Community as a Core Human Need, (pt.2)

Happy Anniversary, “Naked” Tangueros!

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe this October is our 5th year of dancing at Naked Cafe?!

What started out as ½ dozen stalwarts evolved relatively quickly into a weekly gathering of 15-25 weekly dancers (in addition to a ½ doz adventurous souls coming early for a lesson). I call this a rousing success, by Edmonton terms. 

Of course, success is not measured simply or even primarily by numbers. However, it is the basis for ensuring that anyone, anytime can show up and expect a pleasant and varied dance experience. 

Which begs the question: What makes for a healthy and sustainable community?

  1. Place. Bricks and mortar.

    Nothing happens until a good location (including dance floor and sound system) is identified.

    It was certainly a serendipitous day I stumbled into Naked Cafe and asked the proprietor about the possibility of staging an occasionally milonga at his establishment. Encouraged by “Bob’s” (Robert’s) open-hearted welcome, we jumped at the opportunity. Since then we have all grown to appreciate the intimate atmosphere of “our” little brick cafe.

  2. Hospitality.

    A warm welcome is a critical ingredient on encouraging people not only to join in but to return. 

    Certainly no one is more welcoming than Bob behind the counter, but in addition there have been some stalwarts who have taken up the responsibility of extending a hand and warm hug new-comers and old-timers alike. (Richard and Louise being principals). It continues to mean something to me, certainly, every time I am welcomed. Some will show up even when they can’t dance, just for an evening of socializing. 

    And the tablecloths and candles are an eloquent touch as well, don’t you agree?

  3. Food.

    Nothing like a good cup of coffee or light lunch always pulls people together.

    Bob very graciously waits on the tables in addition to brewing deadly cup of coffee. Of course, the cafe couldn’t support itself without either sales or a hefty cover charge. We have avoided the later with the expectation that  patrons spend more than what is expected not only Monday, but also throughout the week. 

  4. Ownership.

    To cultivate a community, participants need not only feel that they are welcome but they make a significant contribution to the health of the community.

    There aren’t a lot of tasks to be shared with Monday nights, since Bob manages the facility. But there are other tasks such as setting the tables or collecting dishes that are attended to regularly. And participating in and assisting with the lessons is a biggie as well. (Thanks again to Louise and to the lesson regulars). Then there are also the weekly notifications, which is primarily my responsibility.

    Jobs outstanding: I am certainly open to anyone with some computer expertise to assist with some of the finer details of developing a web presence (including feedback on my blog).

    Also, we need to keep the doors open to Naked by supporting the cafe through the week. Stop in for a bite and some great conversation during the week or some entertainment weeknights.

    Photography anyone? How about hosting a twitter post? Other offers?

  5. Music!

    This is afterall a dance venue, and how diminished that would be without Vincenzo at the turntable (most) every week with an excellent selection of music. This in addition to his leadership on the dance floor and teaching throughout the week at other venues.  This community would have not maintained the same vibrancy and longevity without his involvement and leadership. I personally gain confidence in our dance experience as quality tango from his expertise. 

    In addition to following in true Tango tradition, I extend the playlist to include non-traditional music (on the occassions when Vincenzo is not in town). It is my belief that communities need to evolve if they are to stay vibrant, expressive and creative.

  6. Inclusivity.

    My personal conviction is that communities are to be welcoming to everyone and that everyone’s participation is to be valued equally. This means that a newcomer or someone with limited experience is as welcome as the seasoned dancer. 

    Why is that? Because the experience of dancing is not primarily in the quality of the dancing but in the courage and dignity of each person who makes the effort to present themselves in such a vulnerable and intimate environment. This is a rare and precious gift that each of us brings when we show up.

    I have also supported extending inclusivity beyond our Monday night circles to provide a forum for other groups to advertise their events. Afterall, Monday Night is just a small part of the larger Edmonton Tango community.

  7. “Bond, belong and believe.'“

    This is a church maxim prioritizing the essentials to building community. First and foremost, all communities are in the people-affirming business. Our experience Monday night is not primarily about becoming expert dancers but about becoming an accepting place where people can belong. It just so happens that we have each chosen dance to be our medium for gathering.

  8. Belief.

    Nonetheless, reflection on why we do what we do (belief) does factor in. I attempt to address this element in my “weekly” blog. I suspect this is often times too esoteric and may not seem to have any direct relevance to Tango. But I do believe that it has provided a medium for reflection on what it means not only to dance but to be part of a dance community. (The subscription base continues to grow, now over 100. Please read, like, recommend and comment).

Congratulations again to us all on our 5th anniversary! (As soon as I get back into town (and L&R of course) we can look at formalizing our anniversary. This is also predicated on my having got the dates correct!)