25th May 2010

"Why have you bought a sword to a practica?" ~ David Bailey


Something that's been bothering me for a while is ocho cortados and giros in close embrace.

How can you make sure you don't crash into the guy behind you?

What I'm now thinking is the "don't step backwards" is actually wrong (for a sane dance floor). A leader will usually be doing one of two things - progressing or figures. Imagine a circle around him, defined by the area a follower would need to do a full giro, plus a little bit more just for some leeway.

As he progresses the circle moves with him. Usually he's at the centre of it (unless he's doing shared axis turns or something). When he stops and starts doing figures, the circle remains fixed, but both the leader and follower can move anywhere within it.

What they shouldn't do is go outside the circle against the direction of the line of dance or to the sides (changing lanes). If they go outside it moving in the direction of the line of dance, they're progressing again. So the question is "what is the distance needed between two leaders so that their circles don't overlap?"


The answer is if you're holding a 41" sword (the unfortunately-named hand and a half or b******* sword) in your right hand (bearing in mind the follower restricts how high you can lift you arm with her embrace) the leader in front of you should be *just* outside the range where you could hit him without taking a step. ie about 5 feet.

So when dancing, when the leader in front of you progresses, you can then move forward to re-establish the 5 feet gap between you. (Let the 2 sec gap in driving). When he does figures, provided you don't step forwards you should be perfectly safe from him. Just to clarify, 5 feet from leader to leader not 5 feet between couples. I reckon the woman takes up about 2 feet as there's only about a 1 foot gap between the circles.

The other strange thing is that it means the person behind you can actually be a lot closer than you think. 5 feet sounds a lot, but bear in mind there's a follower involved and it's actually quite close.

If the leaders are willing to only use a semicircle of space in front of them, then the distance can drop down to dagger length. Ocho cortados to the outside of the floor or change-in place giros are workable.

It is, I think a good tool for evaluating a dance-floor. If the majority of the leaders are using a circle to dance in, then the leader has to be comfortable he can join the floor with enough space to establish his own circle without disrupting the other leaders'.

I *think* the "Gimmie 5 feet" rule works in London, but it needs more experimentation. The problem is how well you can differentiate between when the leader moving around in his circle and progressing. But that should be a matter of experience.


An interesting possibility to is extend the idea across the lanes. So instead of being in "lockstep"

Line of dance ->

(Lane 1)
(Lane 2)

you're out of sync with the dancers in the other lane thus maintaining 5 feet from them diagonally too.

(Lane 1)
(Lane 2)

Why a sword?

Why a sword? Why not just say "5 feet"?

It depends how you mind works, but personally I find it easier to visualise a sword and whether I can "hit" the guy in front with it, than I can guage what 5 feet from me is. I can also do it without thinking. Feel free to use any other way of guaging space, eg could you take a certain number of steps, that works for you.

~ Christopher O'Shea, 25th May 2010

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