Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Art of Floorcraft

Wednesday, March 9, 2010

CellSpace Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on "The Art of Floorcraft". After the dance floor was made smaller, to be somewhat tight, we began with some games:

Game 1: Molecule Game

Every person is a molecule that stands still, but there is one rogue molecule that stimulates random movement. When that rogue molecule touches you, you need to move away in a random pattern away from the spot you just occupied, and touch/invade the space of another person/molecule. Then that person moves, etc.

Game 2: Actors' Walk

Walk across the dance floor, in a random direction, either across or diagonally, but not in the line of dance, to get to the other side of the dance floor. Do not run. First, walk slow. Then go faster. Then faster. The point of this game is:
(1) to watch where you are going
(2) to make adjustments
(3) to increase your sense of awareness and vision

On the milonga dance floor, it is OK to dance in the middle or outside, but do not weave or zig zag between couples.

Game 3: Touch the Corner

In partnership, we danced doing just walking and weight changes, trying to go around the line of dance, but especially touching the four corners of the dance floor with one foot of the Follower, where chairs were set up to clearly delineate what the corners were, and the object we were to try to touch with our feet to make sure we actually went all the way to the four corners. The point of this game is:
(1) to be aware of how much space we have behind us and in front of us
(2) to keep the line of dance moving (do not slow it down or speed it up)

Game 4: Blind Tango
We built on Game 3, Touch the Corner, with the eyes of both the Leader and Follower closed. We were to dance with our eyes closed, line of dance, and touching the four corners with one foot of the Follower. We were to dance doing simple things, small movements, and nothing complicated. The point of this game is:
(1) to sense other people around us
(2) to keep the line of dance moving

What helped us? Lots of people, so that we could hear and feel them. No hard elbows, so no one got hurt even if there were little bumps. The bumps, if any, were soft. Soft bumps/taps are important.

Tool 1: The Switcheroo
Next, Maestros taught us a technique to help us in tight spaces: “The Switcheroo”

Here, the Leader and Follower are on the respective sides facing each other, and then they change to the opposite sides. It is similar to a cross-body lead in salsa. The Switcheroo takes a little space, and both dancers work in a little circle together. For the Leader, his footwork is a rock step on his left foot, and then a back cross step with his right foot (or the opposite side of a rock step with his right foot, and then a back cross step with his left foot) as he brings the Follower around. For the Follower, it is a rock step, where the weight remains in the middle, and then a front cross step to a pivoted collection in front of the Leader.

Game 5: The Tango Train
Our class, all couples in partnership, were formed into dance trains of 4-5 couples, each train having one couple as an engine, and one as a caboose, and the other couples in the middle the chewy, gooey center. The goal of the engine is to not let the line get jammed up into the train in front of them. The goal of the caboose is to keep the train moving, protecting the middle segment. Our goal was to keep the line of dance moving, but not move too fast or two slow. If we move too fast, we end up jamming the people in front of us. If we move too slow, we end up being a space hog.

Space Hog:
Leaving lots of space in front of you and backing up everyone else behind you.

Space Jammer:
A tailgater, dancing right up to the couple in front of you.

Game 6: Rogue Molecule added to Tango Train
One couple was assigned the task of trying to enter the line of dance anywhere, in any way possible. The rogue couple in this case had a very strong leader, who was aggressive enough to try to get between the dance couples in these very tight conditions. It was discovered that it was possible for a rogue molecule to enter, but this was only accomplished between the trains, as each train was a pretty cohesive group in our class, making it difficult to get inside of one train. If the trains were not a cohesive group, the rogue couple would have been able to get between an engine and caboose in the middle of a train.

Concluding comments:

Ideally, the buffer between dancers at the milonga should be at least one step (but ideally two) in any direction in front of, behind, and to the side.

Be aware of what part of the dance floor you are occupying.

Know the line you are occupying.

Don’t zig zag on the milonga dance floor.

If you need to change lanes, make EYE CONTACT first.

With respect to passing: Don’t do it unless there is a major accident.

Sometimes there will be couples just standing there chatting away for much longer than the 20-30 seconds at the beginning of the song. In that case, it is OK to pass them as long as the intent is to keep the line of dance moving.

Beginners are often pushed into the center of the dance floor.
Intermediates are often like Porches on the Autobahn, zig zagging in and out because they are getting the hang of how to navigate.
Advanced dancers can pass, but don’t. They prefer to stay in their lane, dancing in the line of dance.


Do not cut corners. Dancing all the way out to the corners creates space for you and everyone else.

Don’t be a space jammer or space hog.

Followers: Be precise with where you are stepping (do not fan out far and wide or do high boleos if it means it will take out all of the couples around you). Followers are also responsible for the social dance milonga floorcafting with respect to how they answer with their dancing to the Leaders’ leads. Do not collect, or do any movements, in a thoughtless manner. These movements include reaching, collecting, and transferring weight, as they all matter. Keep the footwork close to the floor and close to the embrace/body, especially in crowded social dance milonga conditions. You are dancing with the whole room.

There was no didactic demo due to the nature of the class.

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