380  a little essay on floorcraft

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Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 15:49:14 -0800
From: robin thomas <niborsamoht@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: a little essay on floorcraft

I wrote the following for the Triangulo website.
Tirangulo is one of the milongas where I DJ in New
York.
I'm sure that there are a lot of you that don't agree
with some or all of this. I'd welcome any comments.

Dancing in a milonga is a little bit like driving on a
highway. There are lanes: usually two, an inner lane
and an outer lane. You can't move from one to the
other without looking first to make sure that you can
do so safely.
Generally it is preferable to be in the outermost
lane, because then you have one less side to have
collisions on.
The middle of the room is a definite no-go area.
Dancing there is tantamount to taking a stroll on the
middle of a highway median. It causes potential danger
to yourself and your partner and everyone around you.
There is really no excuse for moving back and forth
across lanes or cutting across the room. There is a
simple truism that eludes too many of our tango
friends:Tango is not a race: there is no finish line.
Therefore, there is no reason to overtake. You can
dance as fast or slow as you want and take as big
steps as you want, but we all need to move around the
dance floor at relatively the same speed. Patience! We
have available to us a number of
techniques to slow ourselves down when the pair in
front of us is not advancing quickly: Make a big step
and then pause. Or turn and turn and turn, always
moving forward a little bit with each turn. Or take
backsteps, but of course never taking a big backstep
against the line of dance.There's nothing wrong with
covering miles and miles doing little circles behind
the person in front of us,waiting for them to move on.
And of course there's the simple rockstep, easy-peasy
and fun to play with
musically. Being patient gives you a chance to be
creative in response to your environment (a beautiful
thing), rather than show off your imagination by
dancing as though you were in a vacuum (not lovely at
all).
By the same token, you may have learned some very
expensive figures, but you should at all costs avoid
doing stationary figures on a crowded floor. Learn to
make them move incrementally. Keep them advancing!
After all, we don't just dance with our partner, we
dance with the entire room.
When you start dancing in the middle of a song, you'll
discover that your colleagues have already established
a ronda, the revolving circle of dancers that you have
to join. You don't do this by plonking yourself
smack-dab in one of the lanes, having a wee chat with
your partner, and then launching off. This will make
people pile up behind you or, worse, overtake you,
probably hitting someone else in another lane. Your
own bad habits might not get your partner hurt, but
they're likely to cause someone else to have a
collision.
Zigzagging is a big no-no, as is cutting across the
room. In Buenos Aires, no matter how elegant or
musical you are, if you cut the floor like a jigsaw
you are considered a jerk.

1. There is no reason in a salon to overtake.
Overtaking is bad form.

2. You can't stop the flow of traffic for more than a
few seconds. Otherwise, the leader behind you will be
forced to overtake you, switch lanes, and risk hurting
someone else.

3. Stay in your lane! If you move diagonally to the
line of dance, you're asking to get hit. Or, by moving
suddenly in front of someone else, you may cause them
to get hurt. Just because your partner doesn't get
hurt doesn't mean that the two couples behind you
won't bump because of your sloppy floorcraft.

4. Exercise extreme caution when leading and executing
boleos. People can really get hurt. If you are led to
do a high boleo, you have the option to keep it low.
If you lead a high boleo, you must be certain that you
will not hit anyone.

Robin Thomas

I'm sure that there are a loy of you that don't agree
with some or all of this. I'd wecome any comments.







Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 20:47:20 -0500
From: Michael B Ditkoff <tangomaniac@JUNO.COM>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

I generally agree with what Robin wrote about floorcraft. However, it
assumes that couples follow some basic rules, which they don't. I don't
know the primary culprit, but I'll bet it's the man.

In some situations, when something goes wrong, the couple stop and
discuss what wrong. The man usually shows his impatience and lectures
RIGHT ON THE FLOOR what he wanted. Of course, the man doesn't understand
that the woman followed exactly what he led, not what he intended. In
this situation, traffic behind has no choice but to go around the couple
as it can take a long time for the lesson to end. If the floor is large
at some New York milongas, this isn't a problem. But in Washington, DC
where the floor is smaller, it becomes a BIG problem.

