I remember the moment Covid-19 turned from being a distant news story to step into our life.
It started with a baby step. In late January – when our tango classes were still packed with dancers intermingling and sharing embraces – a student nervously asked if she could do exercises on her own in a corner.
She was worried, she said, about the new virus in China.
“That’s miles away and China is an enormous country!” I confidently reassured her.
“But don’t you think it’s strange that they have shut down an entire city?”
A chill went through me but I quickly dismissed it. We had our big annual event to organise, a tango school to run and our children to look after.
Life was its usual, wonderful hectic self.
In the weeks that followed we were running on adrenaline as the countdown to our Winter Ball began. Promoting, rehearsing, organising, trouble-shooting.
As the big date drew closer, so did Covid-19.
The news stories were growing louder. The first cases on UK soil were announced.
As I picked up my performance dress, my dressmaker told me Soho was getting quieter.
“What will these shops do? How will we pay our rent if they close us all down?”
Again, a moment of panic was followed swiftly by denial. That can’t happen, so it won’t. And I’ve got a Ball to organise!
The day before the Ball we sent out an email asking anyone feeling unwell to stay at home. It’s amazing now to think how it felt strange – almost rude – to request this.
How quickly things have changed!
We somehow knew that if the Ball were taking place a week, or even a few days, later we would be facing cancellations. That we would even have to call it off entirely.
But our Ball was a complete sell-out and for us the most magical of all we have organised in the past 10 years.
Little did we know that we were on the eve of the world changing forever!
It now feels like our last collective celebration of all the most beautiful aspects of human connection.
In the good old days before anyone had ever heard of the term “social distancing”.
In the week that followed we began to see numbers in our classes gradually drop. Tango – because of its close human contact – was perhaps the first casualty of the nervousness that was spreading across the nation.
Throughout the tumultuous history of the world, human beings have always needed dance. They have always needed human contact.
Londoners danced the jitterbug throughout the Blitz. Even when times are tough, people prioritise their emotional well-being. I couldn’t have imagined anything that could halt the human instinct to dance with each other.
And finally the day the UK government announced that there should be no unnecessary social contact.
We have dedicated the last 13 years to Tango Movement. The community we have created has been a source of joy for us.
For a few days we were reeling, but our minds were busy working on a solution. Something creative could come from this we were sure!
At first we were reluctant to try online classes. David and I thrive on interaction with our students. Standing in front of a camera was not our thing.
Then it came to us: online classes by video call, where we can give corrections to our students, joke with them and answer their questions.
And we soon realised that we were responding to a need.
Our students in self-isolation still needed tango. Classes by Zoom – tango without touching – might not be a substitute for the real thing but they could still move, connect, hear the music and grow.
And what’s more, people were contacting us from around the world. USA, Ireland, Austria, Russia and Argentina.
Students who had moved away from London but hadn’t found tango classes they enjoyed in their new countries. People we had never met but who had been following us on Instagram.
It’s a crazy new world and we are still trying to adapt. But some good has come out of this.
We are motivated. We are excited. We are still doing what we love.
The day we can run our normal classes again we will be racing back there (with a bottle of champagne!). And together with our students we intend to emerge from lockdown as better, even more skilled dancers, having spent the pandemic working on our technique.