Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Joy of Tango Traffic

Warning:  This explanation of "The Joy of (Tango) Traffic" is NOT for beginners.

Because of floorcraft hand-outs that actually cause more floorcraft problems, I am submitting this floorcraft guide to my readers, hoping for comments to make it better.  Then I will present a printable handout--mostly for the shoebag of the rogue "expert" dancer at your milonga.  It will be a shorter, two-page version.

Let's use what we know about traffic.  Most everyone has some experience with driving or observing drivers.  Having said that... 
What is the most outstanding difference between auto and dancing? 

In four words:  "Tango traffic's a joy."

Los Códicos del Tráfico serve the very same purpose for autos on the road as for rules of floorcraft

for dancers on the dance floor:  To make movement from one place to another enjoyable and safe.   However, traffic on the highway tends to be a nuisance, whereas dancing with other dancers around you is a privilege and joy when you and those around you follow the conventions of floorcraft.  These guidelines are not for beginners.  Beginners get their "guidelines" from watching you!  Beginners are not the problem--advanced dancers are.  This hand-out is for “excellent dancers" who are more likely to cause injury and harm to others because they either enjoy swerving in and out of traffic and/or see tango traffic as being a nuisance.  For the truly social dancer, the dancer with honed floorcraft skills, dancing with others is a joy.

Here are some tips on how to experience the Joy of Traffic, even heavy traffic, in Tango, using what you already know from driving and what your mother told you about being nice to others:

Lack of white lines: 
In reality we dance with the entire group on the floor.  This is the joy of traffic.  Playfulness of polite dancers is the “the rule,” not rigid lane making.  Here is the problem:

People do not move very well like schools of fish nor swarms of birds once it gets crowded, which is just the opposite of birds and fish in  swarms or schools. Humans run into each other a lot on crowded highways or dance floors, but birds and fish do quite well in   swarms of birds and schools of fish.  Also, the worst rogue dancer loves the idea of no lanes.  No matter where you dance in the world there is a lot of fluidity, but watch from above in the balcony:  Lanes create themselves.  Although there are truly no lanes as there are in vehicular traffic, there are some similarities.  Even in Mecca lanes form as pilgrims pass 7 times around the Kaaba.  In a crowd of polite pilgrims, a flow creates what appears to be lanes.   Mecca is crowded, but the milonga is more complex:  We are not just single people walking in a circle but swirling couples progressing in a counterclockwise circle.  This is far more complex than pilgrims in Mecca.  Also dancers are not always "polite pilgrims."  Some milongas are total chaos as you watch from the balcony.

Nearly in every crowd, one can spot the rogue "advanced" dancer, causing all sorts of havoc on the dance floor.  Who is a "rogue dancer"?   You if you cannot go an entire night without bumping into others,  you probably very much a part of the problem.  A truly advanced and ethical dancer (with some luck) can even avoid being bumped from a rogue dancer by being aware at all times.  Among truly kind dancers, if you tell them to dance together in all different directions for the fun of it, they probably would not bump into each other out of the respect they have for each other.

Changing lanes: With an auto, changing lanes is normal, but this is not so with tango.  There are exceptions, but passing on the right is especially dangerous.  Even when changing lanes to the left, lane changing creates the second highest risk of harm to others.  Here is the challenge:  When you are so good that you can dance three milongas in a row without touching another couple, perhaps you should try changing lanes.  If your milongss a “too full” for you to pull this off, then that is a good reason not to pass!   Safe navigators who are not lane changes are truly esteemed by their partner because they feel safe in the navigator-guide’s arms.

Here comes the Rogue Dancer
in lane 1.5
Dancing between lanes and on the safety border is extremely unsafe. The safety border may be only a few centimeters. Do not dance on it between lane one and two! Leaders going between two lanes are the most dangerous dancers, only second to lane changers.

Merging into traffic: On a highway, one must get up to speed up to join the ongoing traffic. This is not possible in dancing. Instead the Navigator (most often a man) must have eye contact with the oncoming navigator and then enter.  Men are used to offering “ladies first.” This is dangerous on the dance floor. Just as with conventions of everyday etiquette, a woman does not enter and push through a revolving door for a man.  Navigators:  Be creative about making sure your partner does not jump out into traffic and get run over!

 Be aware that as you walk at the edge of the dance floor that the dancers have the right of way. Dancers often cannot see you. It’s a low moment in thoughtfulness when someone walks across the middle of the floor, unless it is the very start of the tanda before dancing starts.

Speed limit (going too slow): 
Someone driving on the Autobahn at a slow speed (or doing stunts in place] is a safety hazard. If there is a lot of room in front of you on a crowded floor, you are a safety hazard.

Speed limit (going too fast): 
The only way to speed on a crowded floor is to change lanes, and to swerve through dancers on the invisible “white line,” the safety border of others’ dancing space.  Beware: Speedsters may lose their “license” to dance at certain milongas!

Putting it in reverse: 
Step backwards on a crowded floor as much as you might shift into reverse on a highway: Rarely. Both followers and leaders dancing backwards in the direction of dance are going forwards! However, the leader must be very aware that the flow of dance is making room for him because it still is a dangerous blinded-side step for a leader.

 The dance floor is not a parking lot; it is a wooden highway. A song is usually about 3 minutes. Why park-and-chat 1/3 of a song away? Rent a room and chat there! At the end of the tanda leave the floor at the cortina!  Others are trying to catch the eyes of those sitting across the room. Reenter when the music starts.   Also, please do not stand on the edge of the dance floor to chat.  Parking is generally done in a chair to keep your voice farther away from standing/moving dancers.

Wheelies and stunts:
 As a rule of safety ganchos, boleos or large movements on a crowded dance floor are dangerous. When no one is near you or on a sparsely crowed floor "stunts and wheelies" are okay. Warning: Some Tango Fundamentalists will insist never at their milonga. So be aware.

Have fun in traffic!

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