People may be dancing in the streets once the coronavirus crisis has passed.
Until then, Diane Lachtrupp hopes people will consider dancing in their living rooms.
Galway native Lachtrupp and her husband, Johnny Martinez, own the Tango Fusion Dance Company in Saratoga Springs. They began teaching styles such as tango, swing, hustle, salsa, cha cha and West Coast swing in New York City before moving their moves to Saratoga in 2005.
Isolation may be the new safety dance, but Lachtrupp hopes people will consider lessons she and Brooklyn’s Martinez have started on Facebook Live and Internet social platform Zoom. The couple is teaching from Tango Fusion’s third-floor dance studio on White Street. Lachtrupp answered questions about the new venture during a recent interview with The Daily Gazette.
Q: How has the pandemic affected your business?
A: Our business collapsed because we make a living teaching group classes and one-on-one private lessons in salsa, swing, tango, all the types of partner dance. We also go into schools. On Friday, March 13, we found out that weekend the schools would close and everything just changed. We were up online by Monday, two days later, and we were live on Facebook doing complementary classes but now we’re doing classes on Zoom.
Q: What is your client list like?
A: In New York City, we had like 450 students, it was just the two of us plus another teacher. We moved north to raise our kids in Saratoga. That week (when schools announced closures) my husband was directing a show at Lake Avenue School. I had just finished choreographing Shenendehowa’s high school production of “Guys and Dolls,” and as I get into the car to go see the show Thursday, I find out that’s the only show, that night, one and done. Thursday, my husband found out his show which he had directed and choreographed for Lake Avenue, they had one show Thursday morning for the kids, no shows. Probably adults, we have 70 adults active in classes, we also have kids’ programs. People will invite us to schools and we’ll teach 100 kids at once.
Q: What is Tango Fusion?
A: The name actually came from a show I did in New York City in December of 1998, we did an off-Broadway show and we called it “Tango Fusion” because we fused Argentine tango with salsa and other dances, ballet and jazz. When we moved up here five or six years later, we started a company up here working with ballet and jazz dancers and training them in all the partner dancing, we called the company Tango Fusion … we’ve been using the name in one way or another since 1998.
Q: How tough has it been to teach online, virtual lessons?
A: The reason we did three weeks of free classes on Facebook Live is so we could develop our teaching techniques with Zoom. One of our other teachers, Jen Cornell, who is an educator, a Spanish teacher at Lake George, she’s very tech-savvy. We all sort of said, “Hey, we have to go online,” and she was really helpful. And my older son is very tech-savvy. We’ve spent the last weeks developing a system that makes it easier for the students to learn online.
It is not the same. It is not the same as one-on-one teaching, but we are redirecting our teaching to have a few more exercises and drills and techniques that will work whether you are there with a partner or whether you are home taking the lesson by yourself. So we tailor it to work for everybody, whether you’re with a partner or by yourself.
You have to realize the camera is flipped. If I’m facing the camera and I move my right arm, I have to call it my left arm. I don’t know if I’ll know my right from the left when this is over. I have to keep flipping my words all the time. Most of the time I get it right but sometimes I’ll say the wrong arm.
We’ve been working on the techniques. We’ve trained a lot of teachers, I’ve trained a lot of teachers in New York City and teachers up here, so my teaching methods are pretty solid and we’re happy to make shifts for virtual.
Q: Can this also be considered a social exercise?
A: We try to have a little time in the beginning for chat. We’re doing our sign on at 6 o’clock. The first couple of weeks, I’m sure it’s going to be more about technology, making sure everyone has the camera angle right, but eventually, hopefully, that 6 to 6:15 time will be, “Hey, how are you doing?”
They can all see each other with the Zoom platform, that’s the great thing. Facebook Live is wonderful, it was a great way to reach people right away, but we couldn’t see them. They could type us questions but they couldn’t ask questions. Now with Zoom, they can all see each other, they can all “Hi” to each other. We may ask someone, “Hey, Cary, can you demonstrate what we just showed?” and everybody can watch him. So there’s a real social aspect, I think, people are really appreciating the contact because some people are working at home alone and then also at the end of the night we’ll have another 10 or 15 minutes where people can ask questions or people might have a glass of wine and then we have another chat time at the end of the night as well.
Q: How long do these lessons last?
A: For now, we’re making the lessons 35 minutes. Our classes always used to be 55 minutes, but without rotating partners, it’s less time. We may have to adjust it.
Q: When did the Zoom lessons begin?
A: We started Monday, April 6, people can join at any time.
Q: How much will lessons cost?
A: We did lower the rates for the online classes. Our private lessons, one-on-one, have remained the same price, but the online classes are less. So if you want to do a single class, it’s $15, normally they were $20. If you want to buy a package for a month, let’s say you want to do four salsa classes four weeks in a row, that’s $45. In addition, we send you one technique video a week, so in addition to being in class, you also get a technique video, how to do turns, how to do arm stylings, Latin hip motion, so we’re including that as well. The best price is $75 a month, which is half the price and that is all our classes, they have a choice, they have like eight classes a week and we also send them a technique video a week.
Q: Do you think people, in addition to signing up for lessons for exercise and socialization, are also hoping to help your business out?
A: I think so, yes. We had people send us checks, we had barely announced online classes. They overpaid and we were like, “That’s so sweet, you overpaid.” They said, “Don’t worry about it.” We had another guy when we were teaching the Facebook classes, he goes, “Where are the donations, where can I donate?” We have a pretty dedicated group of students who we know very well. We’ve had a lot of our students who want to continue their dancing and then we’ve attracted some new people who just found us on Facebook and that’s been really nice, too.
We have people from New York taking, we have people from North Carolina taking. Even from Facebook Live, we had some former students who were living in Hong Kong logged on to say hello to us. Our income has been cut by 80 percent at this point but we’re really trying to make lemonade out of lemons here, we’re really trying to be positive.”
Q: Can people take lessons alone? After all, the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”
A: Absolutely. We always had a warm-up if you took say, a beginner salsa class, everyone dances behind the teacher in several rows and we do a warm-up now. We’ve extended the warm-up to include different techniques so that the people who do not have a partner at home with them feel more included and there’s more that they can do and the people who do have a partner, the extended technique warm-up really benefits them as well. We’ve had lots of single students also taking the class and enjoying it as well.
Q: What’s it like, dancing in the living room?
A: People are having a great time, they’re moving, they’re moving to music and they’re getting to socialize with other people. And it’s a skill — when you learn to social dance, you can take that skill wherever you travel in the world. It’s not called social dance for nothing, and it’s a great exercise. It’s also good for mental health, with what people are going through right now.
Tango Fusion is also offering a free Facebook Live lesson Wednesdays at 7 p.m., on the Tango Fusion Facebook page. More details about Tango Fusion’s online dance classes are available at tangofusiondance.com, by emailing [email protected] or by calling Tango Fusion at 518-932-6446 or 518-932-6447.
Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-641-8400 or at [email protected]