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Tango Floorcraft: How to dance when your limited space is the size of a tabletop

(Ricardo Viqueira y Fish - 2011 Seoul Tango Festival)


It was as quick as lightening and by some miracle, left my foot unscathed. While extending my leg and foot behind me, the follower closest to me was led into the rock step, extending her foot backwards and rebounding forward again.  The golden spike of her dazzling Comme Il Faut shoe slipped down between the sole of my foot and the arch of my shoe before somehow extracting itself almost immediately.


Some may wonder how it is that with so many couples on a dance floor (and almost 50 % of these people wearing potentially dangerous high heels), there are not more collisions, splayed legs or blood on the dance floor. Well, floorcraft is one of the key lessons that a tanguero must learn for both leading and following. It has as much to do with skill as with attitude.


In essence, floorcraft requires an observation and awareness of other couples on the dance floor and is the choices of step and direction that you make during your dance. Followers and leaders have different requirements to successfully navigate a crowded dance space and there are plenty of websites that offer lists of rules to follow. As dancers will agree, these rules are not for the sake of being pendantic. They are there to ensure a safe and enjoying evening on a crowded dancefloor, stemming from respect for others and respect for the dance.


Leaders: You need to imagine you are driving a car. You stick to your lane, you remain aware of all others drivers on the road, what the car is doing behind you and whether the car in front is going to put its brakes on. You avoid tailgating and avoid dangerous manuovers like pulling out into the other lane and reckless overtaking. Remember all these and you are well on the way to being a respectful dancer at a crowded milonga.


Followers: If you're wearing heels, you need to be aware of the amount of people on the dance floor. Taking a bigger step backwards than required may lead to a large gouge out of a leader's leg. And keeping your heels on the floor during sweeps and boleos will lessen the chance of your heel coming into contact with someone else's leg.  Many followers enjoy dancing with their eyes closed but sometimes the leader may appreciate you being the eyes behind him incase there is a reckless dancer on the floor.  Simply applying a slight pressure to the back of the leader can indicate 'beware!' and assist them in avoiding a collision.


As you sit back sipping your malbec and watching the milonga, you will notice that all dancers move in an anti clockwise direction (referred to here as the current). Sometimes you will notice two 'lanes' of dancing - an outside lane and an inside lane. While sometimes the couple will turn around, the leader always faces the direction of the current and the follower dances backwards in the flow. Bumping into people is to be expected on a crowded dance floor, and most people are apologetic, immediately making eye contact and nodding or smiling in apology.


While there are plenty of flashy and complicated moves that are part of the tango vocabulary, any dancer will tell you that some of their most memorable and 'connected' dances will be when someone puts more emphasis on the connection rather than the moves. And this does not require much more space than a table.


Don't believe me? Well, back in May 2011, Seoul hosted a week long Tango Festival and this performance was given at the Farewell Milonga. Ricardo Viqueira hails from Buenos Aires and in this performance, shows why he is one of the masters of tango. Details on why they were challenged to perform on a table are sketchy but it goes to show that the beauty of tango can also lie in the simplicity of movements and the interpretation of music within such a small space.




2011 Seoul Tango Week Farewell Milonga - Ricardo Viqueira y Fish


Interested to read more on floorcraft? Check out these pages:








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