The code of conduct is often times considered a first step in creating a safer space. Creating a code of conduct has many upsides. It:
- Helps you think about what matters to your scene.
- Creates a reference for everyone about what is okay and what’s not.
- Shows your community you care.
If you write a code of conduct but no one enforces it, you give the feeling of safety without providing actual safety which creates a less safe environment.
How to write a code of conduct?
Find your values
Each dance scene and dance form has slightly different values. The blues dance scene I come from is all about affirmative verbal consent, but this would be really hard to apply in, say, contact improv jams. Another example is that some scenes default to close embrace, while others have to negotiate close embrace.
Try to list the values and behaviors you want to see in your community:
- Verbal affirmative consent before anything?
- Clear non-verbal consent codes?
- Empower clear setting of boundaries?
- Asking if there’s preference to lead, follow, or switch?
- Inclusion of different ages, races, genders, religions, etc.?
- Accessibility to folks with disability?
- Encourage/discourage giving feedback/criticism on dancing?
There some things that should be included in a code of conduct:
- What do to if someone doesn’t respect it/how to reach out to organizers. Reporting is not easy! Find ways to make it as easy as possible, and encourage people to do it!
- What the consequences are for not respecting it. I recommend leaving the organizers some leeway, and using language such as “the organizers will take action should anyone not respect this code of conduct, and reserve the right to remove temporarily or permanently anyone from the event”.
Choose a tone and length
I believe that code of conducts are useful if they’re read. I prefer to use positive, happy tones when I write them that gives a lot of examples of positive behavior. The downside to that is it might not carry across the sense that it’s important, and that there will be negative consequences to not respecting it.
You can also choose to go for a sterner code of conduct, which might scare people into acting in ways that do not go against it.
I also tend to think that shorter is better, because people don’t really retain a lot of information anyway and I think it improves the chance they’ll read it. Some spaces have multiple codes of conduct with a short version and a longer one.
The balance between precision and organizer freedom
You have to find a balance between the “spirit of the law”, like No harassment, that is vague and may be interpreted in many different ways and might be applied through the lens of the organizers bias, and a very precise list of behaviors like “we do not tolerate racial slurs at our events”. It then becomes very clear what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, and can be applied to everyone equally, but lacks in flexibility if someone uses bad behavior that you hadn’t anticipated.
A way to mitigate this could be to state your values and give a list of examples:
We ask that you do not engage in any sexist behavior in our space such as, but not limited to:
- Demeaning jokes
- Sexual harassment
There’s a bunch of codes of conduct that have been compiled by the community of dancers started by Aleks Taranov. You’ll find here the associated Google folder. Check out her cool safer dance project!
Here is the Elm City Exchange code of conduct that illustrates some of those ideas. It’s been written for Swing, Blues and Fusion. You’ll find example of different dances in the links above and in the examples below (click on the names to expand the content) :ECX Code of conduct
Hi! We’re really happy you’re considering joining us for ECX! We’re excited to meet you, re-meet you, and generally dance with you!
During the event, we’ll ask you to participate in making this event awesome by following this code of conduct!
We believe that practicing consent culture creates a safer and comfortable environment. Please, leave the expectations and guesswork at the door, and actually ask before you do something that involves someone else. You can ask verbally or not, but ask. Things you’ll get high fives for : asking someone to dance ; asking if they want to lead, follow or switch ; asking before dancing close embrace ; asking before dipping someone. Proceed only if you receive an enthusiastic yes!
We will support everybody’s right to say “no”. Please help us by taking “no” graciously! Things you’ll get approving winks for : answering a no by smiling and saying “sure”; saying “no problem, come find me if you change your mind”.
If at any point you feel uncomfortable, we will support you for : using words to fix the dance “can we get more space?” “please use less strength” “please don’t dip me;” walk away from an unsafe dance; report what happened to the registration table.
We value every person coming to dance with us, and we want to celebrate the diversity of people dancing together. Please treat people with respect, we don’t need those ugly stereotypes when we’re dancing!
A great way to make people feel included and welcomed is to ask them to dance! Things you’ll get a thumbs up for : dancing with people you’re not used to dance with, such as people with disability or of certain, race, gender, age, body size, dance skill and so on…
We believe in common effort toward awesomeness! Please be excellent to the volunteers and to the hosts! They love appreciation! Even better, become one of them, and help us make ECX even better!
An example of a short code of conduct for Zouk :CZC Code of conduct
Code of Conduct – CZC
– Please do not bring alcohol into the venue. If you’re found to be intoxicated, you may be removed from the event for the evening.
– Harassment and assault are not tolerated by the event. [We] will give a warning to or remove individuals who harass or assault other attendees.
