|Thank you for your collective hug of support.|
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In these difficult times, the tango community has shown itself to be just that: a true community.
Here in Montreal, tango activities, along with every other social activity, have been shut down over the last few days in line with our government's social distancing orders and recommendations to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus that is taking over and turning over our lives. We, of course, are not alone. Countless cities around the world preceded us and others will follow.
This has resulted in putting all the tango teachers out of work and we're pretty nervous about our financial survival, not to mention our fears over the virus itself. Most of us don't make oodles of money to begin with, so we're not sitting on months or even weeks worth of savings. For tango school owners (like my partner and me) who have a permanent space, the situation is even scarier, because, in addition to our personal living and housing expenses we have to keep paying our commercial rent and expenses every month.
There are people who think our work is just a fun hobby for us. Indeed we are lucky enough to dedicate ourselves full time to our great passion and our work is often a lot of fun. I get to dance and socialize every day and I absolutely love teaching and DJing and hosting milongas. But I work every weekend and most evenings, the constant physical work means I'm always battling some injury or other and then there are all the behind-the-scenes parts of the job that are less fun: the finances, data entry, constant marketing and publicity, non-stop checking and answering of emails and phone messages, scheduling, managing the partner balance (and compatibility!) in classes, keeping the space clean, stocked and in good repair and the list goes on. Hey, it's a job and not even the best job in the world is all fun and games. There are times when my partner and I think people have no idea how hard we work, how many unpaid hours we put in and how financially challenging it is to run a school. But, in fact, many people do have an idea. Some students thank us and voice their appreciation or recognition regularly and some make it clear simply by making a conscious, continued effort to support and attend our classes and activities.
And now, when we need their support the most, when we have no clue how many weeks or months we might have to tough this out, we are being blown away by just how much the community is showing that it cares about, appreciates and wants to support us. The "us" I refer to now extends beyond me, my partner and my school to all the tango teachers and schools, because we are united in our struggle and have in fact been reaching out to each other for moral support and advice.
Dancers have sent so many messages of support, have prepaid lessons to be taken "post-apocalypse," have donated funds and rallied to encourage others to make donations to the schools so we can survive this period of unemployment and business shutdowns. Whether small or large, every donation has inched MonTango, our school, toward a longer survival period, but more than that, each one has left us feeling loved, supported and incredibly thankful.
Six days ago (it feels like much longer already), when there were still just a handful of COVID-19 cases in our city and the government had not yet enacted emergency measures, we put out a message saying we were not ready to close our doors but would follow government directives closely and make changes as necessary. The very next day, as the number of cases jumped and large events were cancelled one by one we put out a new message announcing we were shutting our doors after all, effective immediately. In the interim, many dancers and students had sent messages of support, encouragement and understanding, making it clear they could see our dilemma and respected our decision to stay open, but there were also a few who were not so kind, who publicly condemned us and others like us for being so selfish as to worry about such trivialities as bankruptcy or feeding our families. When we read those messages we felt hurt and insulted and stopped feeling the love for a short time, but then, as always, we soon saw how much the kind and empathetic outnumbered the judgemental. In any case, within 24 hours we had decided to close anyway and in yet another 24 hours businesses like ours were being ordered to shut their doors.
Through all of this, overall, the tango dancers around us have shown themselves to be warm, caring, thoughtful and community-minded, leaving us feeling humbled and hopeful. And all while you are living your own fears and challenges because of this outbreak.
I thank you, my wonderful tango community, for the big, huge hug of support you have collectively offered to your teachers and organizers and I hope it's not too long before I can once again share some real abrazos with you.
Stay healthy meanwhile.