Next the back step. DON'T TAKE IT! I call it the suicide step. As a
matter of habit, men don't look behind before taking it. If they did
look, there wouldn't be so many collisions as they wouldn't take it. As
for taking a small back step versus a large back step. A collision is a
collision is a collision. The only difference is that with a small back
step you have a fender bender whereas with a regular size back step, you
have to call out a crane to tow away the damaged vehicles.

Michael
Living in Washington, DC hoping to retire in New York




Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 17:21:25 -0900
From: Dan Boccia <redfox@ALASKA.NET>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

Michael brings up an often mentioned topic:


In some situations, when something goes wrong, the couple stop and
discuss what wrong. The man usually shows his impatience and lectures
RIGHT ON THE FLOOR what he wanted.


Frankly, I read a lot about this on the list, but I don't see much of it *at
milongas* up and down the west coast. Is this really such a widespread
problem? I see this at practicas a lot but at a milonga it is inconceivable
to me. I don't see any reason to be so uptight that we have to duke it out
with our partner on the dance floor. The milonga is a time to enjoy a
silent, powerful connection with our friends. It is a time to really sink
into the music, enjoy dancing with our favorite partners, meeting new
people, and just enjoying the experience. Sure we challenge ourselves a bit
once in awhile, but in general, I would add to Robin's list of
considerations that we should dance WELL within our means. Dance your own
dance, focus on quality of movement, musicality and connection, and work on
the other stuff at practicas or on your own. The picture I have in my head
is one of the whole room revolving around in a timeless fashion, pulsing
along with the music - it's really a beautiful sight.

Dan




Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 19:22:07 -0700
From: Huck Kennedy <huck@ENSMTP1.EAS.ASU.EDU>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

Michael B Ditkoff writes:

> I generally agree with what Robin wrote about floorcraft.

I have only two things to say about floorcraft. This has been
discussed to death, so I'll be brief:

1. Until you are good enough to take it rotating down the line
of dance or in some manner besides mindlessly against line of
dance with no regard of who might be behind you, just forget
about the backstep. Believe me, you can leave it out altogether
and in no time at all you won't even miss it. It's much easier
to quit than, say, quitting smoking. When you do a resolution and
close your feet, instead of mindlessly stepping back, just start
out to the left again and keep going, now there's a good lad.

2. I wish I had a big two-by-four to wack on the head [*] every
Argentine instructor who comes up here to the US and teaches
figures that all start out with a backstep ("We start out with
step number one from our basic..."). Hey, you guys might be
smart enough to not just mindlessly take that backstep when you
get out onto the milonga floor, but we're too stupid, OK?
So quit teaching it.

Huck

[*] No, I don't really hit people on the head with two-by-fours




Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 08:50:04 +0900
From: astrid <astrid@RUBY.PLALA.OR.JP>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

> Michael brings up an often mentioned topic
> > In some situations, when something goes wrong, the couple stop and
> discuss what wrong. The man usually shows his impatience and lectures
> RIGHT ON THE FLOOR what he wanted.
>

Dan replied:

> Frankly, I read a lot about this on the list, but I don't see much of it

*at

> milongas* up and down the west coast. Is this really such a widespread
> problem? I see this at practicas a lot but at a milonga it is

inconceivable

> to me.

Well, Dan, it all depends on what kind of a milonga it is. I have seen
milongas, where, like 2 years ago in Tokyo, everybody was wildly
enthousiastic about having that huge a milonga event for the first time, and
some of the dancers were drunk too. Most of them were joyously rushing
along, bumping, bouncing, kicking, giggling, apologizing, smiling...and
nobody really cared whether they were kicked or whatever, we were all having
so much fun, and besides, most of us didn't have a clue...

