This is an excerpt from Gotta Tango by Alberto Paz & Valorie Hart.
Mastering Floor Craft
Floor craft is learning to exist in a prescribed space with other dancers, whether there are only 2 couples on the floor or 500 couples. You now know that the dance moves in a counterclockwise manner. You know that there is no literal line of dance; couples do not follow each other in a regimen of one after the other. Tango is not a conga line. You are not on a train. The dance is circular. The man dances around the floor, and the woman dances around the man. There are large circles and smaller ones. The dance floor resembles rings of an onion: There are multiple tracks. If the dancers apply the theories of moving in diagonals and dancing a few movements to the left and a few to the right, always alternating, they will have fewer problems.
Common sense rules, too. Compare your dancing to good driving. For instance, you can see the couple in front of you. If you see that couple stop or slow down, do you accelerate and crash your car into them? Floor craft, common sense, and good manners dictate that you tailor your movements to the couple dancing in front of you.
A commonly held belief is that good dancers prefer to dance on the periphery of the floor. Like most belief systems, this one defies the rule. Many dancers move to the inside to execute a fancy figure and then move out again into the flow. Many dancers get caught in the inner circulation and dance well there. The point is to dance well where you are and dance well enough to go where you want to go, inside or outside of the floor (or anything in between).
Full responsibility for circulation rests with the man, because he is generally moving forward, controlling the dance and marking the woman's movement. Of course, the woman must do her part to have control of herself (balance, axis, and connection). She must be sensible and not do inappropriate embellishments on a crowded floor or back herself into a collision. Still the general consensus is that the man needs to have the skill to mark everything and smoothly guide and control the woman's movements.
Learn more about Gotta Tango.