Traveling for Tango
I recently received a message from a young colleague who was asking for some advice on becoming a traveling teacher and expectations on traveling for Tango.
I know some of you are experienced in traveling for tango and some are just starting out on the great adventure. Those of you who are my longtime students will come to understand all that goes into traveling for tango.
I have put together a list of things that I have learned that you might find helpful.
As most of you already know, Tango for me is about connecting with others, it is essentially about relationships, and when you decide to host someone or to ask to be hosted you are forging another level of relationship with someone and their community.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always as glamorous as it might seem. And again I can’t emphasize enough, that you want your experience to be win / win for all parties involved. It does not pay to burn bridges. And in this day of social media, word gets around FASTER than before!!!
So here’s how I go about it…and I know more experienced teachers might have things to add (so please feel free to comment).
1) THE INITIAL CONTACT
It could be via email or Facebook, with an invitation to me or with me requesting to visit.
If I am making the initial contact I try not to put too much information in this message, and of course depending on whether I know them or not, I also include my website. If I have dates in mind I put those, if there is something special I want to do, I will include that. If a host contacts me first it might take several emails before I actually get all the information I need to make a decision. I use my experience from my Executive-to-the-CEO days for these introductions and requests, i.e: be polite, make it clear what I want, check my grammar, etc.
2) FROM CONTACT TO CONTRACT
Whether it be a formal contract or an informal email outlining my understanding and my expectations, this is a must.
Things to consider
Obviously the goal is to teach, to work, to make money. For some it is also about networking and building relationships. Sometimes I have had to weigh the pros and cons. Will I make enough money or is it best that I go to build a new network. Is it more about networking or about working?
Your transportation – Plane, train, taxi, bus, car rental. Know what your transportation situation is and discuss these logistics with your hosts. This includes will you drive me around? Will I be taking the subway?
Your lodging – What kind of accommodations are you willing to have for the time you will be teaching. Do you need your own room? Are you happy with a couch? Again you don’t want any surprises about this.
Food – Is food included? A food stipend or not. Do you expect to get fed? And how often? When you are teaching? 3 meals or 1 meal ?? do you need access to a refrigerator or a kitchen?
Other important things – for another colleague of mine it is important for her to have her own bathroom, maybe you have allergies. I put it all in writing.
Space – Where am I teaching? I like to be clear about this expectation too. Is it in someone’s home? Does it have mirrors? Do I care? Is it a studio? I’ve taught in homes, studios, churches, cold places, warm places. All good to know. In most communities the studio rental is expensive but an obviously necessary overhead.
Price – such a sensitive subject for some cultures and not so much for others. (A whole other blog!)
I know several teachers that either work a 70/30 for a weekend of workshops after transportation and studio fees. OR others who request a flat fee. I have done both and again it always depends on the situation. However, I still try to have some very clear ideas and goals before I hit the ground running.
I found all this a challenge at first, not to sell myself short and yet wanting to break into a scene and the ultimate goal to be asked to return.
It is important to be clear on what you need – you can always negotiate. And also take into consideration the local climate and the exchange rates. I find it valuable to ask my host for price ranges on private lessons. This gives me an idea of the price ranges the community is used to. Some communities were all about private lessons and some communities, forget it. I was told by someone in one community that “our teachers here are so good that students just don’t pay for private lessons from any guest instructors no matter who they are!!”
And how do you want to get paid? Cash? Deposit to a bank? Do you need to make an invoice to the hosting organization?
3) COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE
No one likes surprises! It is so important to communicate with your host/s, exchange phone numbers etc. When in doubt call or send a message.
For those who are hosts, remember that if a teacher is traveling a lot consider time zones and when they might be teaching. I don’t want to put a time on what appropriate response time is but depending on the urgency of the matter (and even that can be argued over!) let at least a day go by before assuming that the event is off or that they have cancelled on you.
You would be surprised at how many of these details are often overlooked by those who are hosting and therefore, I had to take charge of the conversation. And when I didn’t, and I didn’t get paid what I thought or didn’t even know what I was being paid, well, I couldn’t complain now could I? It is so important to protect ourselves as teachers, as artists, as servers to community.
And in turn it is so important for us, as artists, to be gracious. Because if you are not, you kill it for other artists.
During my stay in an unnamed european country, I was warned that if I stated that I was from one part of the world they would not be happy to receive me as they had had so many bad experiences with teachers from that particular region. I was shocked but then understood everyone’s hesitancy about hosting me.
There is a difference between being a diva and treating people well.
I recently heard a shockingly horrifying story from a colleague who was put up in a sparse apartment (including the visiting vermin, yes, rats!) with an empty refrigerator and was told to walk to the local convenient store at night alone for food. REALLY? I was so horrified by this story. I again ask that hosts take a look around and decide if they would want to be treated the way they are treating? And to the teachers on tour, make sure to bring your credit card along and be ready to use it if you need to. In this situation, the host was not willing to assist, or make things better, or move my colleague. My colleague took the matter into their hands and spent the night (awake) looking for a hotel and then moved.
So I leave you with my utmost amazing hostess experience…
My hostess did all my advertising for me, collected fees in advance from participants, communicated regularly with them via Facebook and I was able to see some of that communication and participate by adding my excitement to the event. She picked me up from the airport, took me grocery shopping, fed me as much food as I could possibly eat and then some. I had my own comfortable room and bathroom. She drove me to classes and to the milongas. I felt so comfortable there I slept amazingly! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! – you know who you are. Happy teacher Happy classes Happy community!
May all your travels be joyful and easy!!
If I forgot something I would love to hear from you….We can always help each other to make it easier and safe for all of us.