What is Argentine Tango...?
First of all, Argentine Tango is NOT a "ballroom" dance. Ballroom dances tend to be focused on the audience, performing choreographed patterns, while Argentine Tango is improvised, with every step being a spontaneious, creative discovery, and with the partners focused on each other and on the music. Ballroom dances tend to be geared towards competition, building skills through learning pre-defined step patterns, aiming to reach certification levels (silver, gold, etc.).
But Argentine Tango is almost exclusively a social dance, with each partner focused on enjoying themselves and giving pleasure and enjoyment to their partners. A key feature is that it is not choreographed in a social setting. Every step is led and followed. After any given step, the leader can lead any one of 6 or more steps. See Flexibility and Lead Follow Connection below for more information.
Origins:There is a lot of disagreement today about some details of the origins of Argentine Tango. However it is generally agreed that it originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina from the late 1800's through the early 1900's. At that time in Argentina there were many thousands of immigrants who had been lured to Argentina with the promise of jobs in the cattle and lumber industries. These immigrants, Italian, Portuguese, Slavic, and Western European, mixed with populations of black slaves, South American indigenous people, Spanish people from the early conquest, and people from other South American and Caribbean countries. And everyone brought with them their cultural history, their music and their dance. The resulting melting pot created what we know today as Argentine Tango.
Stigma:In the early years, the Tango was only danced in the poor sections of the city, in the Orillero, the "outskirts", and in the dock and industrial areas. The popular legend is that it was "the" dance in the bordellos in the "red light" districts. This association with the lower classes and the slave populations created a stigma on the dance, and the upper classes of Argentine society shunned and spurned the dance as being vulgar and obscene. This was understandable. Tango then and now is indeed a sensuous and passionate dance, with an intimate embrace and connection between the partners that is unacceptable to more Puritan sensibilities.
1920's:But in the 1920's, Tango was "discovered" by wealthy European travelers, and when they took the dance back to Paris, it became the rage of the Roaring 20's. As more Europeans came to Argentina to learn the dance, the economic potential was appreciated, and established Argentine society finally began to accept the dance, and to develop and teach it.
1930's - 1950's:The "Golden Age" of tango was the period from the 1930's to the 1950's. This was a time of incredible output and evolution of the dance and it's music. The music that was composed in that period, and the orquestas that performed and recorded it, are still the mainstay of tango dancing. Even today, at Argentina milongas you will only occasionally hear music that is not from this period.
1960's:In the 1960's, however, Tango popularity declined in Argentina. The military dictatorship had imposed curfews and restrictions on "gatherings," intending to stifle political unrest, but with the result that many dance venues were shut down or forced "underground." On the world scene, the rise of American and British rock and roll stole the attention of young Argentines, and Tango was relegated to a position as a curious pastime of the older generation.
1980's:But in the 1980's, the worldwide popularity of the Broadway shows "Tango Argentino" and "Forever Tango" re-ignited interest in this beautiful and passionate dance. Tango dancing and instruction spread throughout Europe and the United States. Travelers went to Argentina to study and learn in the "homeland," and the wave of popularity has been growing ever since.
Today:The situation today is again one of great change. New dance philosophies and styles are being created and developed. New ways of analyzing old steps, and incorporation of new steps and movements from modern dance forms as diverse as Swing and Contact Improvisation are creating a period of rapid evolution. As always in such times, there is much disagreement and often passionate contention over terminology and whether these new principles are true enough to the historical base to even be appropriately called "Argentine Tango." In addition, new tango music and the practice of dancing tango steps to other musical forms is popular in many venues but again is often disparaged by those with more traditional philosophies. Only the perspective of history, looking back from some future date, will be able to sort it out.
My personal opinion is that the connection between the partners is the key, and as long as that remains the focus, then you're still dancing Tango.
FlexibilityUnlike most other dance styles, Tango has no fixed rules for tempo or steps. At every beat of the music, the leader has the option to lead the follower to step in any one of several directions (forward, back, side, front-cross, back-cross, weight-change in place, boleo, gancho, etc.), or even to Not step, i.e. to pause. The ability - if not the expectation - to add pauses and tempo changes to accompany the music is a key element making Tango what it is - a dance of infinite variety: no two dances are ever the same. Just as every partner, every song, every night, is different, the dance that results when these unique elements are brought together for this one moment in eternity is itself unique and can never be repeated.
