Monday, 26 July 2010

Floorcraft: exiting the kill zone

Ghost has been doing some more floorcraft experiments, because he cares a lot about keeping his followers safe and wants to figure out how to do it successfully in London - what works? If you've ever tried it, you'll know that it's not obvious, especially if you either don't have much experience at all or you don't have much experience of how it works anywhere else.

First, swordcraft, or a martial-arts perspective on keeping your distance:

The answer is if you're holding a 41" sword (the unfortunately-named hand and a half or b******* sword) in your right hand (bearing in mind the follower restricts how high you can lift you arm with her embrace) the leader in front of you should be *just* outside the range where you could hit him without taking a step. ie about 5 feet .... Just to clarify, 5 feet from leader to leader not 5 feet between couples. I reckon the woman takes up about 2 feet ...
And secondly, why it's a good idea to use the corners and hug the side, and how to do these things successfully so that someone tailgating you stops being a problem - or at any rate, stops being your problem:

When you come to a corner, go right into it. You're safe there. Now for the Killbox - as you exit the corner, that's when you're vulnerable. ... Fortunately even in close embrace you'll always be able to see to your left.
Both posts have drawings to explain why these things work, so definitely look if you like to learn visually. 

Many people whose social dancing I respect a lot, give similar advice (if in metres or paces rather than feet or swords-lengths), so there's good reason to expect it to work. Also, I've tested some it myself in a class where I was required to lead, and I managed not to have any bumps, so it works pretty well even with minimal leading skills.

But the more people do it, and know how to do it, the more effective this stuff gets.

17 comments:

David Bailey said...

At negracha's on Friday, I was paying particular attention to the killbox concept.

Upstairs, it worked perfectly; I managed to mostly dance without worry, and zero collisions.

Downstairs, not so much - but that was mainly because it was downstairs. And if a couple will insist on dancing salsa in the corner, you're always going to have issues dodging them...

ghost said...

"Upstairs, it worked perfectly; I managed to mostly dance without worry, and zero collisions."
Cool.

"Downstairs, not so much"
Just checking, were you taking into account that odd shape of downstairs creates something like 10 corners with corresponding killboxes rather than the standard 4?

And yes, Salsa couples in the corner :rolleyes:

David Bailey said...

Downstairs, it was probably also the fact that I was messing around a few times which made it difficult; plus, for some reason (God only knows why considering the DJ) is was quite crowded.

Captain Jep said...

Really? I've had a problem in the past with the corner where the bar is. It feels odd to corner there and then dance alongside the bar. Most people cut the corner. This then leads to the usual problems..

msHedgehog said...

It sounds like the best option might be to do it anyway. Having a bar directly on the dancefloor with no division always causes problems, perhaps exactly for that reason, that it makes it feel odd to do the safer thing.

ghost said...

@Captain Jep

Yeah, MsH and, I think, Andreas and Simba have commented in the past on what a difference layout can make to floorcraft. Downstairs is a good example of what not to do :( Especially as you say the corner where you've got two sofas, the run-up to the DJ booth and the bar creating a weird mess of corners.

Yuck.

I still find it's doable, but it takes a bit of practice to get used to knowing where the safe zones and the kill boxes are because there's so many clumped together in that area. Compounded, as you say, by lots of people cutting the corners.

Kinda reminds me of those fun movie scenes where they have to navigate the corridors of flaming / scything death traps. "Wait...wait...wait... ok, GO!"

AmpsterTango said...

Is dancing in London really that rough?

msHedgehog said...

@Ampster: yes. There are good dancers. There's just such a lot of cluelessness overall that people don't see anything to imitate or fit in with, so people who have half-decent technique or musicality or embrace and WANT to dance well, get stuck and never get to put it all together. And people who don't have any of those things can't learn what good dancing actually is. That's my analysis anyway. Ghost is engaged in a clue-sharing project.

ghost said...

@Ampster

I've been touched twice in the last week in milongas. Thankfully I and my partner were relaxed and moving circularly so there was no harm done.

Collision No 1 (crowded venue)
The guy was zig-zaging from the middle of the floor to the outside edge and back again against the line of dance.

Collision No 2 (quiet venue)
The guy who was on the outside edge of the opposite side of the room walked diagonally backwards across the room (so starting in Lod and then obviously going against it as he crossed the centre of the room)until he finally reached us.

