Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Into the Floor

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
- Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride

This phrase gets thrown around a lot in the Lindy community. People love to talk about how great it is to dance "into the floor." Occasionally, someone will add the slightly more helpful "not up on your toes." I've even heard "under the floor," "on the floor" and "slightly below the floor."

Did this come from something like this?. It sounds a little like nonsense, doesn't it?
Most people can sort of agree on what "into the floor" means, even if not completely formally. The problem is that describing it is hard. Or, rather, it is hard when you don't have the proper background.

Now I don't know what tools those are for art; I'm not an artist. Such tools do exist within music theory (or perhaps more accurately, "music physics") Musicians, for some reason, like to use words that more accurately describe either peanut butter or chocolate - e.g."creamy," "chunky," "bright," "dark," "smooth."

Those *mostly* have formalized meanings because someone came up with two words that can be used to describe what the other words mean - "overtones" and "undertones." Nearly every word that describes the quality of a sound can be described in terms of how its overtones or undertones either interact with other tones, or what amplitudes they have. But that's a topic for another place.

How about we do the same thing? We just need some words that can formally and succinctly describe this portion of dance physics, and because I've never heard any for this, I'm going to go ahead and make some up.

The Tools I Need

Here's the terms I've come up with:
  1. % Foot contact
    Average percentage of your foot that is touching the floor
  2. On-beat contact
    Touching the floor during the beat
  3. Off-beat contact
    Touching the floor not during the beat
  4. Flat-footed
    Maximum possible floor contact - 100% of both feet are touching the ground.
  5. En Pointe
    Minimum possible foot contact without being in the air - only your toes are touching the ground
  6. Resting Weight
    Weight while standing at rest; the weight you get when you are on a scale.
  7. Dynamic Weight
    I imagine there's another name for this, but that's what I'm going to call it. According to me, dynamic weight is the force exerted into the ground at a particular moment in time taking into account current momentum. For example, if you jump into the air, and then land, at the moment of landing, you will exert force into the ground that is more than your current weight. Therefore, at that point, your dynamic weight is greater than your resting weight.
Note that "flat-footed" and "en pointe" are definitely not terms that I invented. They're also typically the least useful in describing "into the floor."

The Simple Definition

Sometimes this is taken to mean "opposite of up on your toes." In that case, "into the floor" may mean simply flat-footed, or at the very least, with a high % foot contact, and up on your toes means pointe, or low % foot contact. I am fairly certain that most people would agree that this is part of being into the floor no matter which case we're talking about. But I think that, for the most part, they'd think there's more to it than that.

The Complex Definition

To put it succinctly, changes or supplement of momentum happen when you have higher dynamic weight than resting weight if at all possible, and if this is not possible (such as during free spins, where you are changing momentum continuously), % foot contact is as high as possible. A few points:
  1. In order to have high dynamic weight on-beat, off-beat dynamic weight must be lower. You have to push off of the floor on beat, and be almost in the air during the off-beat.
  2. On beat refers to each beat in which a step is taken; in the case of triple steps, it does refer to the swung note (the middle step in a triple step) as well, not just the other two steps.
  3. Because momentum changes are not actually instantaneous, neither is the length of time that you are heavier than resting weight. This corresponds with changes in momentum in the dance as well - when you change direction, spin, etc., you are not doing so instantaneously, but ideally, responding along the same curve as your weight change - more at first, and less as your weight approaches and then passes resting weight.

I think I can elaborate on this further with pictures and graphs, but I will leave that for a bit until I have time to make some.

This clarifies some of the other definitions mentioned earlier:

On the Floor simply means "flat footed," with resting weight. Its a term used to convey the concept of resting weight into the "floor" concept without actually having that term.

Under the floor/slightly below the floor both try to convey the concept of higher dynamic weight than resting weight. If you were on a springy enough floor, you'd be going lower into it than if you were on "on the floor."

Easier to understand with actual terms, don't you think?

Biggest Conclusion of All

If I'm correct, then this explains something rather important about "into the floor": in order to do it, you need pulse. Pulsing up is what gets you up so that you can come down and be into the floor on beat. And it is why, I think, that if you're going to use that expression, you should probably also talk about pulse.

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