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Floor Craft: Best Tips and Recommendations

Floor craft is a very useful skill that allows to elegantly slide in a dance on a ballroom floor avoiding collisions with other dance couples. It allows to effectively use the space on the dance floor to show off the lady as well as to be free to move, unencumbered by other dancers blocking your space. Every ballroom dancer should master it: it’s helpful both for amateurs at crowded dance parties and professionals at dance competitions (floor craft is one of the parameters that judges use for rating the dance performance). The problem of collisions and feeling the space around, analysis and prediction of how other dancers will move, may seem difficult at first sight. But there are some simple rules and recommendations that can help to understand and improve this skill and we want to share them with you.

How to Survive on a Dance Floor?

Leonardo Dicaprio at overcrowded ballroom dance hall, The Great Gatsby movie scene
Overcrowded dance floor shouldn't be a barrier for enjoying dancing. Leonardo Dicaprio at overcrowded ballroom dance hall, scene from "The Great Gatsby" movie

Sometimes a dance floor can be a nightmare: lots of couples swinging and moving around at high speed, their face shows that they are fully concentrated on the dance and music and enjoy it so much that see nothing around them. So how they don’t bump into other couples? This question troubles many newbies and unexperienced amateur dancers making them feel uncomfortable, so that they even may prefer to skip dancing if the dance floor is overcrowded.

Such concerns have some grounds. Even though ballroom dancing is not as rough as Rugby or American Football, where hard collision is a normal game situation, still the consequences of pour floor craft and mistakes can be very serious and lead to injuries. Most people believe that injuries happen only in dancesport, where professional dancers get exhausted by intensive trainings and workouts. However, there are lots of injuries that happen at casual dance parties because of mistakes and accidents that amateur dancers do. Usually the most widespread injuries affect legs and foot, because these parts of human body play most active role in dancing and usually lack enough protection. Ladies often wear open high heeled shoes leaving their toes unprotected. The shoes don’t have support of ankle (of course, we don’t use sneakers at ballroom dancing), which may lead to ankle injuries when dancer loses body balance as a result of collision with another couple. In Latin American dances women usually wear short skirts or short gowns leaving their legs uncovered and vulnerable to contact during collisions. The material of shoes can be slippery and dangerous in case of contact. Even professional dance shoes can be covered with gems to add special luxury look, but it can be dangerous if somebody accidentally steps on it. The most common injury is a tear of bridge, ankle, shin or calf caused by a high heel of another lady dancer. High heels can be very sharp during collisions and can easily cut skin as a knife. Such injuries can be deep and require medical assistance and putting in stitches.

Sliced foot scar by Stiletto heel
Female foot sliced accidentally by stiletto heel - a very common imjury that happens at dance parties
Long bloody sliced foot
High heels are sharp as knife and can be very dangerous. Such slices require stitches and usually leave scars for entire life.

So, the main rule is to watch your legs and do appropriate dance moves according to the available space. Besides, you should keep in mind your own protection and safety. So be prepared and have your eyes open. It’s better to watch other people dancing around you, predict their dance moves and perform counter actions to avoid collision. Remember, that some people can be unexperienced dancers, or can be under drugs or alcohol, so they can bump into you accidentally. Besides, some dancers think that they are the queens and kings of the ballroom and can do whatever they want and perform various aggressive and dangerous moves. It’s better to keep distance from such couples.

Linear and Spot Dances

If you have a driver license, you probably remember the feeling you had at your first driving lesson in city with instructor. The brain was overwhelmed by information: you had to read road signs, watch for pedestrians and other drivers’ maneuvers, keep the distance between you and other cars, control the speed of vehicle, use mirrors and do lots of other things. And on highways the situation is more complicated: there are more cars driving at higher speeds. However, after some time of practice you get used to it and you can even enjoy driving. In the aviation world, this is called “situational awareness.” It means knowing where all the other planes are around you, what direction they’re going and what they are likely to do next. It takes effort and practice to develop in any field, but it’s worth it.

The same situation is with floor craft. At first it may look very complicated, but after some practice you will be able to easily orientate on the dance floor, observe and understand the dance traffic. There are road regulations, and equivalent rules exist in dancing to add some clarity and definiteness to the dance traffic. All the dancers must know and follow these rules which define a special pattern how the dance couples should move relatively to each other. A good dance school explains them at dance lessons.

