Establish Your Tango Community Agreements

Originally published at: Establish Your Tango Community Agreements – Awaken Tango

I believe that when teachers and organizers are intentional and proactive about establishing Community Agreements, everyone has a better experience.

It can be hard to write Community Agreements. There are a lot of things to consider. I’ve put together a Tango Community Agreements template for organizers to build on based on my experiences, to help speed the process.

Community Agreements are things that everyone agrees on. For this to work, everyone needs to see them, and to agree to them. In a fluid and constantly-changing world of tango, this requires some special effort. For instance:

  • There needs to be a system whereby every new person in the community (from beginners to milonga-visitors to teachers and guest teachers) sees, reviews, and agrees to the agreements. For instance, they can be written on a poster in the space that the host points out, or a handout that each new person receives. Or, they are on a web page which a new participant receives as part of an auto-email. Ideally, you’ll have people acknowledge their agreement with a Yes or a checkbox or a signature.

  • Teachers, organizers, and anyone of high status in the community needs to model the agreements, and make reference to the content of the agreements regularly in public situations, so that everyone understands that these principles are active and alive in the community.

Unfortunately, people are sometimes unkind, cruel, even violent towards one another. Sometimes they have no regard for consent. Sadly, this a problem that affects our whole society and all our institutions. And occasionally it affects people who dance tango.

Teaching tango and building tango communities is a labor of love. It is physically and emotionally exhausting and financially precarious. Most people who dance tango do not have any understanding of how difficult and isolating it can be to be a tango organizer.

Building community through tango requires cultivating many different kinds of skills that have very little market value, like leading, following, DJing, putting on milongas, teaching, and so forth. I do believe that articulating and reinforcing the values for the community, promoting ways to be safe, and offering avenues for addressing small infractions, falls within the reasonable expectations of what an organizer should be responsible for.

If a serious incident takes place between two people who connect through tango, it is a disaster and should spark reflection, soul searching, and dialogue for anyone that it touches.

I believe that it is beyond the slender resources of a tango community organizer to arbitrate a serious incident. We are not trained mediators, counselors, health care professionals, Title IX professionals, or judges.

Finally, I’ll note here that I’ve invested many hours on in developing this set of Community Agreements which have not been compensated in any way. Although I’ve attempted to engage other community organizers in the process, most have, understandably, had very little time to dedicate to this. I conclude that our current market constraints and incentives lead people to work reactively instead of thinking about long-term systemic solutions. I do not believe it is effective to wait for bad things to happen, and then participate in a trial by social media.

Mitra Martin has been exploring tango since 1998. She is the co-founder of Oxygen Tango.