– If you are experiencing unwanted behavior, please report the incident to the registration desk or one of the organizers. We want you to have a great experience – and we treat these incidents seriously.
Steel City Blues made a longer code of conduct also on the positive side!
I like this one too from Andante Blues :
Andante Blues Safer space policy
Andante Blues is a community which strives to be welcoming, supportive, and friendly to people from all walks of life. Whether you have been with us since our very first event or you are here for the first time, we strive to create an event that unites all types of people around a common interest in dance.
We expect all of our dancers and participants to respect themselves and others at all times. This means treating others, even those who you may not like, with respect and calling out our friends if they are not behaving respectfully.
We recognize that people are different, and behavior that is acceptable to us may be offensive to others. We recognize that we may unintentionally violate a boundary and agree to be humble and respectful if we are made aware of it. We also recognize that others may violate our boundaries and will endeavor to be courageous in communicating that.
We respect one another’s physical safety the dance floor. Just because we do a particular move or dance a certain way with one person, doesn’t entitle us to do so with everyone else we dance with. If we might violate someone’s boundaries, we will respect them by asking first, accepting no’s graciously and yes’s enthusiastically. No’s may come at the beginning of the dance or halfway through. We have the right to leave a dance at any time, with or without explanation. If someone stops dancing with us we will move on.
We will refrain from giving feedback unless it is requested or the behavior in question is painful, potentially injurious, or violates the principles of the community . If feedback is solicited from us, we understand that we are under no obligation to provide feedback. If we receive unsolicited feedback we may listen to the feedback or respectfully decline. “I’d like feedback to be given only during lessons,” could be an appropriate response.
We will be conscious of our space and those around us and avoid aerials and lifts on the social dance floor, even with partners who have agreed to it. We will practice good floorcraft, being aware not only of our own space, but anticipating the movements of dancers around us who may not share that awareness.
We will practice good hygiene because it not only benefits our own health, but our fellow attendees don’t want to dance with a garbage can.
This venue does not tolerate underage drinking. Regardless of our personal views on responsibility and the law, underage drinking is illegal and will result in legal issues. It is therefore not tolerated. Underage intoxication, even if it happens off premises will be treated the same way as underage drinking. You will be asked to leave, and you will likely be asked not to come back.
Here is an example in a different style of Tango Forge :Tango Forge Code of Conduct
This is a first draft of a code of ethics. You are welcome to submit additions and comments by email to email@example.com. Thank you to all those who take time to share their wisdom (most have asked not be named). I will improve the code, and summarize areas of disagreement in footnotes and addenda. This code of ethics is not about the codigos or tango etiquette. Ethics are a different matter than etiquette.
Community groups and professionals are welcome to use and modify this Code, under the following conditions: Give credit: “Based on the TangoForge Code of Ethics for Tango Communities” and provide URL link to original  Use some kind of bold/colorcode scheme to demaracate your additions and collect any excised parts at the bottom of your new document under the heading “Items excised from the original TangoForge code”.
A code of ethics has three parts, the preamble which gives it context, the fundamental moral principles, and standards of conduct.
Tango is a social dance which welcomes people of diverse cultures, ages, and physical abilities. It is a living art, originating in cultural fusion in Buenos Aires, and now practiced and developed globally. It is also an industry, which does not have professional training, certification, or standardization. Due to the porosity and horizontality of tango events and communities, participants need to take initiative in protecting people from fraud, abuse, and the collateral effects of others’ conflicts. Given the use of traditional gender roles and identities, the experiences and empowerment of women are a special concern.
- Tango is egalitarian with regard to class, race, gender, nationality, age, and sexual preference.
- Tango respects personal integrity, by exercising due caution in the shared physical space, practicing formal etiquette and consent, and welcoming individual expressiveness.
- We treat the experience of the dance as sacred*.
- Tango emerges from and continues to develop through cultural fusion and innovation.
Code of Conduct
- The best way to honor Argentinian culture for the gift of tango is to adopt its universal, persistent, and unconditional graciousness toward people. (Foreigners should be aware that such behavior is considered basic, not superlative, and is the foundation of Argentine business culture, so an Argentine who fails to take good care of relationships with a view to future business possibilities is operating far outside cultural norms and should be treated with some caution, as an aberrant.)
- Take care of people’s egos and emotions. Tango challenges our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual capacities – all at once! We are more vulnerable to criticism and sentiment than in other things we do. The codigosare designed to protect egos and emotions. Dancers abstain from sexualized touch during instruction and dancing (unless dancing with a lover).
