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.
I think these are good guidelines to use.
I'm not sure how your eyesight is, exactly, but I think if you can cabaceo someone from a few feet away you ought to be able to have some control over a careless leads floorcraft. Just enough to see yourself barreling into someone or them bearing down on you and be able to act. (EEK!)
I limited my dancing pretty severely that night and at one point was actually too scared to go on the floor for all random motion + packed crowd I was seeing. I did make one bad mistake in leads that I won't make again on that kind of floor.
I danced with a guy I don't dance with much and he kept attempting to run in to the lead in front of us (by backing himself like a racoon down line of dance in to the guy). I resisted and attempted to steer him off his track and turn him back around so we wouldn't hit people and I did manage to keep that from happening (mostly). I guess the guy wasn't moving fast enough for him as we finally went around (and proceeded to ram up next to another person ahead, one I DID like dancing with- my eyes were all apology! I was seriously annoyed (and should have said my thank you a that point) but instead tried to casually mention that I noticed not many leads seem to have circular movement as part of their vocabulary here. This guy certainly didn't...exactly 3 movements- ochos, crusada and walking and I know he's been dancing YEARS so there was no excuse for this behavior nor having a vocabulary that only moves in straight lines.
I am also going to come out and say that the person who likes to only dance open that you danced with probably has a similar issue. Pay attention next time you dance with him and see if he moves circularly at all (ocho cortado or any other circular move). That's what you use to navigate in close embrace and tight conditions. I'm guessing it's not the embrace that's his problem, its a lack of understanding.
Also bruised and battered,
I have been in this situation and I must say that if I have to dance with my eyes open, I ain't dancin'.
I don't think it matter if it is 'open' or 'closed' embrace what matter is the that all the movements are within the frame. I dance salon which is a fluid embrace and if the floor is busy I keep everything contained and so should the lead. The leads need to know how to dance with 180's and 360's (i.e. how to pivot)so they can see what is happening behind them as this is way more important than what is going on in front.
Doesn't sound like it was too much fun!
A very good point by Kirra- open or close shouldn't particularly matter (though there actually was no room for any sort of open embrace at this venue on that night)...but turns and keeping everything contained within your own little dance cylinder are key... bastet
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