I have recently returned from adjudicating at the Shenzhen China Open and the WDC World Cup, a fantastic event attracting 2000 competitors from China and great support from overseas couples — many of them featuring in the recent Blackpool finals.
However, apart from the elite amateurs and professional couples present, the floor craft from the majority was quite frightening considering they were blessed with a large floor.
It is quite obvious to me that fixed routines with couples placing their choreography in exactly the same place every round, the complex selection of figures, plus an attitude by the competitors that the adjudicators expect everyone to be moving at maximum speed and circumnavigating the floor as many times as possible are I believe to be the main reasons for bad collisions and the lack of respect to ones fellow competitors not to mention the poor adjudicators standing on the perimeter of the floor.
Furthermore I wonder if the coaches are approaching the subject in lessons. Surely it is part of sensible coaching to point out to the students how important this aspect of competitive dancing is. Personally I always tried to include and impress on couples the importance of a sound knowledge of the basic and standard figures in each dance so that they could be attractively included to change direction and seek alternative space to continue ones chosen and rehearsed choreography. It certainly does not help the performance of a couple or their immediate rivals if they keep colliding on the floor, sometimes with considerable force. The adjudicators are more impressed to see first class floor craft when accessing a couples competitive performance. This is a quality that must be addressed before someone is badly hurt.
Therefore what are the essential ingredients for creating good floorcraft?
1) Good eyesight.
2) A reasonable knowledge of the basic and standard figures.
3) A good weight connection enabling the lady to react to your directional preferences, this maybe a sudden change of direction or perhaps a hover action to avoid the possible collision. Danced correctly will not detract from a fine performance or musicality.
4) The art of hesitation. To hesitate when avoiding another couple, use these moments to listen to the music before you set off in your new direction. Perfect these attributes and you will naturally commence in phrase with the music.
5) The ability to anticipate other couples direction of movement on the floor and to find alternative space in which to continue with the next desired figure.
6) Understand what is meant by the term line of dance. L.O.D is an imaginary line with the wall always on the man s right side. Generally we should travel in an anticlockwise direction although there are some acceptable exceptions.
7) The qualities listed above should be uppermost in ones mind even when practicing at your local school or club, even in lessons when other teachers and couples are sharing the floor.
Perhaps todays competitors are at ad disadvantage in that they do not have the opportunity of practicing in public dance halls where social and competitive dancers shared the floor and usually enjoying music provided by one or two live orchestras. These conditions certainly made one aware of the importance of being polite on the floor.
I would love to think that todays younger coaches take on board the above as a priority in their teaching methods. For sure you will produce a better class of competitor if you do.
One last thought: when Fay and I were amateurs and practicing at my parents studio, my father used to slide chairs at us so we could develop the art of floor craft. Believe me it was worth the effort.