Floor Craft, learning the rules of the dance floor.
Floorcraft means possessing the ability to navigate the floor in a graceful way while avoiding bumping into other dancers. I also like to extend its definition to a more defensive realm, where leads protects their follows from being ran into.
H.P. Floorcraft (what not to do)
We’ve all danced next to the one couple that flails around with more limbs than is anatomically possible. Whether it’s a beginner lindy hopper throwing charlestons as if they were karate kicks, the overly lyrical duo trying to swat flies out of midair with too much arm flair, or a showboat doing an aerial, we’ve all been kicked, stamped on, jabbed, prodded and tripped up.
Simply speaking, dancers must be aware of the space around them, and should adjust their vocabulary depending on floor density. Leg sweeps and sideway leaps are great when there is space, but should not be attempted on a crowded dance floor; ditto for awesome dips, drops and, especially, lifts. Tango moves add great flair to blues dancing, but a well placed gancho (hook kick) can really cripple the unfortunate by-dancer (the dancer next to you, not the couple exchanging the lead-follow). Similarly, ballrooming (traveling moves) are great on an open floor, and not so much when dancing inside a sardine can.
The World of Floorcraft (what could be done).
Other dance styles, the ones that involve more “travel” (covering larger distances on the floor), have well defined floorcraft rules and routinely teach them to students. Both tango and ballroom standard (waltzes, etc) utilize a line of dance concept. Basically, all dancers move around the dance floor in a counterclockwise fashion. Going against the line of dance is strictly verboten, a rule that is often enforced with extreme prejudice. Much like in car racing, dancers learn when to utilize moves requiring bursts of acceleration and when to apply the breaks. In the line of dance scenario, collisions and bumps are still par for the course, but usually occur from behind, which means that follows are better protected.
As blues dancers, we don’t have the protection of line of dance. Furthermore, we prefer to dance on smaller, denser floors. Intimacy and proximity to other dance couples is a huge part of the charm of blues. So it becomes imperative to always be aware of the surroundings; leads need to develop the use of peripheral vision and always scan the floor for openings to move into or dangerous couples to steer clear of. Follows, likewise, need to become leads’ spider sense, warn them of obstacles and dangers from directions not visible to leads.
Skill at floorcraft usually comes with experience and feedback. Meanwhile, experienced dancers need to educate those who are newer or are repeat offenders. Some basic floorcraft could be honed at practicas, where dance floor is made artificially smaller, and dancers are instructed to move around without stepping on each other.
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