The floors that you dance on indoors need to be sprung, semi-sprung or cushioned—and, if possible, specifically designed for dance. Even in the short-term, dancing or exercising on concrete floors will potentially cause injury, pain and/or irreversible damage to not only your feet and legs, but your entire body.
Floor systems for dance are generally referred to as ‘area elastic’ floors—i.e. floors with a stable surface deck and an underlying cushion, spring or elastic suspension system on which the deck floats to absorb the impact of a dancer’s landing. The deck provides a stable surface on which to balance, slide, move and turn while spreading the load more widely onto the underlying suspension layers.
A ‘good’ dance floor will have a shock absorption value of at least 53%. This means that the floor will absorb a minimum of 53% of the impact energy of a person landing on the floor, while the remaining 47% is absorbed by the person on landing. A concrete floor has a shock absorption value of 0%, leaving the full 100% shock of impact to jar the person landing.
A floor with a shock absorption value of 53% may still feel a little firm for many dancers. (The Birmingham Royal Ballet, for example, has a floor system that provides 63.7% shock absorption.) By making a comparison between different floor systems and through the practical experience of different dancers, we hope to reach a consensus on suitable performance values for dance floors. This will help manufacturers and designers continue to fine tune their floors to the correct standards for dance, rather than dancers having to accept the standards provided by manufacturers.
Sports floors vs dance floors
Sports floors tend to require a less resilient level of performance than a dance floor because sports users are more concerned with ‘ball bounce’ characteristics (i.e. how high a ball bounces) and will generally have the protection of cushioned sports shoes. Qualities such as ‘ball bounce’ are irrelevant to dancers. However, the ‘shock absorption’ characteristics of a floor are particularly relevant and provide the protective component in floors for dance, where there is little or no cushioning provided by the dancers’ footwear.
Wooden floors for dance
Most regular wooden floors have adequate shock absorption (UNLESS THE BOARDS ARE LAID ON CONCRETE) and are still generally accepted for ballroom, folk and social dance. There is always the risk of splinters, unevenness and protruding nails. Wooden floors require regular and careful maintenance and most professional dancers prefer a thick vinyl overlay on top of the wood.
Surface qualities for dance floors
Dancing involves a complex interaction between the dancer’s foot and the floor. The surface finish of a dance floor is the part that differs most for different dance techniques and can be the most difficult aspect to get right. Ballet requires a floor finish that produces a good degree of grip, while allowing the foot to slide in a controlled manner. Dance in bare feet requires a finer finish to avoid friction burns, while still providing sufficient grip for the dancer to move in a dynamic manner. Regular and appropriate maintenance is vital for all dance floors to keep a consistent and serviceable finish.
Portable stages are available for dance but their effectiveness is influenced by the underlying structure. If you are hiring portable floor, and the floor will lay directly on the ground, you will need a perfectly flat area. Consider the following:
- What height stage do you need?
- Can dancers enter and exit safely?
- Will you need vinyl over the surface?
- Are the panels secure and completely smooth across the joints?
Before you build or buy
Dance Floors—a handbook for the design of floors for dance by Mark Foley. Pub: Dance UK, 1991 (available from Ausdance National)
Dance flooring suppliers
- ‘Reconstructing Floors’ by Phillip S. Grayson in Dance Magazine October 1992, Pub. Macfadden Dance Magazine L.L.C.,
- Leapin Leotards: An Assessment of Biomechanical Responses and Dancer Perceptions on Differing Floor Surfaces by Nicole Reid
- Scratching the Surface—does flooring make an impact on the safety of aerobics? Exercising minds want to know by Scott O. Roberts
- ‘Take out the Stress’ by Mark Forwood in Dance Australia Dec 07/Jan 08 p.43
- ‘Cracking under stress’ by Ronald Quirk in Dance Australia Aug/Sept 1991 p.39
- ‘The Effects of Different Dance Surfaces on Plantar Surfaces’ by Paul Fiolkowski and Jeff Bauer in Journal of Dance Medicine and Science Vol 1, No.2, 1997
- Tips on maintenanceTips on maintenance
- Working for Healthier Dancers Information Sheet No.6 by Mark Foley, Pub. Dance UK
- Dance Floors–a handbook for the design of floors for dance by Mark Foley, Pub. Dance UK
- Journal for Dance Medicine and Science Pub. International Society for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS)