Dance Teacher Resources

The dance floor: Your forgotten dance partner

Photo by Brian Slater, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

If you own a dance studio, run a dance school or performance space, then it’s likely that the single biggest financial outlay will be the installation the dance floor. This investment is not only significant in financial terms but also in terms of time and the cost or toll on one’s body.

Whether you are a teacher, casual student or full time performer, the majority of your dancing time will be on the studio floor, and the amount of blood, sweat and tears you experience will be determined to some extent by the floors on which you perform.

Photo by Elliott Franks, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Photo by Elliott Franks, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Dance Informa caught up with Emma Seedsman from Harlequin Floors, who are the world leader in creating and installing dance floors and performance spaces. Harlequin’s 40-plus years experience in the performing industry means that the company has installed floors in some of the most iconic dance spaces throughout the world such as the Paris Opera Ballet’s Palais Garnier, the Sydney Opera House The Australian Ballet and the Bolshoi Theatre, to name a few.

The concern of providing the right dance floor for all dancers is based on Harlequin’s extensive research on the unique needs of dancers and other performers.

Why a dance-specific floor?

“Maintaining healthy dancers and teachers’ safety is imperative for performers and staff. The period of time teaching and performing requires a technically designed sprung floor and surface to achieve the ultimate safe and professional result, whether in a professional company or a dance studio.

The dance floor makes an important contribution to safe performance without risk of slips and falls or longer-term stress injuries. A good dance floor instils confidence in dancers to give full expression to their creativity, safe in the knowledge that the dance floor will offer a consistent response. Harlequin Floors have developed floors specifically for dance, which commercial grade, industrial and sports floors cannot deliver.

Harlequin has a range of products in both sprung floors and dance vinyls designed for specific dance needs to produce the best result depending on the genre. The range of products allows a variety of price points to cater to varying budgets and requirements.”

What signs tell me that I need to replace or refurbish my studios’ floors?

“Slippery, inconsistent, self-evident visual marks or cuts, weak spots on sprung floor or injury points, where dancers constantly hurt themselves at the same place, are all signs that a studio floor needs to be replaced or refurbished.

A dancer should be able to forget about the floor and concentrate on putting their focus and concentration into the artistic performance or practise – a confidence that comes from the assurance that they are not going to slip and fall, that lifts can be performed safely, and on landing from jumps the response of the floor consistently offers the right amount of force reduction.”

When planning a studio floor fitout, what are the main specifications to keep in mind?

Photo courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Photo courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

“When planning a dance studio, there are a number of aspects to consider to ensure the dance space meets the needs of dancers of all levels. The type of floor to install will depend on the type of dance or usage, as different styles of dance have different requirements.

Permanent or semi-permanent floor installation? Who owns the studio? If leased, do you have restrictions on your lease?

As a rough guide, school aged children require 3 sq metres per participant. Senior schools/further education and adults require 5 sq meters per participant. Headroom is also a consideration, with a ceiling height of 3.5m being optimum for adults, as is a safe floor with at least a high 50 – high 60 percent force reduction (Harlequin use the DIN standard); however, the weight of dancer and dance style needs to be considered.

Also worth considering are the aesthetic requirements of floor colour that works with the way the space is lit.”

Do I need a sprung floor?

“Yes, to avoid impact injury, a safe sprung dance floor is key to longevity for dancers and teachers’ well-being. A sprung floor provides force reduction and flexes under impact. Performers need a floor to absorb the shock of repeated downward force and impact to their joints and reduce injury from potential falls.”

Are there different types of sprung floors?

“Yes, Harlequin sprung floors have been designed in permanent, semi-permanent and portable options.”

Do we need vinyl floor coverings?

“For optimum safety, it is recommended to install a Harlequin vinyl floor as a dance surface offering added assurance for performance and practise. A Harlequin dance vinyl provides consistent slip and grip for dance styles and is easy to maintain. Harlequin has researched and developed the best technical surface for safe dance, using the expertise of dancers, dance staff and medical professionals.”

What are the main considerations when choosing vinyl floor covering?

“The styles of dance that are offered at the studio will dictate the type of vinyl required.

What type of footwear is required? You can tap on a Harlequin vinyl and have a good sound response. We have three great options for studios who offer tap.”

For a budget-conscious studio, what are some of the options available?

“Harlequin has a self-installed sprung floor product called Flexity Plus, which also allows a studio to save on installation costs. It still provides a fully sprung floor and can be installed permanently or semi-permanently. If installed semi-permanently, it can be relocated at a later date. Harlequin has a range of single or double bracket wall-mounted ballet barres in three colours and two shapes to suit the space. Also available are a range of portable vinyls that suit all styles of dance.”

Can we hire a floor for special events and performances?

“Harlequin has a sprung floor for hire; however, the vinyl used is to be purchased separately. Harlequin is unable to resell vinyl which has already been used due to health and safety reasons. The for-hire sprung floor is the modular Harlequin Liberty system that is a DIY install with an Allen key.”

If our studio teaches a variety of dance genres, what is the best floor for us?

Photo by David Tett, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Photo by David Tett, courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

“There are a few dance vinyl options available to accommodate various dance styles. Using one of Harlequins’ sprung floor options, we would recommend Harlequin Cascade as a premium multipurpose vinyl, or for a more budget conscious option there is the portable Harlequin Reversible Pro.”

Do you install these floors, and how long does it take?

“Harlequin has a specially trained installation team. Depending on the type and size of installation, it can be anywhere from three days to weeks. Self-installed floors are available with an extensive range of instructional material and videos available.”

How long do the permanent and semi-permanent floors last for?

“Warranty ranges from five years to 25 years, depending on the product. Harlequin Floors always supports our customer, even when outside the warranty period.”

Is finance available for these floors?

“Finance options are available on discussion.”

For more information on Harlequin Floors, visit aus.harlequinfloors.com 

By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.

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