We hypothesized that tango dancers who were sheltered in place alone might be worse off than those who were with others. Surprisingly, having companions during quarantine did not have any significant effect on negative impact of reduced access to tango.
In fact, those who were sheltered in place with other tango dancers had about the same intensity of negative impact as those who were alone. This even stood true if they were dancing tango up to three times per week!
This suggests that the isolated activity of dancing tango, abstracted from the social and communal experience in which it is normally embedded, strips it of many of its benefits.
“[Reduced access to tango due to COVID] has had a much greater effect than I thought it would. I’m an introvert and love to stay home. I normally like to workout at home, and my partner lives nearby so we are able to dance, but there is something so special about milongas and it has really impacted us negatively to not have them.”
Interestingly, however, those were sheltered in place with another tango dancer dancing 5-7x/week had slightly less negative impacts. This suggests lots of interesting questions and possibilities. Possibly dancing this frequently creates a ritual structure, similar to that which the weekly milonga schedule used to provide, that has some wellbeing effects beyond the positive effects of dancing itself.
It would be interesting to do further research to understand how different contexts can bring out the benefits of tango.