The silent partner: dancers and floors have an ambivalent relationship, but new technology is improving it.A herd of thundering tappers stamps across the floor at Debbie en Dance Academy in Culver City, California Culver City is a city in western Los Angeles County, California. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 38,816. The community is mostly surrounded by the city of Los Angeles but also has a border with unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. . Leaping, spinning, and sliding, they are euphoric as they pound out complex rhythms on a surface that gives with each landing, responding to each percussive per·cus·sive
Of, relating to, or characterized by percussion.
per·cussive·ly adv. shuffle-ball-change.
The floor is the unsung partner to dancers, and like many partnerships, it's a complex relationship. Not long ago, dancers routinely performed on surfaces that left them aching. Retired L.A. ballet teacher Stanley Holden, now 77, spent 25 years as a member of The Royal Ballet. "At Covent Garden," he recalls, "they put wood on top of cement. There was no resiliency. It was like dancing in the kitchen."
Technological advances and a greater awareness of dancing's physical impact on the body have made a dramatic difference in how today's floors are manufactured, but demand evolved gradually. "Twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. ago, people started wanting special hard surfaces for tap dancing, and padded floors that still were tough and could have heavy scenery wheeled over them," recalls Robert Dagger, president of American Harlequin.
Today sprung floors are standard in most dance studios. The floor surface "floats" over a layer of synthetic material, like neoprene neoprene: see rubber.
Any of a class of elastomers (rubberlike synthetic organic compounds of high molecular weight) made by polymerization of the monomer 2-chloro-1,3-butadiene and vulcanized (cross-linked, like rubber), by sulfur, pads, with a bottom layer of plywood completing the sandwich. This provides elasticity over the entire section when a dancer lands, as well as yielding at the actual point of contact. Now-popular marley floors (which take their name from the company in England that first manufactured them) are made of flexible vinyl which can be rolled out--and up--for touring and have become a standard for stage flooring around the world. They are made without a factory finish, to prevent slipping, and traditionally come in black and gray. Many major companies tour with non-reflective versions.
Yet despite these advances, studios that offer different types of dance still face challenges. With 77,000 square-feet and 12 studios that needed flooring, Alvin Alley American Dance Theater had many decisions to make before moving into its new $54 million building in Manhattan last year. According to Alaric Hahn, theater manager/director of facility, nine of the studios were equipped with medium-speed, gray marley floors with padding and custom-sprung wood sub-floors. These surfaces, he says, are suitable for multiple types of dance, except tap, which is taught on a wood floor with no smooth marley surface on top.
Rosco's dance floor product manager, Tracey Cosgrove, recommends their Adagio a·da·gio
adv. & adj. Music
In a slow tempo, usually considered to be slower than andante but faster than larghetto. Used chiefly as a direction.
n. pl. a·da·gios
1. floor for studios with multi-use spaces. "It's designed to be hard enough to withstand tap, Irish step dance, and flamenco, but has slip-resistance for ballet, modern, and jazz," she says of the vinyl floor, which is available in black or gray. Among the companies that dance on Rosco floors are Houston Ballet and Mark Morris Dance Group. Cosgrove acknowledges that dancers' responses to floors are subjective. "I was visiting Houston Ballet," she recalls, "and half the corps liked the floor and half didn't, though they were all dancing on the same floor under the same conditions. It's very personal."
That ambivalence can stem as much from a dancer's individual style as any floor characteristic. Jazz Tap Ensemble's artistic director Lynn Dally agrees that everyone has likes and dislikes. "Gregory [Hines] traveled with a custom-made floor of oak or maple that was hinged and opened like a book. For me, a tongue and groove tongue and groove
A joint made by fitting a tongue on the edge of a board into a matching groove on another board. floor is better for sound than just panels of veneered wood on a frame. It's like being inside a cello." Jason Samuels Smith Jason Samuels Smith, native New Yorker, was born on October 4th, 1980 to professional performing arts parents Sue Samuels and JoJo Smith. Mr. Samuels Smith began his professional performing career at an early age through Frank Hatchett's Professional Childrens Program at the notes that tappers must perform on a variety of surfaces. "I sometimes bring my own," he says. "The best is oak or maple, because it lasts the longest and has a great sound."
For American Ballet Theatre American Ballet Theatre, one of the foremost international dance companies of the 20th cent. It was founded in 1937 as the Mordkin Ballet and reorganized as the Ballet Theatre in 1940 under the direction of Lucia Chase and Rich Pleasant. principal Gillian Murphy, the ideal floor has a perfect balance between slippery and sticky, hard and soft. "If it's too slippery," she notes, "I'll put more rosin rosin or colophony, hard, brittle, translucent resin, obtained as a solid residue from crude turpentine. Usually pale yellow or amber, its color may vary from brownish-black to transparent depending on the nature of the source of the crude on to take out the edge. If the floor's too hard, you feel it more in jumping, but it doesn't affect the performance as much as your physical instrument afterwards. I feel it in my legs." Harlequin's marketing manager, Claire Londress, says their floors have a slip-resistant surface that renders rosin, which can be messy, unnecessary. "Even if you have a hardwood floor, it's a good idea to put slip-resistant vinyl over the top of it," she notes. "It's easier to maintain."