All dances are divided into two categories: progressive (or line) dances and spot dances. Spot dances as the name suggests are danced on a fixed area (spot) and don’t require to exit this space and move around the floor. Almost all Latin-American dances are spot dances: Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Bolero, Swing, Jive, Mambo, Salsa, Merengue. The couples usually have static position on the dance floor, so it’s easier to keep the distance and avoid collisions. Please, keep in mind, that many dances have spinning, twisting and leg kicks, so watch out if your neighbor couple decides to perform it, because in this case they can temporarily enter your dancing space.

Progressive dances contain movements that cause dancers to travel continuously and use the “line of dance” term, which represents the flow of traffic around the dance floor. Most Ballroom dances are progressive dances: English Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Samba, Paso Doble. Progressive dances are more challenging in terms of floor craft, because the distance between the couples in front of you and behind of you changes dynamically and you should try to keep it constant.

The Line of Dance (LOD)

Line of dance is imaginary line in progressive dances that shows how the traffic flows on the dance floor. The movement of all couples has counterclockwise direction. Not all movements will travel exactly along the Line of Dance: some of them can travel across it, weave in and out, or even move against it for a short period of time. But the overall movement should continue to progress in the direction of the Line of Dance. The amount of wiggle room afforded to each dancer is dependent upon many factors, including the floor size, number of dancers on the floor, the dance, and the environment (e.g. social dancing, competition, showcase, etc).

Line of dance scheme
Line of dance and scheme of the ballroom floor
As a general rule, it is best to use the sides of the room to travel. The corners give you move flexibility to turn and change direction, since everybody does the same here. Stationary figures, lines, and poses should be reserved for the center of the room, where the flow of traffic is less pronounced.
Line of dance for Waltz
Line of dance for Waltz. Not all movements will travel exactly along the Line of Dance: some of them can travel across it, weave in and out, or even move against it for a short period of time. But the overall movement should continue to progress in the direction of the Line of Dance.

Floor Craft: Men and Women

In ballroom dancing gentlemen is a leader, it’s his responsibility to choose and control the alignment and direction, as well as the floor craft. His lady partner plays second assisting role, which is also very important. She can control the situation and position of other couples behind the man, and notify him if a dangerous collision can happen. Usually it’s a body signal, such as squeezing a hand or light back-slapping with her over the neck. But lady should never take control and make decisions trying to avoid the collision by herself by adjusting the moves of her partner. It’s a very bad idea that will have even worse collision effect. A dancing couple is a tight partnership and you should completely trust your partner. Generally, all men understand the signals and can respond accordingly. In practice, that’s usually the result of both partners working together seamlessly, including the lady’s ability to follow changes in direction or steps.

Floor Craft and Ballroom Dance Competitions

We wrote about Ballroom dancing and Olympic Games. Lots of efforts are being done and it’s just a matter of time when ballroom dancing will become an Olympic sport. However, entering the Olympic list implies that certain modifications to ballroom dancing must be applied. One of them is a universal judging system where each couple is ranked individually without comparison between each other. It means that floor craft falls out of the ranking list. When there is only one couple on a dance floor, there is no floor craft. And it’s a real pity, because floor craft is one of the most exciting parts of ballroom dancing. If such approach will be final, then we doubt that professional dancers will put any training into the art of floor craft.

Floor Craft Guideline

General Recommendations

You don’t need to change your routine or planned steps if there are obstacles in your way. Making a big change is the last resort. Here’s how you deal with floor issues:

  • The first step is to address your energy level. If you were planning to move with power and a couple gets in your way, convert that energy to vertical energy. Simply move less, with smaller steps. In some cases, you can even power up to squeeze through an opening before it closes.
  • The second option is to change direction. You can often change the direction of your step to go around the obstacle. If you are starting a Whisk and Chasse and your way gets blocked, move your Chasse diagonally instead of going down the Line of Dance.
  • Your third option is to draw out your timing. Many steps can be held or stretched out for more bars of music, especially in the Standard dances. You can hold a Hesitation Change, Hover Corte, Wing or Contra Check in Waltz for more than one bar. With a Hesitation, why not do several back and forth on both sides until the obstacle is clear?
  • Your final option is to change your step pattern. You may be able to get by with simple alternatives such as doing multiple Double Reverse Spins which keep you from traveling too much but keep you moving. You can use a basic step like an Outside Change to move around the obstacle, then continue with the steps you planned to do before you were blocked. This is your last resort because it can be challenging to lead, but familiarity with the dance steps available to you can make it powerful.

