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Maryland Man Returns To Tango After Lockdown Lift

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Remember those first days of the pandemic lockdown? Many of us picked up new hobbies - sourdough baking, jigsaw puzzles, birdwatching. But for most of us, our hobbies, our passions, they had to go on hold. We met one listener who told us about his experience.

TUAN TRAN: My name is Tuan Tran. I'm 63 years old. I live in Rockville, Md. By day, I'm a web developer at Ullico. But by night, I'm an Argentine tango dancer.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TRAN: I started about 12, 15 years ago on and off because it was such a hard dance. I took the beginner class and gave up and came back later and gave up.

DETROW: But eventually Tuan stuck with it and even met his wife, Marnie (ph), at a class. He was attracted to the beauty of the music and the way his body could express the tunes.

TRAN: It's an art form, and it's wonderful to be immersed in that feeling because for those three or four songs that we danced with the same partner, the rest of the world doesn't exist. You know, almost like floating through music, and it's the greatest feeling.

DETROW: Before the pandemic, the couple traveled to tango events around the East Coast and attended a weekly Milonga, the name of a dance gathering in Maryland. But then it all stopped.

TRAN: During the pandemic, we kept our bubble pretty small with just my wife and I and two other friends.

DETROW: They tried to improvise to keep up their hobby, sometimes listening to a DJ on Zoom. But Tuan and his wife missed the real deal.

TRAN: We barely dance at home, partially because there isn't a whole lot of room, and we have wall-to-wall carpeting.

DETROW: With the city beginning to open up again, it was finally time for Tuan to get back out there and attend an in-person Milonga for the first time.

TRAN: Now we're going to be seeing at least 50 people and holding them quite close for about 10 minutes at a time in a dance. So it's - the physical distancing is going to be - I don't think it's going to take us that long to get over. We're probably going to see each other, give each other a hug and never let go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DETROW: And eventually that first day back at the Milonga arrived.

TRAN: It's 9:00 p.m. on the Monday - 9:00 p.m. Normally that's when we get settled in for the evening, but not tonight. Tonight, we're getting dressed up to go out to our very first Milonga in over a year.

DETROW: When he got there, he saw one of his favorite partners, Julie (ph), in the parking lot.

TRAN: Hey.

JULIE: Hey. Oh, my God. It's been so long (laughter).

TRAN: It's so good to see you without the mask finally.

JULIE: I know. Look at that. What is that?

TRAN: Well...

DETROW: Tuan said it felt like being back home.

TRAN: Going back was a lot of fun - surprisingly a lot of fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TRAN: We felt pretty rusty since we barely danced at all during this past year. But when we got in, it's sort of like, you know, the stereotypical riding the bicycle or fish in water. It came right back. We had our first dance together. We were a little hesitant at first, but nobody fell down (laughter). No, it went very, very well. And the nicest part was seeing old friends that we haven't seen for a long, long time.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Hi.

TRAN: Last time I saw you, you were sitting here. Have you been sitting here the whole year?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: How are you?

DETROW: But it turns out you're off the dance floor does leave a mark.

TRAN: At least I didn't forget my dancing shoes, but it's been so long. I've forgotten my normal routine. I forgot my fan. I forgot my water bottle, and I'm sweating so much.

DETROW: And he felt it the next day.

TRAN: This is a note to all tango organizers. If you're listening, we prefer to start early and end earlier. But to dance on the Monday night till 12:30, it's a little rough the next day. My brain is a little foggy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DETROW: That's Tuan Tran of Rockville, Md.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.