I am writing this at the end of May 2020, and so we have been without our Lewes Milonga for 4 months – as we cancelled our early March event. While some organisers and teachers continued for some weeks – basically our community has lost the chance to dance and practise Tango for 3 months.
And realistically there is no end in sight.
I imagine that larger local milongas like Lewes with 60 dancers will not be permitted until the end of the year – as social distancing is a sensible precaution long after the worse is behind us – but social distancing and larger tango events are of course completely incompatible.
I worry that this might have put the validity of the Brighton / Sussex community at serious risk.
I have been so fortunate that I have been able to work really hard throughout these times, practising hard and using videos to help replace the eyes of our teachers – and now to help them work with us through online reviews. I have personally never worked so hard at Tango – and in terms of learning and continuing to develop I miss only the physical presence of my teachers and mentors.
But for the majority of our tango community this is not the case and – apart from solo work and support through online sessions – our dancers will have been deprived of the chance to dance, study and improve.
Tango of course is a difficult dance and requires constant practise and study to retain your confidence. Many of our community were already inexperienced – with less than 5 years of Tango – what kind of impact will this hiatus have on their abilities, confidence and therefore pleasure in Tango?
What percentage will we have lost? I don’t know the answer – I am just concerned.
Will we have lost any local teachers that have been working in the community for so many years? It is almost impossible to earn a living by teaching in a local community but this consistency is what a true community needs. Our teachers will have been under extreme financial stress for perhaps almost a year – if this causes anyone to give up I think we would all completely understand.
What can more experienced dancers, organisers and teachers do to make the transition back to this world as easy as possible – to retain as many as we can of what in my personal opinion was already a fragile community? How could we build it back up again? How can we make sure that there really is a well thought out series of opportunities for new dancers to develop their skills with confidence and enjoyment?
At this time we still have a long way to go – but perhaps we could consider ideas and try to be coordinated, thoughtful and ready when tango becomes possible again.
Some of my thoughts are :
- Really market the excitement of Tango to new dancers coming out of a world with limited physical contact in social events for so long. Try to create a genuine opportunity for attracting new dancers that might be receptive to new social activities as life returns to some kind of normality.
- Take the opportunity to look for suitable venues while they are still empty.
- Start really inspiring and friendly guided practicas in smaller locations – ideally not at the weekends to avoid clashes with any of the first larger events – if they do start up again.
- Support our teachers by attending their classes when they need more experienced dancers to help
- As Tango DJs perhaps we could make sure that we play a higher percentage of less challenging music – suitable for less experienced people lower on confidence? A dancer low on confidence only needs a few bad experiences to be extremely discouraged.
- We should all make our events as interesting and exciting as possible – even more so than before.
- As organisers strengthen even more our cooperation – attending each others events and trying – as we have been – to never cause clashes. We could even plan to have far fewer larger Milongas until the community rebuilds.
This will mean giving more of our time to our local community, mutually supporting each other while we try to rebuild.
Personally I am particularly interested in both the marketing opportunity and in helping with practicas and classes.
Small guided practicas – if there is a theme to focus on with really great and varied music – can be a fantastic and less intimidating way to restore confidence and motivation, to welcome newer students and to help them to transition to the world of milongas and wider communities. Of course by definition they are for fewer people and tend not to be something to travel for – so perhaps we should plan to have several?
People vary in their opinions – some suggesting that new dancers should not go to a Milonga for a year or more – whatever your thoughts on this are the world of inspiring, friendly and guided practicas are a great source of motivation after the first months of classes.
Let’s make sure they exist.
Small groups of dancers in classes and practicas might – perhaps – be allowed to take place some time before larger events – in which case they could be a valuable resource for the less confident for a few valuable months.
If a Milonga was already slightly difficult for an inexperienced dancer – it is going to be even more of a challenge if they haven’t danced at all for a year..
If our community is to stand every chance of surviving and eventually to thrive – personally I think this needs thought, ideas and planning.
In the entirely separate world of my business life this time of economic turmoil has crated so many ideas, really deep changes and so much innovation in our company. If we had stayed with our old ways we would have really struggled.
In our dance world what we don’t want to happen is that in many months time, when Tango is welcomed again by society and risk free – to breathe a huge sigh of relief and then realise we have no community left and no plans to restore it.