Dance Floor

  • These floor craft notes are for social dancing in dance halls and small floors such as those found in restaurants.
  • The dance floor of dance halls consists of two sections; the outer travelling lanes for progressive dancing, and the inner or center-floor for spot dancing and spot patterns.
  • The dance floors in restaurants and the like, are often small dance floors that do not have room for the outer travelling lanes.
  • Floor craft skills for social dancing are different from floor craft skills when dancing in larger ballrooms.
  • Ballroom dancers should pay particular attention. Ballroom dancing is designed for ballrooms and not for small dance floors.
  • Ballroom dancing styles, especially International Ballroom styles, are not suitable for dancing in small spaces. Adapt them using the floor craft skills listed here.

Progressive (Travelling) Dances

  • Travel in two-lanes counter-clockwise around the floor. This is called the line-of-dance. Avoid frequent lane changes.
  • Use the rest of the floor, that is, the inner floor or center floor, for spot patterns, practice and alternative dances (e.g. Swing during Foxtrot, Jive during Quickstep).
  • Do not travel through the center.
  • Do not travel or step back against the line-of-dance. A couple of back steps by the leader are possible by turning and dancing in the line-of-dance. However, the leader must first check if space and traffic permit this maneuver.
  • Keep moving in the line of dance. Do not stop suddenly, practice, or do spot patterns that hold up traffic (other than quick turning patterns that finish in the line-of-dance) in the travel lanes.
  • If you feel like doing a spot pattern, move to center-floor, finish the pattern and then move back into the travel lanes (when there is an opening). See spot dancing below for spot pattern or spot dancing floor craft tips.
  • Avoid overtaking. Use rocking or other types of hesitation steps (such as Cadencia steps in Tango), and wait patiently for the travel to resume. DO NOT push or elbow your way past the blockage. When someone is stubbornly holding up traffic and overtaking is necessary to help maintain flow, move to the next lane only if there is an opening in that lane's traffic.
  • Men must protect the lady against collisions and must never place the lady in a position where she can get hurt by others.
  • Do not invade another couple's space. Do not tail-gate. Give other couples enough space to execute normal patterns.
  • Do not focus on completing a pattern if a collision can result - or if completing a pattern can result in invading someone's space. Learn to adapt patterns to what the traffic permits.

Spot Dancing

  • Unless other dancers are travelling around the floor (as in a tango cafe) - convert travelling dances to spot dances when dancing on small floors. For example, waltz using a box step.
  • Establish a dance spot and do not drift around the dance floor.
  • Do not drift into someone else's space. Especially, do not drift in behind another leader (a blind spot). This drift can lead to collisions.
  • If the orientation of dance spots/slots have already been established by other dancers, follow that orientation. West Coast Swing dancers know this well.
  • Leave enough space behind a leader to permit a cross-body lead, and for the follower to change position from one end of the slot to the other.
  • Leave enough space on each side of a leader for the follower to execute cross-body underarm turns.
  • When dancing on small floors, use a compact dance hold and steps. Use small steps, do not extend arms or throw arms or legs out to the side.
  • Do not push and weave between other dancers.
  • When entering the dance floor, first check to see if you have enough space to establish a dance spot. Do not invade someone else's space when entering the dance floor.
  • If the dance floor is full, wait until the next dance.

How to Train Floor Craft in Dubai?

Our dance studio offers various ballroom and Latin-American dance classes. We teach from basics to advanced dance movements, including floor craft. Apart from individual classes, our dance school offers group dance lessons and open practice sessions, where you can meet with other members of our dance studio and it’s a perfect opportunity to master the floor craft skill. Besides, we offer master classes that can be useful if you plan to organize a private dance party or dance event. In this case our professional dance team can come at your location and perform showcase dances and (or) give a dance master class for the participants, so that the they will learn basic dance moves and will feel themselves more comfortable during the following dance party.

Contact us now to get the actual information about dance lessons schedule, available special offers and pricing. We will be glad to meet you on the dance floor!

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