Sunday, 2 March 2008

Follower floorcraft

Although Ricky says here that you need floorcraft to be an advanced dancer, I don't think he means that floorcraft is an advanced-dancer skill. I danced yesterday with a six-week beginner who had good floorcraft, and he's not the only one I've noticed. It's a very high-yield investment for the beginner leader, and deserves priority - I love you if you've got the balls to just walk and do rock-steps and navigate.

But there are things the follower can do to help in a crowded dance hall.

The one everyone always repeats is, on a crowded floor, keep your heels down. If the leader insists on leading boleos and puts in a lot of momentum, keeping them down does get awkward and tiring, especially if your free-leg technique is good enough for it to matter. Mine isn't, yet (I'm working on it) so it's not really an issue for me, but anyway just do the best you can. I have had the occasional frog-in-a-blender milonga where it was really physically difficult to control the momentum - but at least I was trying and no-one got hurt.

But you can help the leader as well. If I become aware that the leader is about to back into someone, or that someone is about to bump him from behind, I give a little warning pressure on his back with my left hand. In my experience it's always understood and appreciated (except by the hopelessly delusional, who ignore it) and saves a lot of accidents, even if only by giving him the chance to soften his stance and absorb the bump without getting hurt or losing the thread completely.

Or if, for example, the leader initiates a turn that I know we won't be able to complete because of something he can't see, I was also taught to make my step smaller so that when he does see the obstruction, we can still escape. You still follow, but you can use your common sense and you don't have to take the lead too literally if you can see it's going to get you both into trouble.

Obviously I can't do those things if I have my eyes shut, and I like to shut my eyes. But I don't shut my eyes with everybody or in all situations, and I don't shut them all the time. Some people take back steps a lot more than others. Some people have more experience than others. Sometimes the leader is great, but it's a hazardous room. And sometimes I know that there are other people on the floor who think they're Michael Schumacher driving a go-kart (they're not). Shut your eyes by all means when you feel safe, or when you know there's naff-all you can do, but use your judgement.


koolricky said...

Hi mshedgehog, I can see where you got the message about floorcraft being a quality for advanced dancers... What I meant to say was that floorcraft was a pre-requisite if you want to be considered an advanced dancer. If you don't have it (but have all the other qualities) you're just a potential hazard. Like a kid driving a Ferrari...

Limerick Tango said...

My teacher is found of saying, about a number of things including floorcraft, that the responsibility is 50:50 between leader and follower.

Floorcraft should be engendered from the start, and with the right progression of steps I think it can. What is critical is finding that tipping point where someone moves from being able to gently navigate the floor with a number of simple steps to where they start tearing up the floor.

David said...

Good advice.

Sometimes the increased pressure on my back, to stop me from bumping into someone, can be so subtle that I'm never quite sure if I was rescued by the follower or just decided to change direction.

That's when the dance changes from being a lead-follow dance to a shared dance.