Source:As mentioned above, much of the Tango music that is played in most milongas was composed in the early part of the 20th century. At this time in the history of Argentina, the largely male immigrant population of BsAs was yearning for their far-away families and homelands. Their music is filled with the emotion of their loneliness and loss .The plaintive character of the bandoneon became the perfect "sound" to express these sentiments of loss. Yet some music, even from those early years, is upbeat and bright, showing an indomitable spirit among the immigrant cultures that were building a life in the new world.
Musical forms:There are three music forms in tango: "Tango," "Milonga," and "Valz." Tango is the most recognizable form, with 2/2, 2/4, or 4/4 time signature. Milonga has similar time signatures, but is faster. In Milonga, the dancers traditionally step once on every beat, without the pauses common in Tango and Valz (though, as in everything, there are always exceptions, but stepping on every beat is the general rule for Milonga.) The cadence of Milonga is also unique (though it's difficult to describe the character in words), leading to certain step patterns being more appropriate and workable. Valz is "waltz" with a "V". Like waltz, Valz is 3/4 time signature, and has a lilting, flowing character that is different than Tango, which tends to be more thrusting and more dramatic.
Tempo changes:Another characteristic of the music is that it's tempo is not always regular. Tempo changes are common, and sometimes there are passages where the "beat" is suspended or imperceptible. While this can make some music challenging to dance to, it also gives the dancers wide latitude in using pauses and rhythm changes to interpret the emotional content that they feel from the music and from their personal moment of reality with this partner, on this dancefloor, in this embrace. Pugliese and Piazzolla are good examples of composers of this type of music. Piazzolla has such dramatic tempo changes that much of his music is considered undancable in normal social dances.
What is so Great about it?
I once talked to a young woman who was new to Tango. She said she was adventuring into this unknown territory because of the impact of her first experience seeing Argentine Tango. It was at a New Year's Eve celebration, and she had been surprised and confused by what she saw. The dancers were dancing as midnight approached, and though there was some announcement of the impending zero hour, the dancers just continued dancing. When midnight arrived, the music was stopped for a few seconds of token revelry, but then, almost immediately, everyone went back to dancing. She could not understand how a dance could be so enticing as to supersede the traditional, centuries-old celebration of the New Year. But, like anyone who has danced Tango for any length of time, I just smiled and nodded with understanding, shrugging at my inablility to adequately explain. I told her she would just have to try it for herself.
However, given this larger space for a more detailed description, I'll try here to explain:
Every Step is Led:Social Tango is not choreographed. Every component of every step - timing, speed, and direction - is led. This requires the follower to be paying full attention every moment to the various, sometimes very subtle, body movements that constitute the leader's signals to her. She must suspend all anticipation, expectation, and analysis. She must be balanced and poised, waiting, waiting, waiting to respond to his lead.
The Leader Follows:But the lead-follow dynamic is not one-directional. The leader too must listen and wait for his follower to respond. The leader does not step until the follower has begun to step, until she has committed her momentum. She may not take her step exactly as he had intended. So he must accommodate her, adjusting his step to be in synch with her, so that when the two of them land their steps, they are precisely together.
The Connection:The follower "paying full attention every moment," and the leader listening to and accommodating his follower, can result in an experience for both partners that has been likened to Zen meditation. The flow of the dance is dictated by the bodily communication between them. It is inherently intimate, on a deep level, and transcends thought and reasoning.
The Embrace:The embrace or "frame" emphasizes and facilitates the connection between the partners. You can dance in "close embrace" style, with full upper-body contact, or in a more open style, separated by some distance. But in either case the center of your chest is almost always facing the center of your partner's chest. Your chests are typically parallel, and the spacing between you, if you're not in close embrace, stays constant. This alignment "aims" your energy and intention towards your partner, committing yourself to him/her for the duration of this 3 minutes of eternity.
Introduction/Disclaimer:In this description, I draw on principles from the Eastern science and philosophy of Taoism, which is the basis of Chinese medicine, the I Ching, Zen, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and most martial arts. A key principle is that all things in the Universe are mixtures of "yang" and "yin." In Western languages, yang and yin are translated as "masculine" and "feminine." However this translation is limited and has connotations that arouse passionate objections from our Western cultural history of sexual stereotyping, subjugation of women, and the inevitable and justified rise of Feminism. Yet masculine and feminine are the terms I have to work with in English, so I ask your tolerance and suspension of judgments based on connotations that I do not intend, and understand that I use the terms in their broader sense of "yang" and "yin."
