Technical Tips: Floor craft for Ballroom Dancing

Show etiquette, awareness, and confidence whilst dancing amongst others.

Here we draw a little focus on the all import art of floor craft and give some top tips for dancing with freedom on those busy ballroom dance floors.

Dance like a champion and navigate like a sea-faring captain

Part of the challenge of the very popular social dances and even some of the really busy competitions, lies with the skilful art of floor craft; that developed awareness to find your space on the dance floor, never to come into contact or intimidate another couple, and to continue the quality of your dancing using the freedom of the floor. In general the larger challenge lies with the standard ballroom dances than the Latin dances, although take a look at this little extract and Franco Formica’s and Sergey Surkov’s infamous floor craft ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhW8tTjae0k, around 1m29s). We’ll focus on floor craft in ballroom here although similar principals apply to the Latin dances.

Don’t just learn inflexible routines

From the outset it is clear if you have an inflexible group of figures in a set routine which you cannot freely deviate from, it is going to be difficult for you; you’ll need some good fortune to get around a busy floor in this way without interruption (We should probably clarify that in our quest for great floor craft, that excludes elbowing your way through the crowd!). If you have a carefully crafted routine, with it you should have the ability to adapt to different floors and other dancers. All of the top dancers have beautifully prepared choreography, but all of them have the equal ability to improvise freely and effortlessly should they need to. If your routine is set like concrete then, to start with, maybe break your routine into distinct groups of figures and if you find yourself unable to dance one group, develop the ability to switch to another group instead. More generally though, try to build in some of the floor craft skills within this routine, some of which we’ll touch on now.

Ensure the two bodies are working together

A good starting point for improving floor craft is to ensure that leader-follower relationship is a finely tuned duet, singing in perfect harmony. From the outset try to feel the bodyweights are dancing well with each other; be aware of togetherness from the moment you take the hold (See our blog discussing the hold). Maybe just stand in hold and take a walk together, ‘switch on’ to each other. What you need to achieve, is that confident feeling that if the leader deviates from a routine with sufficient clarity, you, as a couple, have the correct dancing relationship to stay together and maintain your best qualities. Ask yourself if you have sufficient togetherness, or if that is something you could develop further as you practice. The togetherness between the two of you will often determine how confidently you can dance on a busy dance floor.

Increase your dance vocabulary

Vocabulary, or your knowledge of a range of steps, within each dance will also ease your pathway to dance floor prowess. Eventually you will need to be confident with several figures turning right, left and so on. Up to a point, a developed vocabulary in the dances gives more options with what, therefore where, to dance next; its one thing seeing a space but if you haven’t any means of dancing into it, it won’t help! For social dancing, learn a few of the checking actions as they are useful – try a Chair, Contra Check, Back Check, Checked Naturals and Reverses. Equally, have a good grasp of travelling figures with stronger movement for when you have space to progress.

Know how to work your directions and angles

Finally, let’s consider some of the alignments within figures and see where we can find some floor craft improvements. Be aware of alignments within turning figures. Quite often for those figures where there is an alignment facing diagonally centre, starting leader’s left foot forward, the first step turns too much and deviates off that alignment; the Reverse Turn in Waltz, for example. It’s quite common to start turning too early whereby the figure dances to centre, rather than diagonally centre; the progression around the dance floor grinds to a halt. Test your turns to see if they really are dancing where they should be.

Don’t Spin Turn on a postage stamp, get it moving

The final top-tip for ‘direction corrections’ concerns the wonderful Spin Turn in a corner. The corners are frequently popular where the line of dance coincides and changes. Ensure the figure moves across and away from the corner. Often the Spin Turn is danced on the spot, too much under-turned for the corner, then the couple ends up reversing for a step or two against the old line of dance straight into those heading into the corner next. Don’t worry; there’s no need to fit reverse parking sensors just yet. All you have to do is spin across the corner. If you imagine a diagonal line running out of the corner, just ensure you dance into the corner on one side of that line, and then take your Spin Turn across the corner to dance out on the other side of the line.

When you next hit a busy dance floor, enjoy the challenge of dancing freely amongst the other couples. Show some etiquette, super awareness, and confidence whilst dancing amongst others. Enjoy improving your togetherness if you find your spontaneous side starts to take over but keep a check on those naughty directions.

Happy dancing!

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