Over two thousand voices of tango lovers from across the world spoke. We’ve spent a good part of the summer donating our time to try to make sense of a tsunami of data — which, we were told, it could easily take two years to fully analyze.
But what you shared was more than data; in some ways it was poetry, the lyrics to two thousand tangos, telling stories of loss, longing, and grief and a profound nostalgia for barely bygone times — along with moments of playfulness, wit, and hope.
We are deeply touched by your candor. We are grateful for your trust in accepting this dance with us and waiting so patiently for us to turn what we learned into a shareable content.
Over the next few weeks you’ll see us adding articles to the blog on topics such as the role tango plays in participants’ lives; the wellbeing of the tango community; online offerings and how they are working for both consumers and producers; the unique experience of tango professionals including their financial realities; and your vision for the future of tango.
To give you a preview, here are some things that you’ll find in the coming articles. Some of these findings may seem self-evident to you; however, it’s the first time these have been validated by worldwide data.
For many practitioners, tango met many needs at once, including joy, movement/exercise, touch, friendship, challenge, growth, stress relief, meaning, routine. Many even found tango a spiritual experience.
Many had found tango such a complete experience for so many years that they had not cultivated any alternative ways of meeting the needs mentioned above. For them, the loss of tango has been devastating.
Most of those for whom tango was all-encompassing were also professionals. For this group, the catastrophe of losing an activity that essentially was their life, was compounded by the shock of losing their entire livelihood. For many, including particularly those in South America who have virtually no access to aid, the financial situation is untenable.
The community experience of tango gives participants something special that they don’t experience outside of it — even when dancing tango with a partner at home. Those who were sheltered in place with a tango dancer were impacted about as much as those who weren’t.
Although the community experience was special, many participants pointed out that their community experience of tango had also been frustrating, problematic or unhealthy. A variety of issues were raised.
In particular, many participants evidently did not have an empowering social tango experience. Many expressed a desire for others to behave differently so that they could feel better. It appears that tango culture as well as the structure of events may contribute to a general lack of agency and low self-esteem.
Among online activities, seeing artistic creations (music, dance, comedy) online were the most promising. Producers loved creating these and consumers enjoyed them greatly. Consumers also found solo technique classes, online couples classes, private lessons, and online panels/lectures/discussions very rewarding, although professionals didn’t always enjoy offering these as much.
Many practitioners have shifted their focus to other activities instead of staying involved in tango during COVID, and it’s very possible that some may not return to tango.
There is no clear consensus on what a post-COVID tango world looks like to practitioners, but many hope there will be a revitalization of local communities with less emphasis on tango travel.
Exploring, learning about, practicing, and creating tango music emerged as a deeply rewarding activity for a few* during this time, and COVID restrictions could in fact create some excellent conditions for an efflorescence of musical creativity.
We believe the survey findings indicate:
A need to actually grieve what we have lost — together;
A need to intentionally reconnect with all tango has given us and our gratitude for this;
A need to put our heads together and experiment to discover new ways to stay connected and support each other;
A need for a reckoning: to really face up to what’s not working about our tango communities and prepare the ground for re-opening with a stronger foundation;
A need to explore ways to help tango musical learning and creativity blossom during COVID — new lyrics, new tangos, new instruments, new players, new DJs, new cortinas, new didactic resources — and remove mental or practical obstacles to this.
The purpose of research is not just to increase knowledge, but to spark dialogue and foster positive change. So, we’re inviting you to join us, to use these insights to fuel a changemaking process. We carried out the Tango Gamechanger Summit on Saturday September 12th at 2pm ET – a free event – to explore this.
Finally, we acknowledge that the learnings we’ll be sharing over these weeks are the tiny tip of the iceberg. Handling vast amounts of survey data is something that’s new to all three of us, and there is great complexity in the material, including many distinct roles, geographic regions, and demographics. We hope to create a well-supported way for this resource to continue to be stewarded for the benefit of tango.
Love, Korey, Meredith, Mitra
Quick Links to Posts:
Background on the Tango World COVID Survey project
The role of Argentine tango plays in our lives
The impact of reduced access to Argentine tango
Are the wellbeing impacts of less tango different if you live alone vs with others?
Tango offerings during times of COVID
Introduction to the Tango Professionals Report
What’s been helpful to the tango community during COVID?
What we want more of in a post-COVID world
Imagining the reopening of tango: tools and policies
* We’ve edited this finding slightly to reflect the fuller analysis. It appears there are many people exploring music in new ways (e.g., learning about music, DJing, orchestras), and also that a small group who have really leaned into musical learning are finding meaning and solace.