This is a special guest post by Beth Knoll, US Professional Ballroom Champion
Sooo….what exactly is floorcraft? Simply put, it’s managing the space on the dance floor so that you
a) don’t bump into anyone,
b) don’t make anyone bump into you and/or
c) have lots of space around you to dance.
Sounds like a job for the gentleman (leader), RIGHT?
The lady (follower) plays a very important role in successful floorcraft, or as I prefer to call it, floor management.
Although I could probably talk about floor management until the cows come home, in this article I’ll boil it down to a few simple contributions we followers can make.
1. Keep your eyes open!
OK. Finished. Now go take your lesson. Just kidding…
Seriously, this is KEY. Followers are usually wrapped up in trying to remember their routine, follow, smile, follow, stand up straight, follow, hold their arms up, follow, get correct footwork, follow….well, you get the idea. All of those are important, but equally crucial is being an active, independent participating part of the partnership. And that means being aware of what’s going on around you.
Yes, the leader will direct the partnership.Yes, the leader will make the ultimate decision. But he needs help, especially for things behind him. Contrary to popular belief, teachers do NOT have eyes in the backs of their heads. Sorry to dispel the illusion.
So the follower should keep her eyes open, be aware of what’s going on around the entire floor, and be able to anticipate a situation. You do it when you drive…now practice it when you dance.
2. Be available for changes in direction, omissions from or additions to the choreography, stopping, etc.
If you are aware, these “spur of the moment” decisions won’t take you by surprise. Be flexible. Be responsive. Know your routine (if you have one), but also let your teacher deviate from the routine if necessary.
No one WANTS to change their choreography, but sometimes it’s absolutely vital. In one year of heavy competing, you should be able to count on the fingers of one hand, and have fingers left over, how many times you were able to dance your routines through without modification for floor management. It happens.
3. Be prepared.
Go over with your teacher some of the steps he likes to use in a floor management situation. Not every situation will be the same, but you will get used to doing some different things and not be thrown off your game when a change happens.
4. Be light and responsive.
If you are accustomed to gripping your teacher’s arm or hand very tightly, then you will be less malleable when a change needs to occur. Granted, this is more directed at Smooth and Ballroom because we are in dance position progressing around the dance floor more often than we are in Rhythm and Latin, but this applies no matter what style or level you are dancing.
If your teacher needs a little “warning squeeze” that something is happening outside his field of vision, then if you are already gripping too tightly, he won’t feel your warning! Be more responsible for your own frame and weight so that modifications can happen successfully.
Finally, I’ll repeat this very important piece of advice, because it can’t be repeated often enough:
You are just as responsible for floor management as your teacher/leader is. Play your role accordingly and appropriately. You will reap multiple rewards, not the least of which is your teacher’s eternal gratitude!