The whole concept of where one's body is in the space around takes time to inernalise.
That makes sense. But I would imagine that this was a kind of specialized skill. You can certainly observe this in operation in places like a major underground metro or subway system, or all sorts of complex urban crowd situations. Some do it brilliantly, weaving in and out, moving quickly and efficiently, never bumping, always going with the flow. I'm one of these, thank goodness. Others -- including several friends -- never seem to manage to adapt to it even after decades of having to try.
I can visualize (perhaps erroneously) student dancers who are technically tremendously gifted but who have great difficulty in placing themselves, while moving, in relation to others. Conversely, I can visualize student dancers who are great at this kind of placement -- and have a good sense of context and relation to others -- but are not as technically proficient in other aspects of dance.
Another way of looking at this might be to ask: Are there some people who are natural ensemble dancers -- and others who are not?
Edited to add: Innopac's initial post mentioned spear-carriers in Pharoah's Daughter. It's not only a matter of where they stand; it's the angle at which they carry their spears. The Russians on stage are particularly good at this kind of thing with armaments, etc. Americans and Brits seem to be particularly lackadaisical.
Hi All I dont know if this might help But i will post it anyway if it is useless please disregard:-)
An exercise i learnt in stage craft was to stand face to face with someone else and for both of you to start to move ( not dancing just moving at first) very slowly. The Idea is to get used to another body in close proximity to yours. Gradually more people join in. You pay attention to what others are doing and react accordingly.
It is like singing in a choir you join something bigger than yourself its like one hundred drops of water coming together to form an ocean or something:-)
Another exercise is for one person to start moving and you mirror them, taking their lead and again gradually more people join in.
The idea is for you to start thinking of the whole group as a dancer and not just yourself:-) It can be a lovely experience as there is a kind of sisterhood or something in it:-)
It is a lovely contrast to working alone (which i find easier too!!)
Not that i am any good or anything:-)!!