I know I should post my complete notes on Murat and Michelle's class before diving into something specific (and ranty), but this can't wait. M&M spent a great deal of time and effort, not just talking about etiquette on floorcraft, but demonstrating it. The two concepts I was most happy to hear about were the "male cabeceo" and leaders forming "trains" on the pista. For people who have traveled to Denver and some of the larger tango festivals, this wasn't new information, but it's something that isn't taught very often in our local classes.
The male cabeceo - making eye contact (essentially getting approval) from the leader that will be behind you as you enter the dance floor with your partner.
More on that from Miles Tangos (Barefootango.com):
"Leaders when entering the line of dance, make eye contact with the on coming traffic of leaders and acknowledge that you’d like to enter the line of dance and ONLY enter when you have consented acknowledgement of the leader next in the lane of dance. This also means do NOT allow your follower to jump onto the floor or into the flow of dance. YOU as a leader are responsible for her. However if
there is an open gap in the line of dance, you MAY be able to slip in, but that
gap should be several partners wide. Don’t think a few feet here, but rather
YARDS of space."
"Leaders follow leaders." Murat and Michelle discussed the advantage of shaping your dance in a similar fashion to the leader in front of you (this is why it's important to choose your space carefully). If you hate the way the leader in front of you is dancing see No.2. Now that you know how he (or they) dances, you can choose more carefully where you enter the dance floor next time, and avoid him/them. Of course when they're careening around the floor twice as fast as everyone else, they may be very hard to avoid for long.
More from BlueTango.org:
"A phenomenon seen at festivals such as Denver and Portland, where many of the
best dancers in the country congregate, is that people form a “train” by
sandwiching themselves between other dancers with good floorcraft. Not only does good floorcraft lead to a better dance experience, but bonding often arises out of mutual respect."
While Murat and Michelle were here, several of the dancers that attended the classes made great effort at floor craft during those weekend milongas. We all tried to pay extra attention during the milongas and work together to create a sense of flow and comraderie on the pista. It was truly a lovely experience.
It's been a little more than a week and it feels like the material is just evaporating. During Saturday's milonga, which was a beautiful milonga despite this following rant, one leader backed into the line of dance, knocking his posterior into my partner and me, and didn't say a word - just kept going. And he did this several times - sending the couple behind him veering into the middle of the floor to avoid him. He was in the class where we talked about this very thing - and why leaders should not enter the line of dance that way.
There is a reason this topic was discussed, gentlemen. Leaders who attended the class, did you notice the look of relief and almost pure elation from the followers when Murat talked about how important it was that the follower feel safe? That good floor craft was the key to everyone enjoying the dance? That community and environment were just as important as steps, musicality, partnership - and you - your own experience of the dance?
An occasional bump here and there happens, particularly on a busy floor. But if you're bumping several times a dance - it really might be you.
So leaders, please think about these things:
1. Do not enter the line of dancing by backing in, butt-first ahead of the couple behind you.
2. If the couple in front of you isn't moving as fast as you'd like, chill out. If you get frustrated, that's pretty much all your partner feels from you - frustration. How great of a dance do you think that feels like?
3. If you have to pass more than one couple in a dance - it's more than likely not them, it's you. Slow down.
One final note, that I should have mentioned first thing:
To the leaders I saw making eye contact with other leaders and working so hard to maintain and encourage flow on the dance floor, thank you, thank you, thank you. You guys rock.