Radical Contact / Safer spaces policy

Safer spaces policy

This version is the result of a collective revision process that took place at the meeting in Göteborg in October 2012


The organisers of Radical Contact want everyone to work for making the meeting as safe a space as possible, both physically and emotionally. We use the term safer because we know no situation is completely safe. This policy is a living document that needs to be practiced, discussed and revised.

Surprisingly often contact improvisation works well in this respect. The form in itself seems to create safety by supporting self-responsibility and sensitivity towards others. We will take advantage of that. However, experience shows that we can't just rely on the form. Therefore we intend to practice asking questions and giving feedback about boundaries and wishes, both verbally and non-verbally. There will also be assigned safety persons at every session who will pay extra attention to safety.
We also have a communication and safety plan to deal with unsafe situations and to prevent them from even coming up: 1) Speak up! Suggested agreed words: "Yes", "Wait ..." and "Stop". 2) Receive being spoken to with respect. If you feel that you are being unfairly treated, reflect on your feelings before reacting. 3) Get help! This applies both to those who need to speak up and to those who have been told something. Grab someone you trust and ask to reflect together.

Radical Contact is a place where people want to question norms and expand what is possible. That presupposes that we give each other space to express opinions and disagreements, and to question our own reactions. We want to put a firm stop to any behavior or language that is disrespectful or maintains oppression.

Long version

A Co-operation for Safer Spaces

We want everyone at Radical Contact to work to create safer spaces, both on the dance floor and beyond. We choose to say "safer" because we realize that no place can be completely safe for everyone. The work with creating safety is supposed to be a welcoming, engaging and supportive work. Safety provides the freedom to be creative and to try new things. A safer group also creates a stronger community.
Our starting point is that we all cooperate and have respect for each other. It is easier to provide security in a context where this is explicit. Get into the habit of giving positive feed-back, telling each other what you appreciate about the other, about a dance you had or anything they have done. Better short and more often than long and rarely.
A written policy is not a guarantee of safety. What is written here needs to be practiced, discussed, implemented in practice, revised, and so on. See this as a living document in development.

Contact Improvisation promotes responsibility and sensitivity

Contact Improvisation involves physical contact and includes many different dance qualities, from close and intimate dance to outgoing and daring. Surprisingly often dancing together works well, even among people who do not know each other. This despite the fact that contact improvisation has few explicit rules and very little verbal communication during the dance. This is only possible because the form itself is able to provide safety.
Contact Improvisation in and of itself already has good structures that support both self-responsibility and sensitivity towards others. Everyone who participates is given the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves, their physical safety, their bodies and their feelings and needs. We are allowed to choose with whom we dance, how we dance and when we want to finish a dance. At the same time the form gives us the opportunity to practice our sensitivity to others' signals. There is a lot non-verbal communication going on. We often communicate our ideas and needs through subtle signals. When this does not work, it is acceptable to leave the dance without having to explain anything, often we can do it before it has become unpleasant for anyone.
We will take advantage of and develop the safety the form creates. Experience shows, however, that we can not just rely on the form. Most people find themselves at times where they have problems with both the self-responsibility and the communicating. This becomes particularly clear when people with very different experiences and needs come together. We therefore need to gather experience of what has worked in the past and even have safety plans to handle situations where people feel unsafe.

Questions, feed-back and safety persons

Safety requires us to be sensitive to our own and other people's boundaries and signals. We all have different limits and desires when it comes to physical contact and personal space. Most of us want different things at different times or different things with different people. Assume nothing about what people want. Give feedback to others about how you perceive things, what works or does not work for you.
Questions and feedback can be expressed non-verbally by offering an area of your body for the other to contact / give weight into, open your posture for physical closeness and let the other person come when they want to, and so on. If you are not sure of the others response, you can take an initiative and then take a step back. If the other person is interested, they will probably follow you.
It is up to us all to ensure that Radical Contact is a safe place for everyone. Our wish it that we all take care of each other and that we are all active in creating safety. In addition, the organizers will ensure that in each session and jam there are some safety people, who pay extra attention to this issue. They will be prepared to support people and processes around safety. Turn to them anytime!

Physical safety

Physical safety on the dance floor is based on self-responsibility and sensitivity, both regarding your own abilities, regarding your dance partners, and the people around you. The faster and wilder the dance, the more communication is required to ensure that no one gets hurt.
A good base rule is to have open holds, that is, not to hold or lock each other by the hands or by other means, especially not during lifting. Anyone who takes the initiative to lift someone else has a certain responsibility to not "lose" the other. But if we fall it is best if everyone can take care of themselves.
Another important aspect that reduces the risk of injury is to wear soft trousers and shirts, and to take off watches, jewelry, belts and the like.

A communication and safety plan

We have designed a plan to promote verbal communication that contributes to the dance without disturbing it too much. The plan is also to deal with situations that are or might be physically or emotionally unsafe. Knowing that we have a plan of action can in itself prevent that the situation arises. However, we can't expect the plan to function without practicing it and reminding ourselves of it.

1. Speak up! As directly and clearly as you can. As early as you can, if possible already when you are just beginning to be a little worried about what is happening. If non-verbal communication is not enough, express it with words.
We plan to use agreed words that everyone knows the meaning of. Proposals are:
“Yes.” Signal to show you like what´s happening, things are well, let's go on.
”Wait...” Signal to slow down, take it easy, warning that something may be about to be wrong and so on.
”Stop!” Signal to stop, take back, to show that something has gone wrong and so on.

2. Accept what you are being told with respect, please say thanks. We can strive to be thankful for direct and honest communication, although it may seem difficult sometimes. Then the one who says something does not need to be unnecessarily harsh. If we succeed in reflecting together and keeping communication open, we can get past what seems impossible obstacles and get really safe with each other.
People rarely have a direct, conscious intention to make someone else feel bad, although this may be a consequence of our actions. Make an effort to not defend your mistakes. If you feel that you are being unfairly treated, reflect on your feelings before reacting. Check your thinking with someone else before you talk back. It is easier to take back an apology than an unjust accusation...

3. Get help! This applies both to those who need to speak up and those who have been spoken to about something. Grab the nearest person and ask to think together, about big or small concerns. As soon as we get someone from the outside in, it becomes easier to interrupt negative patterns. You can always turn to the facilitators for support. If you see that someone else needs support - remember that your presence or energy can make a big difference. Go against patterns of isolation and passivity.

Respect for differences

We can start by listening to each other, being open-minded and aware that we have much to learn from each other. Our goal is to create an environment where differences are not only tolerated, but respected, celebrated, supported and embraced. Let us expect that everyone has something amazing to contribute!
Radical Contact is a place where people want to question norms and expand what is possible. No spaces are free from the prejudices of society. This is an important issue to discuss. We encourage you to express different opinions, choices and strategies. This requires that we give each other space. When we do not agree with each other, let's do it in a way where we listen to each other. Let us try to go further than being superficially inclusive, with contradictions hidden beneath the surface.
When we are different, it is better to ask rather than to assume. All identities are self-defined. Do not assume you know someone's sex/gender, religion, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political opinion or anything else to do with their identity. Ask, listen and respect what you hear. Radical Contact is also a place to defy and expand our own ideas about identities and habits. If you feel uncomfortable or provoked because someone is different from you, dare to challenge your reaction.
We want to put a firm stop to any behavior or language that is disrespectful or maintains oppression. You are expected to take responsibility for your own prejudices, oppressive patterns and phobias. We will not tolerate any violations of others' boundaries.