Finding love by dance

Kristina Tadeo was looking for a Latin dance lesson, not love, when she found both in the arms of a man who would become her husband

Jorge and Kristina Tadeo met while dancing and keep moving to music a decade into their relationship. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

A chance meeting on a dance floor changed a Town of Port Washington couple’s lives forever.

Kristina Wollaeger, now Tadeo, a Random Lake native living in Milwaukee, was out with a coworker looking for a free dance lesson at BYO Studio Lounge in Bay View.

Jorge Tadeo, a Mexican native living in Port Washington, was an experienced dancer who often spent time with his brother and friends around Milwaukee dancing.

“We usually go and hang out with different groups day and night. We met a lot of people but not the right person,” he said.

The foreshadowing was so thick it could be cut with knife used for a wedding cake.

The pair connected that Sunday, April 3, 2011 — the day of Kristina’s parents’ anniversary.

Kristina had a couple of factors working against her. She wore big heels and thus was tall so many men were afraid to ask her to dance.

“Sometimes when you’re a tall woman it can be intimidating,” she said.

She also didn’t know the dance steps.

“I was terrible, so I was happy when anybody asked me to dance,” she said.

She was immediately struck by Jorge’s good looks and his patience with her dancing.

Jorge remembered Kristina was wearing a blue skirt and those high heels. He loved her blue eyes and calls her “ojitos bonitos” meaning beautiful eyes.

Usually, people dance to one song and then leave each other’s company before dancing again later, Jorge said, but this time it was different.

“It was a lot of conversation” that drew him to Kristina in between songs, he said. “With someone learning it takes three or four songs.”

It was an unlikely encounter.

“We don’t usually hang out in that bar. If we don’t show up that day, I would have never met you,” Jorge told Kristina during lunch last week.

He joked about their meeting.

“I was going out in Milwaukee to meet people and go Latin dancing and I meet somebody from Random Lake,” he said.

Kristina gave Jorge her phone number at the end of the night. He said he was taking a dance lesson on Thursday and didn’t have a partner.

“That was his play,” she said.

It wasn’t an instant connection for Jorge, then 29, and Kristina, 26, but the two would form a lasting bond over the next several months.

“We danced a lot. You were very patient with me trying to learn a lot of dances,” she told her husband.

Years of spending time together dancing and camping, which included participating in a bachata flash mob at Summerfest, led to engagement talk. They ended up picking out a ring together.

Jorge had planned to go back to Mexico after living in the U.S., but Kristina changed that plan.

When asked their wedding date, Kristina waited for her husband to answer to see if he remembered, and he did. They married Oct. 24, 2014, in an intimate ceremony at the courthouse.

A less intimate celebration of about 100 people was held on their family farm the following August.

Jorge’s cousin from New York came in to do the cooking. He made barbacoa, in which a whole cow with peppers in two pots was put on hot coals in the ground, covered with 12 bottles of tequila and cooked for 12 hours.

“Everyone loved the food,” Kristina said, adding they came back the next day for leftovers.

Their first dance after getting married was to Frankie Ruiz’s “Bailando” which means “dancing” and includes the line, “And it all started, dancing.”

Through years of marriage, the couple introduced each other to new interests and tastes.

“The bicultural part of our relationship is one of the more fascinating parts of it,” Kristina said.

Kristina earned a degree in international studies and German linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She studied German, Italian, Serbo-Croatian “and of course I fall in love with a Spanish speaker,” she said.

She has picked up enough of the language to get through three-week visits to Jorge’s family in Juan Rodriguez Clara, Veracruz, in the southern part of the country near the Gulf of Mexico.

She earned a master’s degree in pulic service for nonprofit management from Marquette University and is the executive director of Port Main Street Inc.

Jorge, who came to America at 19 in search of a better life, picked up English on his own and became good enough to tell his boss, the late Jim Melichar, a joke.

He started milking cows at Melichar Broad Acres in the Town of Port and worked his way up to personnel manager.

The couple have a 7-year-old daughter Camila and 3-year-old son, Nathan, who love growing up on the family farm with cows, goats, chickens potbellied pigs and cats.

Camila dresses up her favorite goat, Momma Lilac, in different costumes and takes her to a hammock to read her stories during summer. Kristina said the animal’s expression never changes.

“The kids love it. They walk out the front door and have their own petting zoo,” Kristina said.

The children are quickly becoming bilingual. They spend time at their nearby tia’s (aunt’s) house, where English isn’t spoken.

“I think they would look at me if I was crazy if I said ‘Aunt Esther,’” Kristina said.

Jorge and Kristina will mix English and Spanish in conversation, asking one another a questions in one language with responses in the other.

They still enjoy dancing, although nights out aren’t as common with a family.

Even if they’re at a restaurant, when a good Latin song comes on, Jorge will take his wife’s hand and the two will dance.

Dance parties often break out at home with the children.

Jorge grew up on a farm and is a good cook, using fresh milk, meat and eggs. He also makes his own cheese. Tending to animals and a garden is a new lifestyle for Kristina that she has come to love.

Kristina, who grew up in a German household, takes the family to Milwaukee’s German Fest, and they celebrate Oktoberfest. Kristina and Jorge also partake in polka dances on tables at the Old German Beer

Hall on Third Street are common. Some polka music has a Latin sound, she said.

Their connection has grown over time.

“Over the years, I have learned that he has a great sense of humor, he is so smart and determined. We still have great conversation, and I love our shared love of dancing, camping, farming and being in awe of our children,” Kristina said.

Jorge said he loves “how kind and open minded” his wife is, “how she views the world, her intelligence and just who she is as a person.”

Their Valentine’s Day plans weren’t determined as of late last week.

“Are you going to cook a steak for me?” Jorge asked his wife.

“You’re the one who cooks a better steak,” she said.



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