Tango becomes dance of life for grieving Utah couple

Apr 4, 2018, 6:25 PM | Updated: 9:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Mark and Lorraine Christensen float across the dance floor.  They spin, they step, as one.  They dance the tango.

It’s a dance Mark describes as “delicious” and “inspiring.”  It’s a dance that, for the Christensens, was born out of deep pain.

In 1997, their son Andrew was diagnosed with bone cancer.  The fight against the disease consumed their lives.  Andrew died three years later.

Tango has helped Mark and Lorraine Christensen heal since losing their son Andrew to cancer.

“When he passed away, I realized that we were pretty disconnected,” Mark Christensen said.  “We put so much energy into supporting him and trying to keep the business (Mark’s dentistry practice) going and the family operating and taking care of the needs of the other children in the family that we were pretty disconnected from other people in an adult kind of way, and I felt like we needed to turn the page and kind of get a new life.”

Mark remembered an introductory tango lesson he and his wife took years prior and signed up for more instruction.

Lorraine, at first, was reluctant.

“It’s complicated after you lose someone,, and I’m not sure I was ready for that,” she said.  “It was a difficult time for me.”

The Christensens, apart from an occasional date night dance at a local dance hall, were not dancers, but eventually they both took to the dance floor and never left.

Tango has become a big part of life for Mark and Lorraine Christensen

They installed a dance floor in their home and began giving tango lessons. Mark began being DJ for tango events. He became president of the local tango organization.

“It allowed us to connect to people, connect to ourselves,” Lorraine said. “Dancing is part of a joyful experience and it moved us to another way of relating to the world.”

Their social circles expanded in new directions.

The tango was created in the late 1800s by immigrants in Argentina and today remains a dance with international roots.

“I think it appeals to people who are displaced,” Mark said.

At a recent milonga, a tango event, there were dancers transplanted from Russia, Italy, Columbia and other countries.

“To stand in front of anyone and get a warm embrace, it feels very natural,” Lorraine Christensen said.  “It feels like you’re accepting everyone on the same level.”

Mark said those three years his son battled cancer were “both horribly painful but, at the same time, exquisitely beautiful.”

As Andrew was dying, he was living.

He began writing poetry.  He took up painting and had an art show.

“We were actually in awe of him,” Mark said.

“I was kind of holding him when he died and it changed my life,” he said.

“If a parent loses a child, there’s a little bit of a kind of survivor’s guilt, and then you begin to really appreciate life and living every moment, being in the moment.”

“I feel like, in some ways, tango is like that,” Mark continued. “It’s almost for me like a meditation because it’s improvisational, because it’s connective.  It really expresses my humanity. It’s an expression that’s shared with another person but at the same time I have to be present in the moment. It’s a really ‘be here now’ kind of experience.”

Mark Christensen said, for him, tango is an expression of life.

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Tango becomes dance of life for grieving Utah couple