dancer-musician.  I told him that I used to believe that being a musician helped me as a dancer. Perhaps. . . but upon reflection, it may be just the opposite.  Being an improvisational dancer has helped me to be a better musician. I told him that if you add up all musicians of all time, dancers have instructed nearly all musicians to express themselves with better musicality. If you are aware of tango orchestras' histories, certainly you will see this as the path of the greatest orchestras: They played in front of dancers, and dancers' responses further helped them hone how the musicians would play. Jazz, Rock, and Tango all died as powerful cultural phenomena of their times when dancers started to sit down and merely watch.

    Great Musicians Dance with no Partner
    Great musicians dance with their instruments and not a partner. To demonstrate the musicality of a musician who dances, let me introduce you to a video of a musical prodigy, Alma Deutscher, when she was 12 years old.  Here (in the video below) she is "dancing" behind the piano. Watch her body language change its "dance" too. I start the video below when she is moving her body to the orchestra's happier moments. She dances to the orchestrata. No partner. She is not playing. But then listen and watch her musical expression as the mood changes to a deeply moving piano dialogue with the orchestra.  Is she crying?  Perhaps. She may be holding back tears, but her fingers and body are crying.  Body and soul: This is musicality.  Innate.  Internal. Expressed with competence.  I weep every time I see this performance.

    The awesome depth of human experience includes musical moments. Not being able to go out and dance is forcing us to be closer to the music in our solitude.  I suggest being a minimalist and discover your musicality. The simple- but-musical tango walk helps with the nuances of expressing the music in one's body. Nearly all of the private lessons that I have taken in the last five years have been on the tango walk. Simplicity is complex.

    Your search for musicality finds its greatest satisfaction when tears come to your eyes because of the beauty of art that you have shared with just yourself. Later it will become just one other person.  Musicality is entirely internal, and a pandemic is giving you a chance to find the landscape of your heart and in that heart, your unique musically as only you can express it.  In the end, doing this will be more than just learning to better at musicality as a dancer. This practice will be medicine for your soul.

    Photo credit:

    This blog post is dedicated to my two awesome sons--both musicians and dancers, who in spite of being in their early twenties, turn to me as an older-and-wiser friend. Many fathers would love to be so blessed.  It's a two-way street: We learn from each other and inspire each other. 

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    Will we ever dance again? [Apr. 7th, 2020|12:09 am]

    We Will Dance Again

    Alone with no dancing in sight,
    How many long to dance again?
    No time for dance as we hide
    From a virus that has found
    Its way into our bodies and lives.

    I try to feel dance in my body,
    And I find it in my hands.
    I feel your right hand in mine.
    I feel your back and hold you closer.
    I smell your favorite perfume
    Mixed with mine--the smell of you.
    I hear the music moving us as one.
    I feel your chest against mine,
    Each nuance of the music
    Translated by two hearts.
    I feel our feet on the world, dancing.
    On this planet, spinning towards
    A twilight predicted by all...
    This speck of dirt and water--
    Eventually again in the cosmic womb,
    And then another Big-Bang Beginning.
    In a New Time dance will reappear.
    It cannot hide forever.
    Once again music, joy, happiness and love
    Will make souls dance in a new age.
    Sooner or later, perhaps later than soon,
    Even we can live this new age in our own time,
    And we will dance again.
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    The Rare Epicurean Tanguer@s [Mar. 22nd, 2020|02:20 am]
    " Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance."  --Epicurus

    Epicurian philosophy 
    is simple:  Seek pleasure and avoid pain. So you might think there are many Epicurean tanguer@s out there, right?

    The problem is that Epicurean philosophy is a wisdom tradition, not a lifestyle.  Seeking pleasure often has no philosophy or ethical basis.

    Sure, there are many who seek pleasure and avoid pain, but may lack wisdom entirely. A philosopher thinks deeply about this principle of pleasure and pain. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to dance.  But it took a while for me to find some wisdom of how to be wise enough to create life-long pleasure and to avoid loss, pain, and distress.

    Pleasure without Self-Harm
    I started thinking about this Pleasure Principle as I was trying to help a patient of mine suffering with sleeplessness.  I think he considered himself a true Epicurean.  He explained that he wanted to enjoy life. So that meant that he wanted to enjoy his cigarette before bed, drink whiskey before bed, and watch TV in bed. Of course, all of these things undermine good sleep and were harming his health. Pleasure without self-harm takes some wisdom.

    Tango and the Pleasure Principle
    I recommend lots of pleasure.  But I want to be an Epicurean Tanguero.  My tango path for many years was not as an Epicurean philosopher.  I have more and more pleasure in tango, but that was made possible because of becoming wiser--joining the Epicurean wisdom of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain for the long-term good.

    If I want more pleasure and less pain, I know that I need to . . .
    • Dance less so I can have good sleep. 
    • Dance less so I can have good foot care. 
    • Wear special earplugs* so I am not deaf later in life. (Get a good decibel app.)
    • Dance in moderation in order to have plenty of other helping activities that will maintain my tango to be long-lived--such as . . .
      >Tai chi for balance
      >Working out for stamina and strength
      >Yoga for flexibility
      >Breathing practice for lung capacity and body awareness
      >Mindful meditation for flow and calming the inner-voice that is not mine.
    The path of a philosopher for me is to have ecstatic moments in tango but not at the expense of not taking care of my body's health, my psychological wellness, and my spiritual life.

    The Pleasure Principle, philosophically practiced, makes our tango glow, and allows us to be an asset to the tango community, which by the nature of any community will need more wisdom and less shallow pleasure-seeking.  Seek pleasure; eschew pain.  But be a true Epicurean Tangue@.

    Photo credit:

    * In order to maintain one's hearing acuity, young or old, I suggest getting good quality earplugs, even some made just for your ears.  Some milongas employ partially deaf DJ's who blast their music.  In the workplace, your employer must provide hearing protection over 85 decibels.  I know DJ's who blast music over 100 decibels all night. Avoid these deaf DJ's if you can, or simply do as I do:  Wear earplugs specifically made for ... wait for it ... DJ's.  Whatever you do, don't tell them to turn down their music.  They're deaf and won't hear you.   :-/
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