A guide to Floorcraft and Etiquette
What do you think makes a great Lindy Hopper? Is it someone who does crazy moves and flashy footwork? Someone who can command the attention of the whole room? Someone who can Swing out at 240 BPM? Maybe. But when we dance, what we want is to enjoy the moment, and for our partner to enjoy it too, so often the best dancer is the person who interacts well with others on the dancefloor – their partner and the other dancers around them.
Welcome, then, to How to Cut a Rug – the Roffaswing guide to Etiquette and Floorcraft, which contains a few suggestions to make our wonderful dance scene just that tiny bit better!
1. Have you been dancing like a crazed loon all night? Has your shirt/blouse adhered itself to your skin? It probably feels a bit gross, right? Then imagine how it feels for your partner! Bring a set of dry clothes with you – or maybe two!
2. A fragrant dancer is a pleasure to dance with – don’t forget the deodorant, but be aware that not everyone may enjoy your choice of perfume.
3. Getting hot and sweaty on the dancefloor is all part of the fun (or is that just me?) but slimy hands are difficult to grip for that all important dancing connection so don’t be afraid to bring a towel to use between songs.
4. This sounds weird but if you eat it, you sweat it! So unless you want to smell like a garlic pizza or a spicy curry, have a dinner with a less obvious aroma.
5. Don’t just approach a stranger and hold out your hand to them silently – this isn’t the 18th Century! If you want to boogie, simply ask “would you like to dance?” Easy!
6. And finally, remember we are here to dance, so respect your partners boundaries – keep touching appropriate, avoid constant eye contact which can be intimidating and awkward. You can always say no to a dance offer, you never have to dance with anyone you don't want to dance with!
Learning to dance in lessons is great fun but it doesn’t prepare you for that leap to the social dancefloor. Now you are showing off those moves you perfected in class, but - Oh no! Everyone else is doing different moves! And they seem to be heading straight for you, in a head-on collision!
Having the tools to deal with this is called ‘floorcraft’, and it is a really important skill, for both leads and follows. Follow our handy guide to floorcraft, to become the guy or girl that everyone wants to dance with!
1. Leads, you’re on a crowded dancefloor - how about taking smaller steps? If you make those steps smaller, your follow will do the same, and behold! You use half the space but have twice the fun!
2. ‘Check for your nearest available exit’ – we’ve all heard this on a plane, but it holds true for Lindy too! If you want to send your follow out from a circle or swing out, check that the area is clear, and your follow won’t end up in a tangle of limbs with someone else.
3. Follows – We always tell follows, “keep your momentum” and “don’t stop unless the lead tells you to”. Well, if you have another follow hurtling in your direction, then your teacher would probably make an exception! Take a look around, be mindful of other dancers, and be ready to restrict your movement.
4. Have you seen footage of the great granddaddy of Lindy Hop, Frankie Manning? His posture was knees bent, and butt out.
Not only does this help to create a nice bouncy triplestep but your butt is a great bumper in the event of a collision!
5. Footwork – You’ve just learnt a snazzy new footwork variation, or discovered Tandem Charleston. Hooray! Bust out those new moves! But remember to look where you are stepping. Blindly kicking behind you can never end well. Step under yourself and exercise a little self-control, and there will be less bruised shins and more happy Hoppers!
6. Aerials – You just did an aerials workshop, and you know a few cool moves – the pancake, the frog jump, the 'around the world' – of course you want to show them off! But not on the social dance floor. It's unexpected and risky to both you, your partner and all those around you, who may not want to have a foot coming at them from a metre high! So let's save it for the jam circles and performances. And leads, if you're dancing with a follow who seems fun and capable of an aerial, always ask first. Nobody expects to be launched into the air in the middle of a swing out!
So what if you do kick/bump into/step on someone? It happens to even the most advanced dancers. Chances are you’ll never figure out who was at fault and really, who cares anyway?
Simply say, shout or mouth the word Sorry! or even just wave apologetically. As long as you both acknowledge that the bump took place, there should be no hard feelings. After all, we are all after the same thing – a friendly, free space to be creative and dance to the music we love. Gezellig!
Do you spot any situations that look odd, uncomfortable, awkward or suspicious to you? Talk to a friend, inform one of the organisers, volunteers or venue staff to see what can be done about it. Keep an eye out on your fellow dancers and keep the community safe.