Then I went to this other milonga, with a lot of older people, and many
dancing from rote memory, some were professional couples, some were trying
to dance stage tango...and in the middle of all that there was this older
couple, the woman in what looked like an altered old wedding dress, and they
were standing every so often in the middle of the floor bickering about
their steps, which did not go too well with the way she was dressed...

I don't see any reason to be so uptight that we have to duke it out

> with our partner on the dance floor. The milonga is a time to enjoy a
> silent, powerful connection with our friends. It is a time to really sink
> into the music, ....

This is an activity only accessible to real tango lovers. Not to the rote
memory guys, not to the aspiring lounge lizards, not to those who just came
to satisfy their ego needs to show off.

Standing and explaining or even argueing is for those who have to use words
because they have insufficient nonverbal means to lead, Dan...

The picture I have in my head

> is one of the whole room revolving around in a timeless fashion, pulsing
> along with the music - it's really a beautiful sight.

Yes, but how often do you actually get to see that sight ?

Astrid




Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2002 16:35:26 -0600
From: Stephen Brown <Stephen.P.Brown@DAL.FRB.ORG>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

Dan Boccia wrote:

>>The picture I have in my head is one of the whole room
>>revolving around in a timeless fashion, pulsing
>>along with the music - it's really a beautiful sight.

Astrid replied:

>Yes, but how often do you actually get to see that sight ?

I have seen this sight at many milongas. Other times, I have seen the
execution of memorized figures without much regard to the line of dance...

In nearly all the truly crowded milongas I have attended, it seems that
nearly eveyone observes the lines and lanes of dance... Sometimes
beginners will find their way to the outside lanes, but they soon learn to
move inward.

At the milongas and practicas were there is ample space for movement, the
execution of elaborate figures without much regard to the line of dance
seems to become more prominent. This is completely understandable. With
the requirement to navigate falling, it is easier to execute elaborate
figures and doing so may be necessary to keep up the level of entertainment
that falls as the floor becomes empty. If the floor is empty enough,
dancing this way is completely safe.

I think there is actually kind of a twighlight zone of danger in milongas
that are only somewhat crowded. In these milongas, the likelihood of
collisions seems to rise... There is still enough room to encourage some
people to try elaborate figures without regard to the line of dance.
Unfortunately, there is not enough room for them to do it successfully....
Kicks and bumps become commonplace... At these times, thoughts of tango
police dance through many people's heads.

With best regards,
Steve (de Tejas)




Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 01:14:46 -0500
From: Jim Singelis <jts@BCN.NET>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

Rather than getting to work, I decided that it was absolutely necessary to
read all the mail that had piled up in my Tango-L folder... first things
first.

So a few reflections on floorCraft:

The extremes of "collisions" seem to run from an annoying brush to causing a
fall ( which by the way I have never seen ... a heel caught in clothing
probably causes more falls). Most encounters are pretty innocous. If your're
having a bad tango night getting bumped is just one more bad element. If
you are lucky enough to have one of those beautiful transcendental dances,
being jostled out of the moment robs you of something that doesn't happen
too often. Sometimes you can recoup the moment other times not.

It is the arrogant show off that I most resent, although ocassionally
arrogant beginners are pretty bad. I guess arrogance is the keyword. The
"YOU watch out for me because I'm good" attitude.

Try as I might, I am ocassionally the guilty party. It always seems to be
dancers in front of me in the line of dance and slightly to my right. My
followers head causes a blind spot (right Jim blame it on the follower)
especially in close embrace. Being short doesn't help this situation. Or
maybe the other couple was passing on the right. It's still my fault.

Finally, I just do not enjoy dance on a crowded floor. Maybe time and more
experience will change my mind. (I have noticed that my definition of
crawded has changed over the years) For now I just socialize until the crowd
inevitably thins out. The best time is the end of the evening when its late
and only the hard core are left.


So that it... my first post to tango-l

Jim




Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 11:09:21 -0800
From: robin thomas <niborsamoht@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: a little essay on floorcraft

A lot of people asked me if they could reproduce the
floor craft thing i wrote. It's now up on the
Triangulo web site http://www.tangonyc.com/ it has
fun graphics which someone much more talented than I
am thought of.

