Floorcraft 101: The Classic Advice
Floorcraft 101 – Classic Advice. First, in case you’re just coming to the party, “Floorcraft” is wide and vast topic that requires a lot of explaining. Tango Floorcraft comprises many areas that all co-combine to create the idea of Floorcraft. It’s not just one thing, but many. In it’s simplest form, one might imagine that it’s simply about Vocabulary via the Lead or Follower (adornments or embellishments). While it’s true that Floorcraft does contain a very large component of Vocabulary, Floorcraft is bigger than that. It also comprises Musical Interpretation with regards to Vocabulary. Meaning that one must master walking on beat, to the pauses, within the musical phrases at bare minimum. It also comprises Line of Dance/Lane of Dance issues, concerns, and solutions. It also contains Vocabulary to Space modifications as well as Vocabulary to Partner modifications. Meaning ? That the Lead and the Follower must modify to fit in what they can do with each other given their skillsets. Then there’s Vocabulary to Space to Partner to Time modifications which is basically fitting what you want to do with the available partner into the available time and in the available space that you have against the Musical components. If all that sounds complex, that’s because it is. What’s worse is that you have to make all of these choices in a nano-second and be ready to execute to complete the task and stay in the line and lane of dance behind the couple ahead of you. That is…in a nutshell, Tango Floorcraft at the 50,000-foot level. It’s a lot bigger than that. Because writing about it, and talking about it vs. actually doing it is a whole other animal!
What’s the Classic Advice ? Before we get to that, there’s a bit of set up: Let’s assume for the moment that you’re dancing along in your Lane of Dance, and the next couple ahead of you seemingly pulls ahead and creates a bit of space between you and them. As a few more notes go by, the gap that opens up and becomes wider, and then wider.
Now we get to the advice that is typically given to Leads: Fill the gap between couples as fast as possible. More appropriately move up with your partner as fast as possible to just behind the couple ahead of you thereby filling the gap that occurred. The couple behind you should do the same, and the couple behind them, and behind them….and so on, until the Lane of Dance no longer has a gap.
Not to put too fine a point on this one but….
Ha. Ha. Ha. As IF… (clearing throat) Ahem….
Sooooo not going happen.
Which is to say that the Classic Advice has a few fatal flaws in it. Most notably is that most Leads don’t follow it, hardly if ever. Which also assumes that they’ve heard said advice in the first place. One good reason why they don’t hear it, is that it’s taught in passing on the way to the flashy cool move that they’re in class to learn. So they’ll hear it but it’s padded in between other things like doing 75 different Sacadas in under 2 minutes. 🙁 Still another reason why they don’t adhere to that advice, is because they’re too busy “Interpreting The Music” or trying to figure out what to do next (see: Seven Argentine Starters, and then Three Leading Exercises), or fixing their embrace, or … or …. any of a dozen other things that are currently flowing through their leading minds.
The Issue. The Classic Floorcraft Advice only addresses the after effect of a gap, but does nothing to redress the root problem of what generated the gap in the first place. Today’s Practical Tango Advice gives you one of two tools which must be used in concert with each other which allows you to address a substantial piece of the root problem. Not all of the root problem but a massive piece of it.
The question you should be asking yourself is, “What’s the root problem ?“. You’d think, given the topic that it’s about the gap. Nope. Look at a little deeper and you’ll discover a much bigger problem. Why did the gap occur in the first place ? Was it because your awareness slipped and you stopped moving ? Or was it due to the fact that your vocabulary choices don’t fit ? Answer: Your vocabulary choices don’t fit the room, the dancing partner, and or the space you’re in.
The Solution: Put simply, to solve the root problem the answer lay in the old adage – “Less Is More“. Meaning ? That ideally, as a Lead, and some what as a Follower, you want to limit your vocabulary choices down to 4 things.
Four things ? What four things ? What does that mean ????
Hold your horses. Before you lose your proverbial mind. No one is saying that you can’t do X anymore….more than likely you’ll want to cut down on the frequency that you generate X, but the fact is X needs to be executed less frequently.
The Four Things: 1.) Walking. 2.) Ochos. 3.) Turns. 4.) Crosses.
That doesn’t sound like a lot.
And that’s where you’re not seeing that you have a wide variety in those four things.
Number One has the 6 Ways of Walking and more variations than you’re currently thinking of (See below).
Number Two has Eight Types of Ochos, with oodles of variation in between. Truthfully though you’re going to want to limit those Ocho choices down to about 3 of the 8 for a wide variety of reasons.
