Pandemic Perspectives: Doing the tango during COVID-19 restrictions

It was Mar. 8 — three days before the pandemic was declared.

I was at Aladin’s Pizzeria & Shawarma Place in Winnipeg, confirming the catering menu for my upcoming milestone birthday party. There would be an Aladdin theme, with decorations and prizes, dinner and dancing.

It was going to be a party like no other.

Before COVID-19  hit, I was an extrovert, a homestay mom to international students, a planner of big dinner parties and the person known to bring yummy snacks to tango milongas (Argentinian dance events). At work, I had frequent chats with co-workers at my door as I bustled about.

I’ve dreamt of being the best Argentine tango dancer I could be.– Rebecca Hiebert

When I came home, I would talk to my international student about her day, do activities with her, make new recipes together and enjoy having her friends come over. I regularly went to the airport — to go on trips and to receive or send off the students I was hosting.

I remember thinking that I was too busy. That I needed the world to stop for me.

Now, it appears it has.

The whole world has stopped. I now feel more like a quiet introvert. My dinner table is no longer used for hosting guests. My work contacts consist of online meetings and email exchanges. I eat what’s in the house and rarely follow a recipe.

I don’t travel far from home now; except for the trip to my parents in southern Manitoba and to run errands. I rarely use my car or go to the airport. I have become a homebody.

Changing perspective

Before the pandemic, I read parts of a book called A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations into Advantages and Why it’s Everyone’s Business. It helped change my perspective about this pandemic.

I’m constantly thinking, “how can I make this all work for me instead of against me?”

Working at home meant no walk to work, and it meant a default pattern of sitting eight to 10 hours a day. Within a short period of time I noticed neck and shoulder pain. To solve this, I set up a homemade standing desk so I can move, stretch and work on my posture while I work.

Rebecca Hiebert turned her home office into an ergonomically-friendly workspace. (Submitted by Rebecca Hiebert)

The next problem, is, of course, the ever-present screen time. I now position my laptop facing a window so I can regularly look out. This provides me with more opportunities to take mini (visual) nature breaks, reduce neck stress and prevent eye strain.

Friendships now have more depth than breadth. Instead of parties with large groups, this summer and fall I regularly hosted suppers for a few close friends, eating outside, six feet apart, on my “pandemic patio.”

The pandemic won’t last forever.– Rebecca Hiebert

Since my first exposure to tango classes six years ago, I’ve dreamt of being the best Argentine tango dancer I could be. So one of the hardest limitations for me now is not being able to dance with my Argentine tango community.

But as a result of the pandemic, world-class Argentine tango performers are teaching tango on Zoom for discount prices. And I now have the time to take these classes. 

Keep it simple

My day now is very simple. I sleep as long as possible. Some nights are interrupted by bad dreams, so I wake just in time to walk groggily across the hall to settle into my home office.

Other days I have time for a bit of yoga, or a brief walk. I have a Zoom tango class every day. 

After work, I go for a brisk 45-minute walk. Each evening, I do chores or home improvement projects, and experiment with movie editing or practicing dance. I’ve actually converted a room of my house into my practice studio, with floor space, a dance bar and mirrors on the wall.

The pandemic won’t last forever. I get hope from the little things in life: watching my sprouts growing, my sourdough culture rising, a beautiful piece of art, a child smiling or a squirrel scampering along. I find joy spending time in nature.

But above all, it is spending time daily with the people in my personal bubble that brings me the most joy.

Party time

When this is all over, I plan to host the big party that I referred to earlier — the one that I had to cancel due to COVID-19.

It was going to feature my first ever public tango performance, followed by an evening of dancing and socializing with people from the many communities I am apart of.

It was going to be called “A Magical Night,” and it still will.

The title now seems even more appropriate — when the pandemic is over it will truly feel magical to once again dance in close embrace on a crowded dance floor and hug each other freely. 

CBC’s Pandemic Perspectives is a series that invites Manitobans to share their personal perspectives on the collective experience of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.

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