Floorcraft: the dance equivalent of driving.
Most people are reasonable drivers – but sometimes you get the truck driver who decides doing a U-turn through a red light on a 6-lane road is a great idea (true story).
Or, you could be a completely naive country girl driving for the first time in a big city that accidentally drives the wrong way into the underground streetcars-only lane (It was poorly marked, looked like a normal left turn, and this story is definitely not about me.)
Floorcraft is the same. On any given floor, you have people who are:
- Good at it (normal, experienced people),
- Just don’t care (the truck driver), or
- Have no clue what they’re doing yet (the “country girl”)
If you fall into the ‘no clue’ category, it’s time to learn. Everyone goes through it – but it’s better to learn sooner than later.
Regardless of which one you are, there’s an overwhelming chance that you will have a momentary lapse of judgement at some point. This means that everyone else will, too – so you should be ready to deal with it.
Also, being ‘good at it’ doesn’t mean you’ve never had an accident. Ask anyone who has ever come across the BMW driver who cuts them off on the freeway: they’re not good at it – they’re just lucky that everyone else got out of their way.
The Snapshot Checklist
This is a basic checklist for floorcraft. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s the instant-checks you can do to try to keep yourself (and others) safe.
Before you enter the floor, check:
Is there any space open? (“room to merge”)
Check your proposed dance location. Is there space? If not, go somewhere else. If it’s crowded, pick the place with enough space to at least dance close hold.
Is space only open because someone is dancing wildly?(“drunk driver on cellphone”)
If the floor is crowded except for one weird area with one couple in the middle, beware. They’re probably dancing dangerously. Be very careful about entering the ring of fire. It tends not to end well.
Are there random people walking by the space, creating a hazard? (“random pedestrians”)
Try to avoid places where a lot of people are standing around. Those tend to be places where drinks get spilled and random people walk. You wouldn’t choose to drive where there’s a high chance of drunk college kids walking in front of your car. Don’t dance where people are likely to disrupt your flow.
Before you start dancing, check:
Is the floor sticky? Slippery? (“road conditions”)
You don’t go 100 km/hr if it’s icy – even if you have snow tires. Same thing goes on the dance floor. If it’s slippery, make sure not to use too much force. If it’s sticky, slow down (or avoid) spins and other pivot-based movements.
Is it ideal? No. But, it’s safe.
Is the floor very crowded, or relatively open? (“heavy traffic”)
If it’s super heavy traffic, you should be more careful about lane switches and other traffic. In dance, this means adjusting your dance style. It may mean using close hold more, or minimizing the length/width of your slot. Always dance for the conditions.
Are there any tripping hazards, like an uneven floor?(“potholes”)
Sprained ankles suck. Big time. Pay attention for uneven floors, holes, or other hazards that can lead to twisted ankles. This is particularly true if you or your partner dance in high heels.
Do you have space to start the dance? (“space to turn left”)
Before you begin, check to make sure no one has invaded your space. Only start dancing when you have the room to comfortably begin. It’s worth the wait. Don’t start dancing with a collision.
While dancing, constantly check:
Are other dancers coming into your space? (“Bad Driver”)
You can’t control other people’s dancing, but you can control your reactions. If someone invades your space, don’t get stubborn and let them elbow your partner. Move. Protect your partner, and get yourself out of harm’s way.
Are you going into another dancer’s space? (“Bad Driver = You”)
We have all been a space invader at some point. Sometimes, it’s a momentary lapse of judgement or inattention. Or, maybe you have a more chronic problem. Get into the habit of checking space before you move. It’s like checking a blind spot: the one time you don’t do it is the time you’ll hit someone.
Is your partner’s body language telling you that there’s something wrong? (“Screaming Passenger”)
Pay attention to terrified dance partners. If they are being hesitant because the floor is crowded, adjust your movements. Reduce styling. If they freeze, check and see if you’re about to hit someone.
It’s up to you to keep yourself and your partner safe. This applies whether you are a lead or a follow. Even if you are a beginner, start practicing floorcraft early. It can be difficult on crowded floors, but it’s worth cultivating the skill.
No matter how great a dancer you are, your skills mean nothing if you’re creating a dangerous environment. Floorcraft is one of the best tools out there for reducing collisions.
What floorcraft strategies do you use to keep yourself and your partner safe? Share in the comments!
A useful trick in the Ronda(for tango) is to pay attention to the couple you are following, what are their conditions? If you know they are going to do a circular movement, then that allows you to adapt to synchronize and keep the follower safer. If they are going to travel, you can travel right along with them.
The other thing you can do is if you are following a couple doing large erratic motions, deliberately and consciously maintain a set distance from that couple (no larger, no smaller). You will act as a ‘buffer’ for the rest of the floor and help mitigate the effect on the rest of the ronda.
WCS follower here.
I love the imagery of screaming passenger! It’s a very hilarious image and unfortunately too true. The dance venues where I live right now are very cramped so it happens quite often where I see a food tray bearing employee or wandering pair veer behind a lead just before he or she steps back and I’ve either had to strongly backlead (in the worst of scenarios), to drag them out of harm’s way or make relevant silent-but-screaming passenger facial expressions to communicate danger.
Just found this blog by the way and I love the generic advice for social dance in general. I would like to get a feel for more dances, but it just isn’t practical right now. Besides, I was pretty lucky that the first dance I tried happened to be a good fit.