Number Three has Nine Types of Turn possibilities…upto and including Media Lunas, the Ocho Cortado and its variations, as well as the Milonguero Turn and the Milonguero Turn Trick!
Number Four there are Two-Hundred and Fifty-Six possible Argentine Crosses, and a host of Other types of Crosses – Floating, Rotating, Languid, Linear…just to name a few.
And we haven’t even addressed a possible series of Incrementals, or even Cross Body Incrementals, nor Argentine Patter, which are included in first idea of walking. Nor have we addressed that if you wanted to co-combine the Four ideas, you could do so to create the Golden Nugget of Tango and its many, many, many variations. Nor is it including that we have access to the Golden Nugget Extensions as well!
You could, quite conceivably, dance all night long and never once invoke a Parada, Pasada, Sacada, Volcada, Colgada, Gancho, or Boleo. Not once. All of those things take up space, lots of space (sometimes, assuming they’re not the ‘social’ variety), not to mention that they also hold up the line of dance when executed without a care for who’s behind you in the line of dance. Especially the Gancho and Boleos.
You’re going to ask yourself, where’s the fun in not dancing any of that ? The fun isn’t in dancing it, it’s using those things very sparingly so that they act as surprise, or accent, not the entire meal of your dancing abilities! Simple is the key, simple is the answer.
The Follower’s Side of the Equation from your perspective, you would think that you have absolutely zero control over this stuff. Not true. The more that we, as Followers, approach becoming Active Followers (assuming that we’ve dutifully passed through the ranks of being a Passive Follower, which is not a bad thing by the way…it’s actually a rite of passage), we start to have ideas about how we can make things better. One of them starts by paying attention to what’s going on around you. That means, sadly for some of you reading this, that you’re going to have to….eeek! here it comes: Open Your Effing Eyes!!!!!! And watch what’s going on around you! Yes, we know that for some of you get dizzy. Yes, we know that some of you get distracted. Yes, we know that some of you close your eyes so that you can better focus on your lead (the action, not the person). Some of you close your eyes so that you can ‘feeeeeeel’ the emotion of the music. Some of you close your eyes because you don’t realize that doing so, you lose your stability, continually, and use your lead for equilibrium with your arms, hands, and a compressive (if not, hanging) embrace. Yes, we know that some of you will vehemently (if not violently) disagree with this bit of advice because of this or that. It does not matter what you believe: YES, you must open your eyes and watch what is going on. It’s kinda important that you do. Why ? Well aside from the obvious benefit in your stability that it gives you, it also gives you the opportunity that when a gap opens up between your Lead and the next couple, that you have a choice here. And that’s not to engage in adornments OR embellishments, as well as … and here’s the Active Follower bit: Redirecting your Lead (the person, not the action) a bit so that they must fill that gap. You see ? You do have a role here, and it’s to act as a reminder to the Lead to get their collective act together and to stop pussyfooting around and to get you (the couple) back into the Line of Dance…ASAP!
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The Lead’s Side of the Equation from your perspective, there are several solutions above in terms of vocabulary, but the end result is to drop it all and keep things simple. Insanely simple.
Why do this ? The easiest answer that we can hand you is to until you can consistently generate a line and lane of dance that does not generate gaps between yourself and the next couple, you’re going to continually create a navigational problem. That’s why. So while the suggestions contained in this Practical Tango Advice on Floorcraft 1o1 sound simple, doing them on the other hand…is where the rubber meets the road, where the chaff gets separated from the wheat. That’s the bottom line. Right now you are generating the problem. We know you don’t want to hear that. We don’t want to say it. But that’s the bare fact. Don’t think that’s true ? Here’s a little test that you can do for yourself, at your next Milonga or Practica, try this:
Do whatever you want following the line and lane of dance, and keeping time with the music. And pay attention to the gap between yourself and the next couple ahead of you and behind you. Every time you lead anything other than Walking, Milonguero Ochos, a full Milonguero Turn, or an Argentine Cross watch what happens to the spacing between couples. We’re willing to bet all that fancy vocabulary will slow down the line of dance. As a direct result of that tiny stop, the couples behind you will be forced to turn, turn, turn, again and again and again until you move down the line of dance, so that they can move down the line of dance.
Imagine what would happen if the line of dance didn’t have to turn continually, can you imagine that ?
Mind you this is only 1 of 2 tools to resolving the problem of closing the gap in the line of dance.
The second tool is contained in Floorcraft 102 – The Incomplete Turn!
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