As I say no harm done, and I refuse to try and come up with contingencies for that degree of insanity, because at that point I think you just have to give up.

So yes, London is that bad at the moment. But I'm hopeful :o)

Game Cat said...

Ampster: From personal observation in London, floor craft on average best at Corrientes and Light Temple, and most challenging at Negracha and Crypt. Carablanca and Dome are in between.

I think it is due partly to venue configuration but mainly to average level of leaders, and that varies for any number of reasons. E.g. last night most people were at some big party/ demo at Cara which was open later than usual - so Grach was half as full normally and had on average more experienced dancers.

This is all IMHO - interested to hear what other Londoners perceive.

msHedgehog said...

There isn't really a big enough difference between one milonga and another with respect to an orderly floor, that people will desert one and go to another for that reason. It's always outweighed by the DJing or whatever.

Chris, UK said...

"When you come to a corner, go right into it. You're safe there. Now for the Killbox - as you exit the corner, that's when you're vulnerable."

It tragic how so many London beginners like this have no clue as to the fundamantal principle of floorcraft - the thing that makes it all work... in other places. It is not about the relationship with space - it is about the relationship with the other dancers. The ronda is created not by couples trying to make a circular path through the space, but by each couple following the one in front. Issues such as this "killzone" just don't exist. Space features such as corners are irrelevent. This is what makes the flow, the pista. And it is so much easier for every guy because he has just one direction to consider. His concern is the one direction he should go, not all the different directions he should NOT go and from which he must defend his girls from attack from clueless guys in Brownian motion.

Talking to these struggling guys, I find that none of them learned to dance by following, all having learned in show-and-tell classes, so no surprise the idea they should be following the next guy is an alien concept to them. It is alarming to see how hostlie they are to the suggestion. One told me "That's ridiculous - leading and following are opposites, it is not possible for a man to do both at the same time." Another crippling misunderstanding born and bred in our fake dance classes....

Chris, UK said...

"floor craft on average best at Corrientes and Light Temple, and most challenging at Negracha and Crypt. Carablanca and Dome are in between.

I think it is due partly to venue configuration but mainly to average level of leaders"


I think what you report there is much more due to variation in floor density. E.g. a half-empty such as Corrientes suffers less from bad-floorcraft dancing just because there are fewer bad dancers in proximity.

ghost said...

@Gamecat - It'd be interesting to see if there's any correlation between consistency of the density of dancers and floorcraft eg Negracha gets progressively more and more packed as the night goes on. Whereas once TSL gets going, it stays at roughly the same density and I'd say has significantly better floorcraft.

I wonder if just having one kind of density all night long lets you settle in to dancing a certain way and get used to how the floor works as a whole, whereas changes complicate matters?

Game Cat said...

Hi Ghost - Just from limited observation of the milongas I've been to, I'd say that density (and variation of density over time) does not correlate strongly with floor craft quality.

Good conscientious dancers adapt, instinctively and immediately. They also don't get on the floor if it's too crowded, nor do they suddenly do wilder and more stupid things just because the floor clears a bit (though they may loosen up a bit).

Sometimes even the worst floor craft happens after the crowd thins out.

That said, I don't think the best dancing necessarily happens when it's crowded. Videos of portenos moving well in a packed milonga just mean that they can do it, it doesn't necessarily mean they prefer it. But this is just speculation based on brief anecdotes.

ghost said...

@ Gamecat

"Sometimes even the worst floor craft happens after the crowd thins out." - this is something I was wondering about particularly having seen it happen twice recently and got me wondering about the changes in density.

I agree the good dancers adapt. So I wonder if the effect of changing the density on is related to the average level of leader's floorcraft as you suggested?

What I noticed both times when it cleared out was that a lot of people suddenly felt the need to "fill the space". They went from dancing sensibly to um, less so.

So lots of good leaders = no problem.

But the more leaders with poor floorcraft the more a problem changing the density of the floor becomes?

Chris, UK said...

GameCat said:

Videos of portenos moving well in a packed milonga just mean that they can do it, it doesn't necessarily mean they prefer it.

What it does mean is they prefer a packed milonga to a half-empty one.