The key to specifying dance floors

Few architects will be called on to design a dance studio during their careers.

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Despite this, such a brief might be given to any architect’s practice by a professional dance company, performing arts centre or school.

For dancers, the dance studio is their place of work, somewhere they may spend 6 to 8 hours a day rehearsing and the floor quality is critical to their ability to achieve the jumps and lifts safely and push the limits of their art. Two very important factors are the ‘traction’ or grip the floor offers which minimises the risk of falls and the degree of ‘spring’ the floor returns that research shows reduces longer term, career-threatening injuries. Interestingly dancers have an instinctive ‘feel’ for a good floor and as the end user, the dancers’ opinions is crucial.

With dancers in many ways the equivalent of elite athletes, an architect might be tempted to specify a sports floor. However, many sports require a floor that offers predictable bounce for a ball and cushioning is provided by footwear – which will not deliver the response dancers seek. This is not the case for many dance genres where ballet shoes or barefoot dance demands shock absorption and spring from the floor.

At present there are no published standards for reference in specifying a dance floor, in the meantime Harlequin Floors published – Specifying Dance Floors White Paper – which provides the results of research seeking to analyse dancers’ intuitive ‘feel’ for a floor and correlate injuries with floor characteristics. A useful document should your practice receive a brief to design a dance studio.

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