Please feel free to print it out and use it for
whatever you want (some of you might want to print it
out in order to burn it)!

It's funny, I was out dancing last night and I was
thinking, "Oh no! Now I wrote this thing I have to
live by it to the letter." I was cringing every time
my partner's foot might brush against a chair or some
other inanimate object. We did have one human
collision when someone who wasn't dancing took a big
backward step suddenly onto the dance floor. I almost
fell over. It was very embarrassing.

I hope you all come to the (Almost) All Night Milonga
in New York on the 19th. I'm dj'ing. Anyway have
lovely dances!

Robin Thomas, New York





Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 11:39:42 -0800
From: JeffryesSussex <doktordogg@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: a little essay on floorcraft

--- Jim Singelis <jts@BCN.NET> wrote:

> Try as I might, I am ocassionally the guilty party.
> It always seems to be
> dancers in front of me in the line of dance and
> slightly to my right.

Happens to me, too. I hate it. This is why Gavito
teaches omission of the so-called "Tango Close". He
recommends leaving out the side-step to the right for
precisely the reason you describe.

A lot of people talk about leaving out the back step.
It's just as worthwhile to avoid that right side step,
too. It also keeps you in mind of dancing
continuously, instead of closing all the time and
starting over again.

Jai





Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 22:55:34 -0600
From: Michael Figart II <michaelfigart@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: floorcraft

Hello Listeros, and Clay!



I'm posting this on Tango-L, under my name; I don't want the anonymity
of responding to your query privately; sorry I couldn't be there in
person, but I have some experience, and I believe that I can provide
knowledgeable feedback.



I wanted so badly to go to Portland, but just couldn't quite swing it.
But my girlfriend was there, and she told me that I would've been
shocked and saddened by the lack of floorcraft there. And the way I
understood it, it was not just a lack of floorcraft, it was downright
inconsiderate rudeness in many cases. And herein lies the crux; the
magnitude of an infraction as related to the experience of the
perpetrator. After all, a beginner who knows nothing about floorcraft
can't really be rude; he just doesn't know yet!



Clay, the worst offenders by far, (in my experience in Houston and
Denver), are the hot-shots; the experienced dancers who seem to think
that they have a "tango-god" given right to dance anywhere they please,
anytime they want. It's very easy to recognize a beginner's inadvertent
"bump" from an advanced dancer's downright rude disregard for those
around him. The first bothers me none at all, and the second is
infuriating. And I've had plenty of the second, even in Denver, where
floorcraft is highlighted, from some of the supposed "best", who told me
that they just got "lost in the music and their partner". Poppycock
(read; bullshit).



I've had the greatest good luck of taking classes in Houston from one of
the very top tango teachers in the U.S; Joan Bishop. She has always
stressed floorcraft, and being a gentleman on the dance floor. Yes,
please; always stress and teach floorcraft, and require your visiting
instructors to do so also. This will help the entire community,
especially those young in their tango careers, and help them establish
good habits.



BUT, like I said, in my experience, the very worst infractions are
perpetrated by those who should know better, those who've been dancing
for years, and seem to think they own the dance floor; all of it. The
only instance where this does not hold true, in my opinion, is that of a
couple's entry onto the dance floor. Jeez, guys; I can't see much at all
to my right, but I do make an effort to check this view at intervals,
and rest assured, if I see you standing there waiting to get in, I'll
give you a little signal; a nod, or a raised finger, and do an extra
turn, to allow you plenty of room with which to enter the line of dance.



Some of the things that attracted me to Argentine Tango originally are
the "gentlemanly" aspect, the chivalry of accepting responsibility for
my follower, the fellowship among friends, the camaraderie, the
community, and the warmth. Let's all take a step back, and look at
ourselves, and our community, and see what we can do to improve and
enhance our relationships!



Warm regards to all,



Michael Figart II

Houston TX

michaelfigart@yahoo.com


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