What happened?

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."

Murat and Michelle also talked about forming the "train" and creating flow on the dance floor, Basically, choose your space (what leaders you want to dance between) carefully. It's worth the wait to try to get more conscientious dancers at least on one side of you if you can.

"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."

The above comes from an excellent guide on floor craft.

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.

Only a very few leaders made eye contact with the other leader behind him before getting in front of him, or even looked for an entrance into the line of dance. Two other leaders ping-pong'ed around the line of dance, zipping around other leaders.

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.


Kirra said...

The kicker about learning something is that we then have to apply it somehow. This can take some time and practice (and maybe a friendly reminder from a teacher or follow).

This great advice from Susana Domingues at TangoVancouver.com has helped me many times.

"A plateau that lasts several weeks can happen when the student knows what to do, but the body hasn't caught up to mind. It can at times be quite frustrating- not fun at all! But as playwright Vaclav Havel said "Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties?". When you are most frustrated, you are probably on the verge of a breakthrough. It is important at that stage to tolerate the learning process and to trust that the clouds will clear."

As always, wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

I always try to practice great floor craft. One exercise that help me was never, never, never take a step backwards unless it is in the line of dance. We have practica's to try this, and practice this for a month, anytime you dance. I challenge any lead to try and do this. You will surprise yourself on the results. I love walking backwards only in the line of dance. Best of luck Keno

El Ingeniero said...

I posted about this topic a few weeks ago. It was during a festival attended by M&M. I learned not to jump into the bloodbath, compromising my integrityy, if the floorcraft is bad. Cheers! Don't forget Kiki and Booba!

Tango Therapist said...

Mari: It's a slow process. Here in DC the woman nearly universally take the man out onto the dance floor, and WITHOUT looking. I now think of the ladies here as my daughters. I hold them by the hand at the traffic light. The problem is a dynamic of men and women not understanding their roles. "Ladies first" doesn't always work. Guys: If you come to a revolving door YOU go through first.

Captain Jep said...

Yes great post. I'd go even further in saying that this is the KEY to a happy dance floor. I love dancing behind leaders I can trust. If their movement is predictable than I can relax (and that can even include small back steps - as long as they are SMALL). I also love it when you can trust the person behind you not to overtake or dance haphazardly.

It's not necessarily a matter of dance level either. I find that often even the so-called "advanced" dancers arent to be trusted. If the floor is packed, you will often get advanced dancers overtaking you on the blind side, just because you had the temerity to pause in your dancing. It is above all a matter of attitude.

Anyway I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted. Thanks again for such a great post!

Marika said...

Kirra - thank you for your comments - especially your remarks 9well, Susana's actually) about plateaus. It makes a lot of sense.

Keno - that sounds almost harder than what Murat and Michelle had the leaders do - which was lead the entire song in cross system (without changing into parallel for any reason). Tougher than it sounded, let me tell you.

El Ingenerio - that was a wonderful post, thank you for linking to it! And I love, love, love the concept of kiki and bouba. I'm still working on my post about that. It's turning into an essay, so I'm trying to trim it down a bit lol.

Tango Therapist - I know first hand what great care you take with your partners, and it is so very much appreciated!

Captain Jep - your comments are spot on. Beginners are sometimes much easier to dance between since they're usually fairly predictable. "Advanced" dancers on the other hand, can be a very different story.