Floorcraft in practice - 14 tips for the dance floor (Part 2)

In Part 1 you could read Zouk The World's introduction to floorcraft!


Social dancing floorcraft - dance floor survival basics (Part 1)

  • What is floorcraft
  • Floorcraft in social dancing and Brazilian zouk
  • Floorcraft from beginners to advanced dancers
  • Floorcraft - leader's or follower's job?

Now let's get to work - here are 14 practical tips to improve your floorcraft! This includes some general dance floor etiquette and basic leading & following skills - all you need to make the dance floor safe and enjoyable for everybody.

Some of the tips towards the end of the list are categorised specifically for leaders and some for followers but all are important to know no matter whether you lead or follow.

 
 

 

Leaders and followers
 

1. Make a smooth entrance

Be careful when you enter the dance floor in the middle of a song. Respect the other couple’s spaces that already occupy the floor. If the floor is very crowded then start with small moves; usually the couples around you (unless you crammed into a too small space) will give you some room and you’ll soon start to see to spots open up for you to open your dance a bit more. Note that there are certain moments when the dance floor reaches its full capacity - if the dance floor looks like it’s completely packed and you feel you can’t get a space then wait for the next song!
 

2. Be aware

The moment you step on the floor you should be aware of what’s happening around you. The point is not the start paying attention after you crash into the someone, but to avoid a crash happening in the first place. Even it’s just from the corner of your eye take a note of what is going on around you. Almost every dance floor has some dancers that don’t know about floorcraft, don’t pay attention to others or don’t know how to (or don’t want to) control their moves - be smart and stay clear from them.

Also note that you need to keep an eye on even at the space outside the dance floor if you’re at the edge of the floor. There might be someone passing you outside the dance floor!
 

3. Keep yourself together

Do you know what is the space you can claim yours? It’s the space under your bundinha (butt). Be careful when you step, lean, dip or in any way extend a part of your body outside you frame. If you find yourself often stepping on or crashing into other people, you should pay more attention to ‘your space’. One good place to start this is to see how you moving your body weight with your steps - the center of your weight should be on the center of your feet!


4. Small is beautiful

Love big moves? I love them too. But there’s a time and place for everything. Social dancing is not a competition: you don’t need to have the biggest moves of the house. Learn ways to do moves so that they require less space. Soul Zouk is a specific style of Brazilian zouk where you dance in a smaller space, but you can find minimalistic moves in all zouk styles. Take smaller steps and learn to dance in closed embrace. The basic step has endless variations and accommodates even the smallest spaces.
 

5. Best moves are the ones you know best

Favor moves and variations you’re already good at - a busy dance floor is not the place to try out the “suicide-spin-combo” you saw on Youtube the other day. If know there’s a 50-50 chance you can’t do that double spin (note: this goes for the leader and the follower!) then leave it. That might be your first and last dance with that person. At congresses it’s also tempting to test out the newly learned sequences. Be smart about when you do that. You won’t be the most popular guy or girl if you sacrifice your dance partner for the sake of a move. It’s better to practice your dance moves somewhere else than in the parties (if you really need to teach or practice a step, move off the floor).


6. Control the energy

There are more than two of levels energy you can give to your partner; it’s not just “on - off”. If you feel like your dance is growing out of proportions then you can try to tone down the energy of your leading or following. It works both ways: if you’re a leader and you give a lot of energy then usually the follower gives the same amount of energy back and vice versa. E.g. if a leader gives more energy then the follower will gain more speed and step longer. Learn to control the level of energy you give (and give back) and to recognise the level of energy you receive.
 

7. Save your show for showtime

If you thought the point of the party is to dazzle the spectators around the dance floor then you should be sign up for a competition or join a performance team.
 

8. There's a place for everything 

Keep your dance on the dance floor; the bar or the seating area is for socializing. It can be tempting to take over areas outside the dance floor when the actual floor gets packed but there should be some room for people to relax, talk, wait for a dance or just pass the dance floor. Also: standing around in the middle of the dance floor after your dance is not a good idea: move your conversation off the floor. Drinks of any kind (as well as heavy drinkers) are especially unwelcome on the floor.
 

9. Sharing is caring

At many parties you have more than one style of music and more than one dance style represented. Sometimes it can be even at the same time. Quite often in e.g. zouk and kizomba dancers mix on the same dance floor. Here you need to pay special attention: people that dance different styles take a different amount of space, move in different ways and at different speeds. Don’t make it a competition about who gets to take over the floor but give room for others!

A busy dance floor at DansaBrasil congress

A busy dance floor at DansaBrasil congress

 

Leaders
 

10. Take the lead

Leader has a lot of responsibility on the dance floor and can really make-it-or-break-it regarding floorcraft. Learn to control the speed and direction of your leads; lead with intention. If your lead is logical, pleasant and in every way easy to follow then the lady will indeed have no trouble following your every move. Make the leading a clear communication (not a one-sided monologue) with your partner. That way the follower will also trust you and can you can easily adjust the dance to the space, just as well as you can adjust it to the music, mood or level of energy (see also the “Control your energy” section above).
 

11. Be the eyes of the follower

Sadly I often see that some leaders turn their head away from the follower in spins, dips and chicotes to style the lead. You may look cool but who’s watching out for the follower? See where you are sending her.

Some zouk moves I feel the leader should be particularly careful with on crowded floors:

  • Spins and multiple turns - the lady needs to spot to keep her direction and balance, and can essentially only see her surrounding as short fuzzy flashes.
  • Bonecas, balaos, “head-movements” or tilted movements such as airplane: the follower’s head needs to follow the body and the follower cannot observe the dance space she is about the enter.
  • Cambrés and dips: the follower’s head is moving precariously at the level of people’s arms, torsos and even feet, be sure there’s space for it.
  • Chicote: the follower’s head is moving quickly so make sure no one is about to enter that space.

 

Followers
 

12. Be patient

It's important for the follower, well, to follow. This should be clear but so it's the part where the follower most often can slack on. Don’t make up your own moves or your own timing. Be patient and let the leader do “his job”. There might be a very good reason he’s not hitting that very obvious musical mark with a chicote or cambré (or whatever move you are anticipating) because there’s no space. If you’re unsure about what the leader intended, don’t try to guess it. If you don’t know that particular move yet then try to follow according to the knowledge you have so far, and do it calmly - not head first.
 

13. You are the master of your own body

Yes the guy can (and is) to blame if he uses a lot of force or leads you off your feet - but it's ok to use common sense. Resist the urge to do that one-legged spin or head styling unless you can really control your movement, your direction, speed and balance. Pay attention to your styling (arms, legs, head). Be 110% sure you have ample space, especially with any “unsolicited” head styling or "active head moves".
 

14. Eyes open, mind open

Just because you’re following doesn’t mean you need to be a the leader’s puppet, right? Pay attention to what is happening around you. It’s nice to close your eyes sink into the dance but let’s face it, the guy doesn’t have eyes on his back. In a closed position you really can see what is happening behind the leader and by simple holding the leader more firmly you can prevent the two of your hitting someone that suddenly enters the space behind the leader.
 


 

If all else fails - a.k.a. What to do in case of collisions?


So a collision happened. Let's assess the damage - does it look like somebody got hurt or did someone stop dancing?

No? A simple ‘sorry’ will usually do and there’s no harm in saying it even if you’re not sure whose fault it was.

Yes? Stop and see what happened; offer an apology and your help. If it looks like you did something wrong then make sure you adjust your dance so that it won’t happen again.