Alonzo King's LINES Ballet uses American Harlequin's studio-grade marley floors, which have extra cushioning, and the company tours with a portable version as well. LINES also uses Harlequin Fiesta, with its oakstrip patterned hard surface, for percussive dance--flamenco, tap, and folklorico--but it doesn't work as well for ballet because it's too slippery," says Pam Hagen, a founding member of the company who is now its dance center director. With eight different types of floors in its inventory, Harlequin has installed floors for The Joffrey Ballet, Meree Cunningham Dance Company, and American Ballet Theatre, among others.
For studios that lease space, permanent installation may not be ideal, and several manufacturers have made portability a feature. F. Randolph Swartz, a Philadelphia dance presenter and president pf Stagestep, says his multi-purpose studio floors are designed to be both permanent and portable. With pre-assembled formats and "snap-and-go" transition pieces, the floors work well for touring companies, but also studio situations. "Products that are transportable allow for big change," says Paul Taylor Dance Company Paul Taylor Dance Company, is a contemporary dance company, formed by Paul Taylor, an American choreographers of the 20th century. One of the early touring companies of American modern dance, the Company has "performed in more than 500 cities in 62 countries" , The Parsons Dance Company Parsons Dance is a contemporary dance company founded by choreographer David Parsons. The company tours nationally and internationally, and includes an annual season in New York, where they are based.
The company consists of ten full-time dancers. , and San Francisco Ballet San Francisco Ballet, or SFB, is a San Francisco, USA based ballet company, founded in 1933 as part of San Francisco Opera Ballet. The company is currently based in the War Memorial Opera House, where it is directed by Helgi Tomasson. . "We've developed a special kind of adhesive tape that holds the floor in place but you can peel it up if you need to, and it doesn't leave any able to move things around." He points out that the same type of floors as the one on which they have rehearsed.
As for floors of the future, both Cosgrove and Swartz agree that the newest technologies being developed are in sub-floors. "Today," says Swartz, "there are many options, such as foam-backed flooring in different colors, widths, densities, and thicknesses. We've come a long way from battleship battleship, large, armored warship equipped with the heaviest naval guns. The evolution of the battleship, from the ironclad warship of the mid-19th cent., received great impetus from the Civil War. linoleum linoleum (lĭnō`lēəm), resilient floor or wall covering made of burlap, canvas, or felt, surfaced with a composition of wood flour, oxidized linseed oil, gums or other ingredients, and coloring matter. ."
For dancers, the floor will always be a source of potential triumph and frustration. Like all partnerships, there will be on and off days, but steady improvement are yielding an increasingly healthy--and happy--relationship.
RELATED ARTICLE: Caring for your floor.
Careful maintenance contributes to a floor's longevity. Harlequin's Claire Londress recommends a neutral pH cleaner and regular washing for their floors, which are designed for low maintenance. "Once a year," she recommends, "use a vinyl floor stripper Stripper
Slang for an individual homeowner who strips the equity out of his or her home through mortgage refinancing. Proceeds are generally not re-invested, but spent on consumer goods.
Most people get rich by saving and investing wisely. to get all the gunk that shows up, especially from jazz boots." Stagestep, on the other hand, basically advocates dry mopping in the morning and using a dehumidifier Dehumidifier
Equipment designed to reduce the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. There are three methods by which water vapor may be removed: (1) the use of sorbent materials, (2) cooling to the required dew point, and (3) compression with aftercooling. nightly to remove moisture from the air. "And stay away from the three a's--alcohol, ammonia, and acetone acetone (ăs`ĭtōn), dimethyl ketone (dīmĕth`əl kē`tōn), or 2-propanone (prō`pənōn), CH3COCH3 . Those things dissolve the floor," says F. Randolph Swartz, who also suggests routinely monitoring and replacing filters in air conditioning and heating systems, as does O'Mara Sprung Floors president Ed O'Mara.
Entertainment Flooring president Michael Scan Graves is also adamant about not using ammonia on vinyl. "Any neutral cleaner that's pH balanced is fine," he says. "A floor machine with soft pads is recommended for deep cleaning, because they don't bite into the vinyl."
Prevention is key, though, and both Swartz and Jeff Tarleton of Baltimore-based Gerstung advocate placing a mat outside the studio to remove extraneous dirt. Tarleton also suggests broom sweeping and vacuuming a wood floor as well as light sanding every few years. As for the life of a floor, Ailey's Alaric Hahn says a sub-floor should last between 10 and 15 years: a marley up to 10 years. "You know it's time to re-floor," he notes, "when it shows visible signs of aging, which may include cracking, discoloration dis·col·or·a·tion
a. The act of discoloring.
b. The condition of being discolored.
2. A discolored spot, smudge, or area; a stain.
Noun 1. and dryness."--Victoria Looseleaf
Victoria Looseleaf is a freelance arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). , Reuters, and La Opinion.