Yang and Yin:The idea is that all things in the Universe, when sufficiently simplified, can be classified as either yang or yin. Most "things," of course, are mixtures of both. "Men" and "women," for example, both have characteristics that are yang, and both have yin characteristics as well. In the context of Tango, yang characteristics include action, conviction, confidence, and leading. Note that while these are often considered "masculine" traits, women have all of them as well. Yin characteristics include waiting, listening, receptivity, and following. Again note that while these are generally considered "feminine" characteristics, men have these capabilities too.
Leading:In order to lead every step successfully, the leader must fully exert his Yang/Masculine tendencies. He must be Clear-minded and Unwavering in his Intention, he must lead with Sureness, with Conviction, and with Authority.
Following:In order to follow, a woman must be fully invested in her Yin/Feminine characteristics. She must be Open and Receptive, Patiently Waiting for his lead. She must Trust and be willing to Let him have control. She must respond to his lead without thinking, without analysis, without judgment.
Polarity:So in order to dance tango, a polarity must develop. The man must become the epitome of Yang/Masculinity, and the woman in her turn must be the embodiment of Yin/Femininity.
On the Other Hand ... :But then it gets more complicated. In the spirit of the Eternal Tao, where all things are composed of both halves of every polarity, so in Tango, just at the moment when the leader has exerted his Masculine intention and signaled his lead, he must shift, he must become Patient, he must Wait, he must exert Feminine aspects of his own personality as he waits for his partner to respond. To do otherwise risks a loss of connection, not to mention being a disrespect of his partner's autonomy and sovereignty, as well as compromising her balance. He must make this shift to avoid throwing her around, or worse, stepping on her.
And the follower, in her turn, after she has received the lead, must respond. She must step with Conviction and Confidence, stepping large and dramatic when asked. These forceful, dramatic steps, taking Action, are Masculine aspects of her personality.
Wholeness:In sum, Tango requires both leader and follower to get in touch with, and to exercise, both the Yang/Masculine and Yin/Feminine parts of their own personalities, both halves of the whole that they are. This exercise, this opportunity for both leader and follower to be Whole, is Healing and ultimately Joyful in a deep sense. The fact is, people have been personally and emotionally transformed by dancing Argentine Tango.
The Tao of Tango:These concepts are beautifully expressed in the book "The Tao of Tango" by Johanna Siegmann
The ResultThe net result is almost indescribable. The exquisite feeling of connection, the Zen-like trance that can develop, has been called a Tango Moment. But that hardly does justice as a description. It must be experienced to be truly appreciated. Indeed, a popular joke in the Tango community is that, when asked about the allure of Argentine Tango, an experienced dancer may respond, "You wouldn't understand." (Symptoms of a Tango Junkie)
Where can you learn to dance Argentine Tango...?
At Milongas:Milongas are tango social dances. Most of them have lessons before the start of dancing that are adapted for even complete beginners .
At Practicas:Practicas are like dances, but protocols are different, and studying and practicing steps (which interrupts the normal flow of dancers) is OK. Many practicas also have beginning lessons at the start of the event.
Private lessons:In Portland, being such a hot-spot of tango, there are literally a couple of dozen teachers giving private lessons. Most are listed on Bill Alsup's Portland Area Tango webpage at www.PortlandTango.com. Bill's page also lists most milongas and practicas that are happening in Portland. If you are interested in private lessons or classes with Jay Rabe, contact me. Click here to see a description of my teaching philosophy.
What are the Protocols and Expectations?
These things are guidelines, and there are exceptions to most of them. This list is my personal opinion, at this point in time, of proper dance floor etiquette. Other dancers will surely disagree with some of these items. If you disagree mildly or violently to anything I've said here, please contact me. I welcome the opportunity to hear your point of view. I am a pilgrim like everyone else, and my understanding and perspective changes over the years, sometimes from just getting more experience, but more often from feedback from other dancers. Please share your opinion with me.
Though we joke a lot about it, there really is no (at least official) "Tango police" that will eject you for (at least minor) violations of these rules. In fact, a visit to even a single event will show you that there is a lot of flexibility in following them. The importance of whether or not you follow a particular rule depends mostly on how crowded the floor is.
That said, the reality is that Tango is a passionate dance, and there are some moves and steps that have the potential of causing physical injury, including cuts and serious bruises, from flying boleos, for example. Floorcraft guidelines have evolved to prevent the worst of those consequences.
