Contributed by Jason Sager, Swing Dancer and Instructor
Floorcraft is the general term for the skills and awareness to navigate a dance floor without kicking, hitting, bumping, or otherwise damaging yourself, your partner, and the people dancing around you. In a crowded dance floor where everyone is paying attention and willing to adjust their dancing to the space available, it can make for a fun, safe, and beautiful ballet of cooperative dancing and creative use of space.
Dance is a contact sport and occasional bumps will happen. Every one of us already develops the skills for collision avoidance via walking, driving, and other shared movement activities. While there are no traffic lights on the dance floor, the same rules, awareness, and courtesy that keep us from colliding on the road, can help us avoid dance floor collisions. And note that even without traffic lights, traffic in other parts of the world still manages to find a way to work together.
Hint: The take away here is that you should be able to dodge speeding mopeds on the dance floor.
Applying a few common sense and common courtesy principles can go a long way towards making and keeping our dance floors as a safe and accessible space.
- Be aware of the space anytime you step on the dance floor. Whether you are walking out to dance with someone, or just walking around the edge of the floor to get water, remain aware of the dance going on around you. As with crossing the street, look both ways and don't assume that traffic won't appear just because it wasn't there before.
- Watch where you AND your partner are going. Both Leaders and Followers share the responsibility for creating a fun and safe dance environment. A quick squeeze of the hand, an "OH NO" facial expression, or saying "Look out" are just a few ways you can signal your partner to avoid a collision. There is just too much happening on a dance floor to say "you can just look out for yourself."
- Be willing and prepared to end a movement if an obstacle appears. If you are walking down a hallway and someone steps out of a door in front of you, would you just continue run into them? In walking, we are willing to stop or change course or do the awkward "who's going which way" bit to navigate and share space with our fellow human beings. The rules for that also apply on the dance floor.
- Be aware of your limbs. Flinging your arms or legs wide drastically increases the amount of space you take up on the dance floor. If you have the space for it, it can be lots of fun to dance really big and crazy. But if the dance floor resembles a sardine can, then treat it like an amusement park ride and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
- Stop and check if you run into someone. It's not necessary to dead stop your dancing, but if you run into someone, at least turn your head and make sure they are ok. If they are, you're free to go on dancing. If they're not, please have the courtesy to stop and help them out however they need (helping them off the floor, getting ice, etc.). Offering help in these situations goes a long way towards helping you and the dance scene continue to feel friendly and caring.
- Occasionally people will want to do travelling dances like waltz or foxtrot to a swing tune. In these cases, the right of way for travelling dancers is to progress counter-clockwise around the edge of the floor. As with other situations, everyone should work to share the floor and negotiate the space with dancers as they pass.
In essence, treat the dance floor much like you would any crowded assembly or motorway. Respect the right of people around you to use the space too and when if/when you run into someone, at least acknowledge their presence, check that everyone is ok, and then move on. If we share the dance floor, we can all continue enjoying the dances.