- Take care of the social and physical space to maximize the possibility that dancers can have an undisturbed beautiful, sacred, and creative experience. This means everyone present shares responsibility for care of the surface of the floor, the flow of the line of dance, the condition of the perimeter, noise levels, and attitude. Grumpy scowls intimidate. Sweet smiles encourage. Everyone dances better when encouraged and admired.
- Take care of new people so they don’t get traumatized and never come back. Ways to take care of new people: Invite them to sit with you, introduce them to dancers near their level, explain the culture and codigos to them.
- Make sure your pleasure is coming from dancing, not from criticizing others’ dancing.
- Protect the women. Warn women about tango men who have left a string of broken hearts, hurt their dance partners, demoralized their students …
- Express solidarity with your sisters/brothers in tango. Tango can be a devastating experience. You may be having a good night tonight, but you know that another night, in another city, you may be one of the ones suffering. If you’re having a good night, it’s your chance to be sympathetic and generous, rather than taking all you can get. Don’t monopolize a dancer, don’t play dirty with the cabeceo. (The cabeceo is not just a repudiation of sound, it’s a repudiation of demand.) Note the relevance of sportsmanlike conduct, which cultivates the virtues of fairness, self-control, courage, persistence, respect and fellowship for opponents.
- Observe, reflect, dialogue. Tango is a more gender-conventional space than our countries, cultures, and daily lives. How much sexism is too much? Participate in dialogues about how much of this is ok-play and when/where it might become problematic and disempowering to women.
- Recognize and contain bullies. Bullying is behavior which seek to gain domination by repeatedly demeaning others. In tango communities, this behavior can take the form of intimidation, upbraiding fellow dancers, name-calling and other verbal abuse (direct or indirect) designed to disrupt the status and prospects of others. Identify bullies and befriend those who are isolated and vulnerable to bullies.
- Don’t start or abide fights. Fights between teachers and organizers can fracture tango communities for years, affecting the social lives of future generations of dancers. Every community should enforce a conflict-resolution mechanism to prevent two short-sighted “professionals” from screwing up the tango landscape for everyone.
- Responsible barter. If someone offers a ride, housing, or food, the general expectation is that the recipient will dance with them (or with their partner) at the next opportunity and thereafter in a rough quantitative ratio to what was bestowed. If you are receiving free stuff, you are in debt. Organizers and dance partners who facilitate significant career moves for a professional have purchased a long-term bond and will expect to be repaid for years. Consider this before accepting “free” assistance.
- Teaching competence. Don’t rely upon (as a pro) or be fooled by (as a student) manipulative forms of teaching such as claims to authenticity, putting others down, flirting, jokes and making fun, or bragging. If a teacher can’t explain how to do something in such a way that the students can do it by the end of the class, they are not competent, regardless of how nice, entertaining, demoralizing, impressive, profound, or scornful they are.
- If you are taking people’s money, take responsibility: Teachers need to engage in self-assessment with regard to student outcomes and consequentially to refine their teaching to be more effective. They are also responsible for socializing students to the codigos and hygeine. Organizers of social events are responsible for, at minimum, water, attractive lighting, and a welcoming social atmosphere.
- Disrupt bigotry against queers, women who mark, and creative dancers. Withdraw financial support from and speak up for human rights to organizers who express negative attitudes toward role variation and self-expression.
Arrogance is not elegant.
Powerlessness is not sexy.
Tango is not a permit to hurt women.
Contempt is not creative.
* About my choice of the term ‘sacred’: The term is now used to refer to secular sacreds. See the Oxford English Dictionary definition, entries A1b (“Dedicated, set apart, exclusively appropriated to some person or some special purpose”) A4a (“Regarded with or entitled to respect or reverence similar to that which attaches to holy things”) and A5d (“Devoted to some purpose, not to be lightly intruded upon or handled”). Also see the work of Dr. Veikko Anttonen. Excerpt below from “Toward a Cognitive Theory of the Sacred: An Ethnographic Approach“, Folklore Vol 14 .
