In terms of milongas, there are chaotic floors, and then there are hazardous floors. Last week's milonga at a local coffee shop, which is usually a challenging venue anyway, was downright dangerous. Several followers, myself included, ended up bruised and scraped, not only from errant stiletto heels but from men performing their own adornments on a floor that had no room for it. At certain venues, you will always brush up against other couples - it's almost impossible not to. In those situations, for the sake of everyone's shins and calves, leaders and followers should both try to keep their feet on the floor.
That night also taught me that I need to be more selective about accepting dances when the floor gets perilous. Normally I try very hard to adapt to the style of my partner. If a leader always wants to dance open embrace, I try to accommodate. However if everyone on the floor is dancing close embrace because there's no room to dance otherwise, I have a decision to make when an open-embrace dancer asks me to dance. Last weekend, when asked by one such dancer, I accepted the invitation and attempted to dance open embrace. I mentioned the lack of room but close embrace causes more problems for this leader in terms of navigation. We both had a difficult time on the floor as a result.
Knowing when to sit out requires a large degree of self-knowledge, of knowing what you're good at and what you're comfortable with on the part of the follower as well as the leader. It also requires observing the floor and the other dancers - not just the ones directly in front of you. I should have considered my decision more carefully.
An instructor and follower reminded me of another important consideration. One very basic rule of self-preservation for followers on a crowded pista: if your leader is having trouble navigating on the floor, keep your eyes open. My problem is that with my lack of depth perception, even when the floor isn't busy, when the light is very low (as it was at this venue) I can't judge how far away anyone really is from me. So I keep my eyes closed to keep from constantly flinching. Friday night I was dancing with two partners who had some trouble navigating the floor and I kept closing my eyes so that I would be able to dance at all. That ended up being the wrong thing to do. If my partner can't keep me safe for whatever reason, and I can't help him by keeping my eyes open - I should have taken a pass and sat down.
I like this particular venue, and I'm sure that I'll continue to go to milongas there. But I think in the future, I'll be more willing to sit out when the floor conditions get too rough.