My Parents' Extreme Tango Makeover


Friday, August 12, 2011

When Yowei Shaw was in college, her parents' relationship started to change. Maybe it was empty nest syndrome, maybe it was a midlife crisis — she's not quite sure. But after taking dance lessons on board a cruise ship, her parents turned their lives upside down for the tango.

They went from a couple who stayed home watching the History Channel to dancers going out five nights a week, perfecting their technique. They even renovated their house to make room for a dance floor. 

A few months ago, they made the trip to Buenos Aires, the tango’s birthplace and epicenter. They were dying to study under the dance stars whose videos they'd watched religiously on YouTube. But their daughter observed that if tango solved some problems, it created others.


Is there a hobby that's taken over a relationship in your life? 
A creative passion that brought you together, or pulled you apart?
Tell us in a comment below, or by e-mail.


Yowei Shaw

Comments [13]

Migdalia Romero from Jackson Heights, NY

I loved this story. It typifies what tango does to those of us who become entrenched in the dance and the culture. It made me retire earlier than expected, live a year in Buenos Aires pursuing my passion, while doing research on the tango culture and all the places where a visitor to Bs As can feed their tango frenzy. The final outcome was a book: Tango Lover's Guide to Buenos Aires: Insights and Recommendations, as well as a website, The book documented my journey and what I discovered about tango from the dance halls and the old dancers. The website updates readers on the contents of the book (where to go to see, hear, learn and dance tango, and even shop for tango). It also provides a monthly calendar of tango events for BsAs.

Aug. 14 2012 12:26 PM
Alberto from New Orleans, LA

It is so sad to hear this history because these people sound like they took the wrong turn and missed the road to the tango because they were riding the ballroom bus.
They turned to You Tube and Dancing with the Stars instead of turning into each other.
Very sad indeed.

Aug. 12 2012 09:19 PM
George from Orlando, Fl

Tango changed my life. I met my wife on the dance floor when she was taking lessons. A couple of years later we were off the Buenos Aires for our honeymoon. We danced every night and took lessons every afternoon. It's true that Tango can put pressure on a relationship, but I have discovered that most pressure is caused by trying to learn a new technique together. Just like in the article you can spend a lot of time blaming your partner. Do yourself a favor and take private lessons and dance with other partners to build your skills. Your wife or husband will always be your best partner. Now we host our own Milongas on the third saturday every month in Orlando, come and dance with us! WWW.CFLTS.ORG

Aug. 12 2012 08:05 PM
Jane from Croton on Hudson

So fascinated with the story, I was late for tennis with my husband. After telling the story to him, I asked if he would be interested in learning the tango in Buenos Aires. He just shook his head in disbelief. We're 70. After learning to play tennis at 68 and continuing to do so, I do believe we could do this. The trick is to convince my husband. Where do I get the information? Loved Sebastian's take on it all and, I agree, what a way to leave this world.

Aug. 12 2012 12:51 PM
Lauraine from Maui

As long as she doesn't hit him upside the head during close embrace, they're gonna be just fine. Good medicine.

Feb. 26 2012 10:10 PM

Wow, Yowei, this is a really rich piece. I love how you involved all the family members in the story telling and how you gave a voice to each of your parents. You showcase many facets of your parents, of committed relationship, and of social partner dancing. Your piece is transformative, just like then tango.

Dec. 11 2011 01:55 AM
Ruth from New York

Great story! I really admire your parents - both for taking up the tango and for letting you report on them.

Sep. 08 2011 10:44 PM
Yowei Shaw from Philadelphia

Thanks for all the comments and for listening to the piece!

I am so lucky to have been able to produce this piece for Studio 360 - it was a lot of fun, but more importantly, an excuse for me to get closer to my parents and discover what this new hobby has done for them and their marriage.

I've tried to dance tango myself a couple times... and it wasn't pretty. I wholeheartedly admire anyone who has the focus, patience, and coordination to get through the beginning phase of this complex dance to actually have fun in a milonga.

Sep. 01 2011 04:17 PM
Maggie from Joisey

OMG! I know many people who are in exactly the same situation. Gonna tell all my friends!!

Aug. 27 2011 07:42 AM

OMG! I wrote a whole book about this! It's called Shut Up & Dance!

Aug. 18 2011 10:51 PM

Amazing piece! Gonna tell all my friends.

Aug. 18 2011 11:52 AM
Martha from San Francisco

Tango as a Music and dancing expression is either a powerful catalist and in your parents' case an opportunity to experience intimacy at a different level. For this reason it is challenging for established couples to see the partner in somebody else's arms; now remember that at the end of the night you'll reap the benefits of it...

Aug. 16 2011 01:14 AM
Layne from Berlin

As someone who's also danced tango, I think you've captured the transformative power of the dance and the way it can change you as a person.

It's rare for a relationship to withstand the pressure of tango - it's great to hear about one that's actually become better for it. Wonderful story. (And cool parents!)

Aug. 14 2011 10:16 AM

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