Blog Post – Floorcraft

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

Awareness
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.

Technique
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.

Etiquette
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.

Blog post: Shoes!


One of the questions that we get a lot in classes is what shoes to wear during swing dancing.

There are no rules when it comes to buying swing dance shoes but it’s super important that your shoes are comfortable. Spend time to find the correct size because you don’t want your foot to move too much in the shoe but also want to avoid rubbing. Leather shoes breathe better and will typically last longer than synthetics, but are a bit more expensive. Shoes that are made for swing dancers usually have a leather or suede sole.

Flats or heels
Most dancers prefer to dance in shoes without heel or a low heel. We wouldn’t recommend dancing in shoes with a heel higher than 5 centimeters. If you feel super comfortable dancing in heels you could consider purchasing higher heels for the dance style Balboa, which keeps you dancing a bit more on the spot. If you consider buying heels make sure the shoe is closed or has good straps because you don’t want your heels to come off during the dance 🙂 For balance purposes I wouldn’t go for thin heels.

Sole
Finding the perfect sole for every dance floor is hard and quite personal. Some dancers prefer a bit more sticky shoes with a lot of grip but for other dancers it can’t get slippery enough. Wooden floors work best for most dancers but aren’t always available. Your options basically are: rubber, leather or suede soles.

Rubber:
For me a rubber sole works on a really slippery and even floor but it will sometimes hinder my ability to turn or slide. It can work for faster dancing where you can use the extra grip to push yourself forward, away from the floor. Rubber shoes usually don’t work for a bit more lazy dancing where you don’t lift your feet so much. Your body might want to turn while your foot stays in one position. This can never end well 😉 Rubber soles often start out sticky, but get a bit more slippery as they wear down.

Leather:
I like to dance in shoes with leather soles on almost every wooden floor. Leather soles will be quite slippery but the wooden floor usually creates the right amount of grip without losing the ability to turn or slide. The more slippery it gets the more your muscles have to work. If you keep your feet underneath yourself this usually works nicely.

Suede:
Suede shoes usually give you a bit more grip than leather but less than rubber. This is also the only sole that you really shouldn’t wear outside in the usual rainy weather in The Netherlands. Water will not have a positive effect on your suede soles 🙂 When you use a small steel brush (sold at Praxis/Gamma etc for approximately €2,-) you can brush your suede soles when they get too slippery. You can also buy street shoes and have a shoemaker glue a suede sole onto them (they usually recognise it if you call it ‘dance leather’).

Brands
There are new brands of shoes made for dancers, or even specifically swing dancers, popping up each month. Below you can first find a list of my current favourites and then a list of every other brand I have ever heard of 🙂

  • Slide & Swing
    Affordable €115 – €135 (sometimes on sale: €70), made by and for swing dancers, leather shoes and soles, store in Barcelona, shipping within Europe for approximately €25, friendly customer service and they often have a stand at Lindy Hop events.
    http://www.slideandswing.es/shop
  • Swivells
    Young french brand, leather shoes, colourful, up to size 41 or 42, boots and derbies, €159 – €179
    https://swivells.com/fr
  • TOMS
    Simple cotton sneakers. Make sure you pick a model without structure on the sole for all your spins and turns. They have a nice ‘one for one’ initiative: with every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need.
    http://www.shoptoms.nl/
  • Keds
    Nice sneakers for dancers with narrow to normal width feet. Rubber sole that will get more slippery with use but also suitable to bring them to a shoemaker and add a suede sole.
    https://keds.nl/
  • P.mela Swingin’ shoes
    Pamela Gaizutyte creates a (very) limited amount of handmade leather shoes together with a cobbler in Vilnius, Lithuania. I think her idea is to create a new collection of shoes every season. Price: €220. Sold three collections so far: Swing Paradise limited edition, Be Clumsy/Be Brave and Autumn Romance). Pamela is an international swing dance teacher who tested the soles and boots with other swing dancing teachers and friends. I’m not sure what the status of her next collection is because the website is temporarily offline. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram or sign up for her newsletter via info@swinginshoes.com
    https://www.facebook.com/swinginshoes/ / https://swinginshoes.com/ / https://www.instagram.com/swingin_shoes/

Other brands/shops:

Jazz it up with Yara

There’s another edition of Yara’s Solo jazz/Charleston workshop for fanatics! 🙂 its coming up real soon, this evening (Saturday, april 17) at 19:00 so clear your planners and come and join us!

Theme: Soft shoe tap / rhythms + a fun routine
Level: The class is open for all levels but it’s prepped and taught for ‘fanatics’. This basically means that it’s going to be tough. Anyone who likes the challenge is welcome.
Location: CREA, Studio 4.02
Cost: €10,- (cash only, pay on the spot)

Notes: Pease don’t wear outside shoes or shoes with a white sole as they leave marks on the black dance floor 🙂

More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/253031265237761/

If you happen to miss this edition, don’t worry, the goal is to find space/time for this every 2-3 months depending on how much is happening in the Lindy world. Join our Swingstreet Facebook Group to keep updates on all our events, so you’re sure not to miss the next one.

Fast Feet Weekend

We have our very own Fast Feet weekend coming up soon! Because of the success of Swingheaven last year and because we want to promote fast dancing in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, we’re organising a workshop offering classes from international teachers on Balboa, Shag and Solo Jazz!

The workshop will take place on the kingsday weekend: 28 and 29 april with classes at Kemna studios (swingstreet west) and there will be a big party on saturday with Hommage band (plus a swingbike on friday and a tea dance on sunday).

We’ll offer beginner-intermediate and intermediate-advanced classes and you can mix and match!

For more info on how the workshop works, costs, registration and schedule, check our page:

FastFeet Weekend 2018