Flowing Floorcraft

15th May 2009

(More Unlocking the Milonga articles.)

"Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks" ~ Aikido principle


Working on the principle that if we can get this to work in Negracha on a Friday night it'll work anywhere, I did some more experimenting.

What I noticed was that there seem to be phases in the dance. At the beginning different leaders will start at slightly different points in the music. Likewise people will usually join the dancefloor at the point nearest them where there's room to do so. Unfortunately their viewpoint on "enough room to do so" and mine don't always agree. But once this initial phase passes things start to flow - for a while.

Now comes the next problem. Musical interpretation and progression. Different leaders interpret the music differently. At the same moment one leader may pause, while another may progressing. This isn't a huge problem if everyone pays attention to the rest of the floor.

Unfortunately the following can mess this up:

Fast and Furious

Ever seen the clip in the Matrix where Trinity drives a motorbike the wrong way down the motorway, dodging and swerving through traffic?

It's not a whole lot of fun for the rest of the traffic. Some dancers get up to full-speed and then stay there for the rest of the dance. They swerve in and out of the lanes, cut people up and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

If the flow of dancefloor is supposed to look like this

their erratic movements disrupt the harmony of the flow something awful.

Musical sequences

The accusation often leveled against dancers who do endless sequences is that they're ignoring the music. However quite a few have simply figured out how to do their sequence in time with music, complete with pauses, double-time etc.

The problem is that they don't do it in harmony with the rest of the floor.

So, yes, their 30 second sequence is a beautiful interpretation of the music, but it contains absolutely no progression/ So now there's a huge gap ahead of them and a pile up behind them.

Musical statues

OK, I have sympathy for this - I used to do it when I started.

You're trying to dance along the line of dance, when suddenly it looks like half a dozen couples converge on you.

You can't see any way to move. So you freeze. And possibly pray (or swear). It makes sense, it's just a bad idea. A ripple on a pond doesn't freeze because other ripples are approaching it.

Unfortunately freezing increases the disruption of the flow, because you effective become an obstruction. (Hint: if this applies to you, move in small circles)

Music, what music?

Some leaders appear to be dancing to something other than what's being played. The odds of them progressing and pausing at the same time as everyone else are not good.

All of the above result in two things. Firstly. lanes become more and more hazy. And secondly, instead of an even flow you get clumps of dancers and wide areas of space in different parts of the floor.

Downstairs Negracha had a live band playing very short songs. The lane system was more noticeable because:

  1. less people were dancing
  2. the songs were shorter so the log-jam effect was for a significantly smaller portion of the time
  3. At the end of each song the couples separated slightly to applaud and so the clumps and spaces resettled.

So how does this help, other than by getting the DJ to play shorter songs?

Well if you watch the entire floor as you dance you actually get more notice of problems. What throws people is when 6 couples descend on them at once. But that (probably) didn't happen out of malice. Somewhere else on the dance-floor there's a big open space that isn't being progressed into.

In effect you're no longer trying to stop an avalanche, because by that point it's too late. Instead you're looking for the telltale shower of pebbles at the beginning.

Some ideas

Firstly do your part. If there's space in front of you, progress into it.

Secondly if you see there is a big space at another part of the dancefloor, be aware that there's going to be a shockwave shortly. Make sure you've got a decent gap between you and the person in front of you. Also make sure you can move. You don't want to be in a volcada when the shockwave hits.

More study is needed on how a convoy of dancers deflects / disperses shockwaves and if so how many are required...

A parting thought

It is noticable though that with a convoy of only two:

"I did feel conscious of the distance thing. It's like when you're driving behind someone (following them) - you don't want to allow too much space or someone will sneak in. I had to keep an eye on the distance between us - too much and some numpty would over/undertake. However, it clearly worked, as it was near-impossible for them to do this - I think I encountered only 2-3 floorcraft problems in the whole tanda, which is very very low for that place." ~ David Bailey

 - Christopher O'Shea, 15th May 2009

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