If you’ve ever been social dancing, you’ll have some idea of what I’m about to explain. If you’ve been to an international festival you’ll have a better idea of what I’m about to explain; and if you’ve been to a festival like Lindy Shock, then you’ll know exactly what i’m talking about.
That is, floorcraft.
Floorcraft is about being able to social dance on a crowded floor and enjoying yourself without continually bumping into other couples, having your ankles stepped on, and generally just making the best of a tight situation while also keeping things friendly.
For me, floorcraft is broken up into three distinct areas: Awareness, Technique and Etiquette
You can’t avoid running into someone if you don’t know they’re there. If you have the habit of dancing while looking at your own or your partner’s feet, then it’s going to make it a lot more difficult to know what’s going on around you. So make sure you keep your eyes up and be aware of your surroundings.
Leads, when you’re sending or swinging out your follow, have a look at where you want them to go before you do it. Is there someone else in the space already? Or perhaps another couple also about to swing out into that space, then either redirect your move to another open area, or turn it into a more closed move like a circle.
Follows! Your lead can’t see everywhere at once, if your lead sends you out and you can see the risk of colliding with someone, then either stop yourself or change the move into something that will prevent the collision.
Most importantly look out for each other, I know I tend to make all sorts of ridiculous faces when I can see my follow might hit another couple and although it may look ridiculous, it at least tells them to be a little careful in the next few counts.
When on a crowded dance floor, certain parts of your dance technique become more important, other parts you may have to significantly alter to ensure a safe experience for everyone.
Taking smaller steps and keeping your feet under your body is probably the easiest thing you can do, and probably has the most impact. It will most likely help your general dancing significantly as well, so it’s also good to practice it when not a crowded dance floor. By keeping your feet under your body it minimises the chance of stepping on someone else, and of being stepped on. The same goes for kicks, you may be throwing out some amazing charleston, but keep your kicks low and pointed at the floor so you don’t take out someones eyes (yes both of them) with a wild swing.
Keep your arms close and try to avoid large flailing movements, if you do want to keep your arms out, keep them steady and relaxed instead of swinging, as it means you’ll be less likely to hit someone with any real power.
Learn dance moves that are in closed position. There is a good chance you won’t have space to swing out even if you want to, so having some extra moves up your sleeves that don’t require so much space will keep your dancing enjoyable even when you feel restricted. I really felt this at Lindy Shock in 2017, realising most of my repertoire was swing out variations I made a point of ensuring I learned a few other moves after the festival.
Control the distance between yourself and your partner. Again, another aspect of your dancing that is not only good for a crowded dance floor, but good for your technique in general. If you find yourself generally at full arms lengths when in open with your partner then start working on controlling your distance between each other instead of letting fate decide. It’ll make your dancing look better, your fast dancing more controlled, and you won’t run into anyone!
Practice changing the direction of your dance moves. This needs some practice, but being able to change a move mid-step will definitely save you on numerous occasions. It requires the leading and following to be a little more sensitive for it work properly. But it can also be a fun way to mix up your dancing.
Last but not least, is your floor etiquette. Even if you’re the most careful dancer in the world, you’re still going to occasionally run into people, so what should you do when this happens?
Apologise! I can’t stress this enough. Even if you don’t think it was your fault… Even if you KNOW it wasn’t your fault. If you run into another couple, just look to see who it was, give them a wave, and say sorry. You probably don’t need to stop dancing but it’s a nice courtesy. There’s a very good chance you will run into these people again, so keep things civil.
If the other couple walks off the floor after the collision then potentially one of them might be injured. If it looks really bad (and it might be worse than you think), then it’s probably worth stopping your dancing and going up to see if they’re ok. If it’s less severe then wait until the end of the song and make a judgement then.
If you’re dancing and have the same person or couple repeatedly run into you and they don’t seem to care one way or another then feel free to say something to them, it can be frustrating but try and keep it polite. You don’t want to start any feuds on the dance floor.
These are just a few of the basic parts of floorcraft that will improve your experience, and the experience of those around you on crowded dance floors (did I mention to make sure you keep your feet under yourself?)
If you like to see a bit more about this, here is a great video by ‘Swungover’ where they go through a lot of the aspects I’ve mentioned above, and even show you some examples in their dancing.