Here’s the first of many posts I’ll be writing about Tango Organizing for your own local events. If you’re looking for something more upscale for festivals then I’d have to refer you to other resources currently, but much of what I’m referring to here is more on a smaller scale, but would apply for something bigger, just needs more planning. I’ve taken over the local practica in hosting and organizing it for coming up on two years. Most of this is working solo on the setup, decorations, postings, and more. Yes the community is smaller than many but when you have bigger community you can usually get some additional help to make your event, be it a practica, milonga, or something else even better.
The minimal setup you need for any event is a space to dance and music playing. So this can be outdoors on the pavement with an ipod, but something so bare bones doesn’t really lend itself to many as an event they wish to attend. On the other hand, impromptu milongas in the good weather someplace random does have appeal to the right crowd and community, but you usually have a little bit better of a speaker system going, be it a nice bluetooth speaker that runs on batteries or is rechargable. You are also usually on a nicer piece of ground to dance on, or maybe even bringing your own portable floor or vinyl flooring rolls to roll out to dance on. You don’t need much for one of these types of events, but for something a little more established and regular, additional touches can enhance the first impression people get.
For instance, just having your sound come from a better speaker, maybe even have it propped on a table or raised, maybe add a tablecloth and some fliers of some kind for information on the event and where to find more about future events or the community suddenly makes a good impression to those who wish to stop by.
Yes Tango is an intimate dance and tight knit community, but to help grow and get the word out, you need something that invites people to look closer look and to find out more. Add a sign advertising what dance you’re doing, the name of the event, and prop it up, put it in a frame, chalk board, or similar and place it with the additional detail papers. This gives information to those who are interested a place to get information, especially since if there are people dancing, spectators don’t want to interrupt and have someplace inviting to find more more.
So the idea that first impressions is important is indeed true, you don’t want your event to feel like someone is interrupting something private and exclusive (unless it is) but more welcoming. Tango is social, and be it a practica, milonga, festival, you want it to have something for everyone and to let people know they are welcome to join and find out more.
What to do & how much?
Depending on the event, you can do as little or as much as you feel comfortable, but you want it to leave a good impression so people return. If you only have enough chairs for 10 people but there are 20+ people each week, you might find people leave or wont return. It needs to offer room to grow, so more chairs than you expect participants, and a nice space for people to put there things away. I have about 20 chairs setup and a table in the main floor area for people to gather plus additional chairs and table in the back room for shoes and such. Our groups range from 8-16 people with room to grow and plenty of space to add another table and chairs in the main room. Each table is the folding kind, so I have a tablecloth and two table runners (dollar tree) per table with some cups and some fake flowers near an edge to add decor and cups for water and even placing event fliers on the table for the month or upcoming events.
I don’t need the table cloth or the runners, but the look difference between the two is night and day and makes you want to sit there. I could remove the tables completely, but to do so would discourage people from congregating and chatting around the table, and I want people to be able to chat and enjoy themselves easily. This is my personal preference as I want people to come to the event and have a good time.
Is there more I can do? Yes there is, I can add additional lighting than the space I have, like holiday light strands, lamps, some fans, wall decorations, and more, but there is only so much a single car can carry and so much time to get setup as a solo person. I had plans for the back table to include t-shirts, car stickers, folding fans, clothes for sale from one of our community members, a monthly or weekly scheduling board with all the events posted in an easy to see format, a spot for food/snacks, the playlist visible, a request a song section, drinks available outside of the tap water, and more! I tried to do everything, but found myself almost burning myself out doing the setup and tear down alone that dancing and enjoying the event myself wasn’t possible. If there was someone that wanted to do half of it every week and make the things for it, keep it updated, and such, could easily happen, but at the same time, for a smaller community it seems like overkill.
So what to do and how much depends on you and your community and how much help you have. Do you need everything I mentioned above? No, but having something bringing the space to something inviting, be it indoors, outdoors, or elsewhere is a huge boost. If you do something different or have ideas on what you wish your community did with it’s events, let me know below!