Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Both roles

We've seen that teaching people to both lead & follow, leads to better dancing. This is a somewhat controversial conclusion, but pretty easy to demonstrate.

So maybe it's true of communal roles too.

Some people took the role of cleaning the tango center, and others took the role of "being served", especially during milongas. But this isn't the idea of the Tango Center ... it's a community center. So we really need to get as many people, as possible, on volunteer clean-up teams, maybe for an hour in an evening, roaming around during the milonga, fixing & straightening & cleaning. The teams must rotate ... so everyone gets to try all roles, and becomes more responsible. This will make people poke at each other a bit, to keep the place nice. But that's part of what community's about.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Pretty flexible

We've been experimenting with three classes at once: a suite of lessons before the milonga.

Last week, we had an "Introduction from Zero" class, a "beginning/fundamentals" class, and an Intermediate class. I adjusted the scattered eight speakers continuously, depending on whether people were dancing or talking ... it's a somewhat confusing scene, and fun.

But this week, Evan Griffiths came to teach the Intermediate class, and found the Intro class was "follows" (mostly women ...) and the intermediate class was "leads" (mostly men ... ) so he thought it would be natural to merge them, and teach an Intermediate class, with a difficult but enlightening subject, where the double challenge was to lead a beginner to do it.

Interesting idea. It worked pretty well. It also shows that it's fun to break the routine, to make connections, at any level -- part of the improvisational nature of Tango.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

How it works

In general, small groups, with grassroots support, do wonderful things. Then some massive project comes along, often building on the energy of these groups, and essentially destroys them.

I can stick to the history of Eugene, Oregon for this one.

For example, in the late seventies, there was an innovative, world-class dance, music & theatre scene. Everyone was very excited about it. Some developers decided to get the city to build a giant performance center: the "Hult Center". It sucked all the resources from the non-profit sector, and all those small groups disappeared, or moved on. It has been an albatross around the neck of the arts scene, ever since.

Another example: at the same time, some very innovative cooperative marketplaces were made out of nothing. In an old factory, a group of craftspeople created a lovely one: the Fifth Street Market. It was so successful, that some investors bought the building, kicked out the coop management, raised the rents ... the place has struggled ever since.

For years, neighborhood natural food stores thrived in Eugene. Now the imitators, the investors, the national chains, such as "Whole Foods", are moving in, and many of those small markets will disappear.

For years, non-profits have struggled to keep downtown Eugene alive, while the investors and the City did nothing. I have friends at the city, but they did nothing practical. All they did was help big projects. Not good projects. Because big projects have big advocates, who profit from them.

This system needs to change.

There's major investor-backed redevelopment in the air in Eugene, including the area occupied by the Tango Center. But community interests need to be considered, and good projects preserved. The more people talk about it, the more good can happen. "What should our city, and our downtown, be like?" That conversation is now starting, in earnest.