Thursday, 11 June 2009

Convoy observations

A few friends practiced convoying again last Friday. It was a hoot and Ghost has written it up here. (I know I said I wasn't going to Negracha that night - I changed my mind when I found I could get a lift home and remembered they serve coffee downstairs now).

It was fun to do. All three leaders reported feeling more relaxed as part of a convoy, regardless of their position in it. From the woman's point of view, I'd add that all three followers were able to abandon active follower floorcraft (by which I mean keeping watch, as opposed to merely keeping your heels down and not interfering with navigation) and just dance.

As Ghost says, the leaders didn't need any advanced skills to do it. A recent beginner would probably find it quite easy - and very enjoyable - to join in, although it may help if you can dance small and in close embrace. He felt as though it enabled him to get a lot more joy out of simpler dancing. To that, I'd add that likewise the followers only need to be able to follow basic things in a predictable way. (But the predictability IS necessary. If you decided to stop following, stand still and waft your knees around for half a minute, you might or might not look decorative, but you'd be sabotaging navigation and none of this stuff would work).

It took more determination and experience than we had available to try it upstairs as a group at a packed-out Negracha with a band playing. Sexteto Milonguero, however, were top-class.

My own observation was that if I think about only good and considerate dancers, I feel those who try to maintain a relatively constant speed and let everything wash past them still bump me less, on the whole, than those who actively try to avoid bumps by navigating around problems in such a way that they have to speed up and slow down a lot. I'm tempted to say that 'passive' floorcraft seems to work better than 'active' floorcraft. The problem with it is, if you're on your own, that a sort of pebble-sorting process tends to spit you out into the middle of the floor, where you rotate on the spot, stranded. But purposeful cooperation with known allies works strikingly better than either. You need your friends to help you.

Questions for further research included:

  • What is the best response to someone cutting into a three-inch gap directly from the tables?
  • What is the best response to a couple who are completely stationary and oblivious, whether wittering, snogging, dancing salsa or trying to exchange knees?


David Bailey said...

"What is the best response to someone cutting into a three-inch gap directly from the tables?"
- personally, I'd say the best response is to get out of the way, and leave them to cannon away by themselves.

"What is the best response to a couple who are completely stationary and oblivious, whether wittering, snogging, dancing salsa or trying to exchange knees?"
Surround them and take pictures? :)

More seriously, I'd suggest treating them like any other immovable obstacle; e.g. a post - simply move round them.

ghost said...

I'm inclined to refer to motorway driving and the motion of water in rivers, but also trying to stay open to alternatives.

So if I had a 2 second gap between me and the car in front and someone cut in, I'd slow down until I'd reestablished the gap. In tango, that probably means dancing defensively until the other couple have progressed enough as you're quite vulnerable in that position. Hopefully they either join the convoy (unlikely) or proceed to overtake whoever was in frton of you and then you can catch them up again.

Hmm - staying put behind them for a long time is bad because you set up the shockwave effect which will hit the guy at the back of the convoy in about 20 secs. Moving around them one by one and then re-establishing the convoy makes sense. However I'm now wondering if the leader instead of overtaking could move sideways into the next lane before he gets too close. The second person then leads the convoy through the gap in one go and the original leader now becomes the rear guard.

.......L ___
______/ o \______

L = leader
___ = path of convoy
o = stationary couple
.... = second lane
Line Of Dance ->

Anonymous said...

wow, you guys are developing serious military tactics. Is the london scene that bad in this respect? - dancer from amsterdam who might visit and was hoping to dance.

ghost said...

@Anon - yeah it's kinda scary that we're applying SWAT entry tactics to a dancefloor!

Have a look at MsH's reviews, plus the ones over at

to get an idea the different places.

PS I reckon the leader needs to take a small step back along the line of dance rather than straight to the left to amke it clearer to the second person to take the lead.

OwenMc said...

"trying to exchange knees"... I love it! :-D


msHedgehog said...

@Ghost - I think that sounds too complicated and annoys the people in the next lane. But I still don't know what a better answer would be. Nice ASCII art, though.

@Anon - yes it really is that bad, but it's possible to have a lot of fun, in a certain spirit of adventure. It's a reflection of London, and English, culture generally - a fight between creativity and disorder that produces some things of beauty, and a lot of tremendous mess. So far most people seem to think my reviews (especially if you read the comments as well) give a fair idea of what the social dancer can expect and should be prepared for in each place.

@O - I love it when a plan comes together. I was trying to capture the gross visual absurdity of so many things people get up to on the dance floor.

ghost said...

I need to try it out but I think once the leader makes the initial move, the rest is self-working - after all what else can the rest of the convoy do that makes sense?

The leader does have some leeway on when to move, so I'm assuming he waits for a reasonable gap in the second lane to move into rather than simply cutting people up. He's not going to be there for any real length of time either - probably about the same as a natural pause / stationary figure, so it shouldn't cause annoyance.

But yeah - it needs to be tested...

Henry ( said...

Ya I agree, that exercise can be quite satisfying.

The most satisfying thing I've ever felt, with respect to floorcraft at least, is when every leader on the dance floor connects with every other and essentially everyone (or a critical mass) dance "in a convoy".

One exercise I've participated in during a class was trying to pick a couple across the ronda and keep in time with them. Since everyone was picking a different person not immediately ahead or behind them, the entire class synced up and the floorcraft got really good really fast.

Go figure ...

msHedgehog said...

Oooh that's an interesting idea. I'll let the lads think about that one.

OwenMc said...

I witnessed something like this a few years back at a Cardiff milonga.

There were workshops on that w'end so I'm not sure if it was a result of that, or the fact that all the leaders on the floor were fairly experienced (5+ yrs), and knew each other fairly well (helps me a lot, that.

Either way, the whole floor was in perfect sync for about the first hour, with regular spacing, similar musicality (leading to progress at a relatively matched pace, albeit with slight concertina-ing due to interpretations), and watching a WHOLE FLOOR finish on the same step was beautiful.

Once I quit watching & started dancing that all went to pot :-D


Captain Jep said...

"What is the best response to someone cutting into a three-inch gap directly from the tables?"

Nothing you can do except give the leader a mean scare and make sure that your own back is turned towards them (protecting your partner). Given that this is London, he'll probably just try to barge his way in regardless...

"What is the best response to a couple who are completely stationary and oblivious, whether wittering, snogging, dancing salsa or trying to exchange knees?"

Stationary - dance really close to them and pretend to take notes on their conversation
Snogging - a discreet cough followed by a large phlegm clearing of throat if necessary
Dancing salsa - break into salsa yourself - I find the Rueda move where you take "Una Foto" works well..
Exchanging of knees - havent a clue : offer to sign your autograph on one of them?