The general idea is for you and your partner to enjoy yourselves, and to allow and facilitate everyone else to be able to enjoy themselves too. Avoiding injury to yourself, your partner, and other dancers is key to that enjoyment.
Apologies if this is long and complicated, but Tango is a complicated dance, with a long history and deep cultural context.
- General Rule: Neither leader nor follower shall kick, nor step on, nor even bump into another dancer. All of the floorcraft rules are designed to fulfill this General Rule.
- What do you do if you DO bump into anyone? Of if your partner makes contact with anyone? Of if you or your partner are contacted by another dancer when you were not paying attention or were not following the guidelines yourself? You Apologize! You make eye contact at least, to acknowledge the transgression.
- Even if the contact was clearly Not your fault, my recommendation is that you still attempt eye contact with the other leader. Doing so has 3 benefits: First, it lets the other party know that you noticed the transgression; Second, it gives them the opportunity to apologize; Third, if they do not return the eye contact, it tells you that they may be totally oblivious, or perhaps they think that the problem was your fault, but in any case it tells you to be more wary or strategic in your positioning and dancing when you're near them.
- Dance flow is in a direction counter-clockwise around the dancefloor. This is known as "line-of-dance."
- Never dance clockwise, that is, backwards, or against the line-of-dance. However, on even a single visit to any but the most crowded milongas, you will see people violating this rule. Just remember the General Rule, and if you can dance against the line-of-dance without causing collision or traffic jams, then some would say it must be OK. Use common sense. If there's a traffic jam in front of you, and a big space behind you (in line-of-dance), then you can probably get away with going backwards. Just be aware that you're violating protocol, and use the maneuver sparingly.
- A corollary of this rule has to do with the DBS - the "dreaded back step." Leaders who make back steps while facing line-of-dance are actually stepping backwards, against the line-of-dance. This can be a real problem. My mother often seemed to have eyes in the back of her head, but I've never known a guy who did. So if you haven't just finished executing a turn that allowed you to see what was behind you, and there is another couple that could take some double-time steps and move up behind you in the path of your back-stepping foot, then either don't step back, or make it a tiny step, and feel for someone else's foot under yours before you fully transfer your weight and break someone's toe.
- Keep the line-of-dance moving. Don't be doing a lot of steps in place without progressing down the line-of-dance, unless of course you are blocked by dancers ahead of you. If a space has opened up in front of you in line-of-dance, move into it. Dance at the same speed as other dancers. A good rule of thumb is to generally keep the same amount of space in front of you as there is behind you.
- Stay as far to the outside as you can. This is actually the most strategic place to dance, since no one can get into your "blind spot," which is on your right side where your vision is blocked by your partner's head (assuming you're in close embrace). Stay in single-file if you can. At a crowded venue, it will naturally happen that couples will migrate into several "rings" or "lanes" of single-file dancers. Try not to switch lanes to pass slower couples, unless they appear to be clueless and a traffic jam of dancers is building up behind you.
- Enter the dancefloor responsibly. Likewise if you pass or change lanes. Like when driving a car and entering a street or freeway - you wait for an opening, and equalize your speed with other drivers/dancers before moving into traffic.
- Pay attention to other dancers. Note their step patterns and skill level. If a given leader tends to make back steps without looking, keep your distance. If a leader is doing a lot of wild spins and turns, keep your distance. If a leader is leading his follower to make wide leg swings or high boleos, keep your distance.
- Learn to use tight turns to allow checking out traffic behind you.
- Protect your follower at all times. This is the leader's FIRST priority.
- This section is a little problematic:
- On the one hand, we teach followers to just follow, to just pay attention to their leader and the music, and to ignore all floorcraft or other issues. This allows them to zone out and really get deep into the connection, and can result in a truly exquisite experience.
- On the other hand, it requires a degree of trust in their leader - in his judgement and restraint in not leading her into dangerous situations or steps, and in his skill and ability to judge and avoid other less skilled or less prudent leaders on the floor.
- Bottom line is, while a follower should strive for that perfect world of blissful dissociation when she has let go of all concerns other than the music and her leader, the reality is that when that perfection cannot be attained for whatever reason, it can be practical and prudent for her to dance with her eyes open and pay attention, especially to those things behind her leader, where she can see but he cannot.
- Specifically, if he starts to step back into someone, her exerting a slight pull on him can be effective in averting an uncomfortable or painful collision.
