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September 28, 2007

The business of Tango

Tango is a social dance form enjoyed by thousands across the world. At the same time, Tango is undoubtedly also an industry which provides a means of living for many. These people may include the Tango show participants, dance schools, the musicians, travelling Tango teachers, and organizers of various sort (milongas, festivals or workshops).

However, in my opinion, more importantly and similar to many businesses in the service industry, Tango is above all a business about relationships. There are, for example, the relationship between performers to their audience, the professional conduct expected of a teacher to his/her students, a certain mutual respect and professionalism between the travelling teachers and local organizers, and social interactions between a milonga host or organizes with the regular dancers like you and me. While it is true that part of this relationship involves financial transactions, the same relationship needs to be built on trust: both parties trusting each other to do the right thing and providing fair value. For example, a student is entitled to professional services upon registering for a class; on the other hand, teachers should receive fair compensation for imparting their skills.

When this relationship breaks down, there is inevitably a very strong sense of betrayal and let-down. Once the trust is broken, it will need incredible efforts to make amends. Sadly, this is what can happen when egos and/or financial gains get in the way. Once the relationship is broken, there can no longer be a viable business. Treat people well, and they will surely return the favour…

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