“The sacred as a religious concept is inseparably linked with the linguistic conventions of Western societies, the roots of which go far back into the history of both Indo-European and Semitic cultures. Long before its conventionalised use and meanings within the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious traditions, people have participated in sacred-making activities and processes of signification according to paradigms of thought created by their ethnic systems of belief within specific geographical limits. The sacred is not only a religious term, but also an anthropological constant, which has been used in various cultural contexts within various arenas of human discourse…In postmodern Western societies, there are millions of people who no longer accept the inherited religious traditions of their parents and ancestors as a grand theory for their lives…The old religious structures have become desacralised and new or unconventionally defined forms of religious sacralisation invented. People have greater intellectual and moral freedom to create their own “sacred” moments within their secular cosmology, by setting apart specific times, places, events and persons and marking their significance by specific symbolic means… [V]arious forms of performance in the worlds of sport or art, can be comprehended in terms of the category of the sacred. These forms of behaviour are culturally based on the idea of using specific ritual strategies to mark one’s physical and mental self as separate from the routines of everyday social life… [It’s possible to study] the actions, events and intentions of cultural agents in specific contexts as they make distinctions between spaces, mark them for specific uses, create visible and invisible boundaries, and establish cultural conventions of behaviour towards those boundaries…[as well as] affective, ineffable, inconceivable, mysterious, awesome qualities…”
It seems to me that one thing tango dancers agree upon is that a couple who are dancing are to be left alone in their reverie, the nature of which is mysterious and precious. Interruption or disruption of a dancing couple during a song is probably the worst violation in tango, because it despoils the highest possible virtue of our mutual presence, the potentially divine (whether spiritual or secular) experience underway.
Here is an example of multiple length code of conduct by Sundown Blues Dance Society using stern language. It’s under a Creative Commons Zero licence.Sundown Blues Dance Society Code of Conduct
Sundown Blues Dance Society
Code of Conduct
The Sundown Blues Dance Society is dedicated to a harassment-free and safe social dance experience for everyone. Our full anti-harassment policy can be found below.
The Sundown Blues Dance Society is dedicated to providing a harassment-free and safe social dance experience for everyone regardless of dance ability, dance background, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion or any other characteristic or trait. We do not tolerate harassment in any form. We do not tolerate dancing which puts you, your partner, or the people around you at risk of physical injury. Individuals violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the venue at the discretion of the host(s). Our full anti-harassment policy can be found below.
Statement of Purpose
The Sundown Blues Dance Society is dedicated to providing a harassment-free and safe social dance experience for everyone regardless of dance ability, dance background, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion or any other characteristic or trait. We do not tolerate harassment in any form. Individuals violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the venue at the discretion of the host(s).
Commitment to Gender-Neutrality
The Sundown Blues Dance Society supports the idea that dance roles (lead and follow) are not tied to gender. We encourage all dancers to dance their preferred role. We encourage all dancers to avoid assumptions regarding dance roles and to check in with their partners about their preferred role.
Harassment includes verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination related to any of the above listed characteristics or traits, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. When asked to stop any harassing behavior participants are expected to comply immediately.
While there is always some risk associated with any physical activity, we are committed to preventing injuries before they happen. Unsafe dancing is any movement that put anyone at an increased risk of of physical injury. This includes, but is not limited to, yanking or jerking your partner around or unnecessarily forceful movement when leading or following (risk of shoulder, arm, and upper-back injuries), bending your partner over during a dip when leading (risk of lower back injuries), sudden weight sharing when following (don’t dip yourself), or any lift where both of your partner’s feet go above your knees. If you are unsure what constitutes unsafe dancing, please ask the host or any instructor.
If a participant engages in harassing or unsafe behavior, the event host(s) may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the event with no refund. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact the host(s) immediately. Contact the front desk volunteer or any of the instructors or DJs if you need assistance locating the host(s).
Event host(s) will be happy to help participants resolve the situation, provide escorts, contact local law enforcement or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the event.
We appreciate your assistance in keeping our events and venues safe for everyone.
Staff Procedures for Handling CoC Violations
In general, consult with other staff members when possible but act when necessary.
The host(s) can issue a verbal warning to a participant that their behavior violates the venue’s anti-harassment policy. Use the CoC Incident Report form to record all reported Code of Conduct violations. This form is on hand at all SDBS venues and events.
Warnings should be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as practical, and contain all the information in the Incident Report Form.
A participant may be expelled by the host(s) for whatever reasons they deem sufficient. However, here are some general guidelines for when a participant should be expelled:
- Three separate offenses each which resulted in a warning from a staff member.
- Continuing to harass after any “No” or “Stop” instruction.
- A pattern of harassing behavior, with or without warnings.
- A single serious offense (e.g., punching or groping someone).
- A single obviously intentional offense (e.g., taking up-skirt photos).
The length of the expulsion is decided by the host(s). To make this decision the host(s) should take into consideration the severity of the offense and the history of past offenses, if any.
Expulsion options are as follows:
- One week. Allowed to return the following week.
- One month. Allowed to return after four weeks.
- One year. Allowed to return after one year.
- Permanently. Offender not allowed to return.
Expulsions apply to all Sundown Blues events including, but not limited to, Friday Night Blues and Beat the Blues.
Local authorities should be contacted when appropriate.[Law enforcement/hot line contact info here]
As a general rule, Sundown Blues staff WILL NOT make any public statements about the behavior of individual people at any time.