- Boleos are in a category by themselves. While it's true that your leader can indicate by his lead how much energy he is asking you to put into it, if he is leading a high energy boleo on a crowded floor, do not assume he knows what he's doing. Keep your feet close to the floor.
- Some steps, like leg wraps or entradas or ganchos, give the follower the opportunity to swing her legs wide, that is, out and away from herself. This can be a beautiful and dramatic embellishment in a performance situation. However, as with boleos, if you know the room is crowded, keep your knees/thighs close together and limit the amount of leg swing you put into such steps.
- Many of the floorcraft rules for a milonga are suspended at a practica. You can stop and chat in the middle of the flow, you can totally block traffic, and line-of-dance generally does not exist. However some rules still apply:
- Pay attention to other dancers.
- Protect your partner.
- Avoid kicking, stepping on, or bumping into anyone.
- "La mirada" and "el cabeceo" are the traditional method of inviting and accepting a dance in Argentina. La mirada is "the look," or "the stare," and can be done by either partner. Once eye contact is made, el cabeceo, "the nod" signals the request and is returned as the acceptance. In the US, of course, we're a lot less formal with protocols in general, and it's perfectly OK for either partner to just walk up and ask someone to dance.
- I've heard that the mirada/cabeceo custom developed in Argentina to allow for "invisible" rejections. This allows the hapless man to avoid being ridiculed by his mates at being publicly turned down for a dance.
- If you want to dance, however, a key thing to make it work is that you must be scanning the room and making eye contact with people you might like to dance with. A lot of people in Western cultures are not comfortable making eye contact with strangers, but, well, you just have to get over that, especially if you want to dance much when you visit Argentina.
- The custom is that you do not start dancing immediately when the music starts.
- I've heard that this practice developed in the early days of tango in Argentina. In those relatively Puritan times, those few moments when a young couple was alone on the dancefloor, before they started dancing, was the only time they could talk without being overheard by the young woman's mother or chaperone.
- After you start dancing, don't talk. Chatting, or teaching, or discussing a step or where someone bought those cute shoes, is frowned upon. Mostly it prevents you from entering that special zone of the Tango Moment, when your entire being is focused on enjoying the music and the embrace of your partner, and it distracts other dancers from doing the same.
- While you can start dancing anywhere in a song, the protocol is to stop dancing on the last beat of the music. This is one protocol that rarely gets violated. Of course, it takes some practice and familiarity with the music to stop on the very last beat, so one beat over is OK, but do not go two beats over, lest the dreaded Tango Police haul you off.
- An exception to this is: it is particularly impolite to stop your follower in an un-ladylike position with her legs spread. Lead her to close or cross before stopping.
- Music is generally played in "tandas" or sets of 2 - 4 songs, then a "cortina" (curtain) is played, a 20-30 second piece of music that is generally not dancable, to signal the end of the tanda.
- It is customary to dance an entire tanda or two with the same partner (however, see below), then find a new partner during the cortina.
- Note that not all DJ's at all venues play cortinas. Even in Argentina, some DJ's just play continuous music. Most DJ's, however, both in the US and in Argentina, do use cortinas.
- When you're done dancing with a given partner, for any reason, say, "Thank you." This is the signal that you're done and ready to sit out or find another partner. A consequence of this convention is that, regardless how much you might enjoy dancing with someone, avoid thanking them until you're ready to move on, or else you send a mixed message.
- You don't have to dance with everyone who asks you. And you don't have to continue to the end of a tanda, or even to the end of a song, if you are uncomfortable for any reason. Maybe they're throwing you around, maybe they smell bad, or maybe you're just getting a blister on your foot. Whatever the reason, just stop, explain whatever you want, thank them, and leave the dancefloor.
- If you've stopped dancing with someone for any reason that might be embarrassing to them if proclaimed publicly, it is sensitive to make up some excuse, like your feet hurt, perhaps feigning fiddling with your shoes to lend credence. The fact is that there is truth to the saying that "Everyone sees everything on the dance floor", so if you don't INTEND to embarrass someone by stopping before the end of a song or a tanda, make up a good excuse and make it look genuine.
- Most of the above is for newer dancers. This item, however, is for experienced dancers. The recommendation is for experienced dancers to spend some time dancing with beginners. The point is that everyone in the dance community benefits from an influx of new dancers. Everyone brings their own specialness to the dance, and the pollination from "new blood" helps the dance grow and evolve. Yet all experienced dancers know the hard work it takes to become proficient, and it's easy to become discouraged and give up. But sometimes all it takes is a single dance with an experienced leader or follower to encourage a beginner to do that hard work, and well, again, everyone benefits.
What is my teaching Philosophy?
People who come to Argentine Tango from other dance backgrounds are often surprised and disconcerted to find a relative lack of structured step patterns. There was a time, and may still be in some circles, when the "8-count basic" was taught to new Tango dancers as a starting point. However I share the opinion with a wide consensus of Tango instructors that teaching the 8CB is a crutch that causes problems later on. The fact is that one of the things that sets social Argentine Tango apart from "ballroom" dance styles is that there is no choreography. Every step, it's speed and direction and timing, are led and followed. If new dancers start by learning patterns, they build habits of using specific steps, and it becomes more difficult to later develop spontaneity and creativity, not to mention musicality.
My approach is therefore to teach the fundamentals of ...
- Attitude and Intention
- Posture and Balance
- Movement Dynamics
- Lead and Follow
With these principles as the basics, Tango requires making five Connections:
Connecting to ...
- Yourself (Centering):
Like in Life, where it's said that you can't love another person any more than you can love yourself, so in Tango, you can't make a connection to any partner that is deeper than your connection to yourself. "Centering" is that activity common in Tai Chi and martial arts in which one focuses one's awareness on the Dan Tian, that point just below the navel. This is our umbilical area, where we were connected to our mothers in the womb, where, according to shamanic traditions, we continue to connect energetically with the Universe outside our bodies. Focusing on this spot brings the core of our body into our awareness. When we are in touch with ourselves in this manner, we are more ready to connect to another our partner.
- The Earth (Grounding):
Luciana Valle is famous for her admonition to "lick the floor." Another technique is to visualize being connected to the Earth like a tree, with roots extending from the bottom of your feet into the ground. Grounding is key to maintaining our balance. There are a lot of good exercises to improve your balance. Do them. Repeated practice will improve your balance.
- The Music:
Connecting to the music means interpreting, with your steps and pauses and embellishments, the emotional content of the music. It also means dancing consistent with the rhythms and phrase structure of the compositions. The whole subject of musicality is complex and full of subtlety, and a single paragraph is surely a disservice to the topic. But suffice to say that Argentine Tango music, with it's obligatory bandoneon, is capable of expressing a wide emotional range, from tragedy to sadness to upbeat happiness and joy. The leader has the primary responsibility for interpreting the music. The challenge happens when the music changes tempo or tone, as it commonly does. The goal is to select steps and timing that are consistent with the emotional and rhythmic content of the music. It is interesting that this is one of reasons that tango music "traditionalists" object to dancing "tango steps" to non-tango music - the typical tango step patterns have evolved as an expression of the traditional music. If non-tango music lacks the characteristic cadences and emotional tones of traditional tango music, the dance that results just isn't the same.
- Your Partner:
This is IMO the most important connection, since it is arguably the whole reason we dance tango. This is why "it takes two" to do this dance. There are several ways to improve your connection to your partner. One of the most effective ways is to just Intend a connection. For a leader, your attitude should be one of protecting, nurturing, enfolding your follower with your arms, encircling her with your loving energy. For the follower, it is imperative to not lean back away from him. You must have your heart energy directed to him, fully committing yourself to the embrace, whether open or close embrace. The stability of the embrace is another key. If the distance between you jerks around as you make every step, the connection suffers. Dancing smoothly, with the leader accommodating the follower by adjusting his steps to stay aligned with her even if she doesn't step precisely where he intended, is key to maintaining the embrace.
- Your Environment:
Your environment includes everything in the room other than you and your partner. That includes tables, chairs, posts, and most importantly, because they are moving, other dancers. Unless you're doing a performance and are the only couple on the floor, you must interact with your neighbors. You are sharing a limited space with them. This first of all requires that you (predominately the leader) pay attention to them. The section on floorcraft lists details of first-level protocols that are designed to prevent injury. But an interesting, more subtle phenomenon occurs when everyone is connected to the other dancers. The phenomenon happens because, in addition to sharing the space, everyone is also dancing to the same music. And as noted, there are specific step patterns that have evolved to effectively interpret specific musical passages. So what can happen is that everyone on the floor will walk fast or slow or pause in the same sections of the music, because that's what the musical score calls for. So a synchronicity develops, and if the dancefloor is seen from above, all the couples will tend to move in unison, like a school of fish or a flock of birds that seem to communicate wordlessly and turn and move collectively and simultaneously. It's a beautiful thing.