Press

The importance of specifying the correct performance floor
3rd February 2021

 

The correct dance floor makes an important contribution to the safe performance of
dancers without the 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 the dance floor will offer a consistent response. Harlequin
Floors have developed floors specifically for dance, offering the exact requirements
needed for varying genres of dance, which commercial grade, industrial and sports
floors cannot.

Experienced dancers can judge a good floor instinctively as to whether or not it feels
right. And if it feels right they can effectively forget about the floor and concentrate
on putting all their focus and concentration into the artistic performance. A
confidence that comes from a reassurance 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 returns the right amount of energy absorption. Quantifying this
subjective rating of a floor into a series of repeatable tests is no simple task. Anyone
specifying floors for dance should remember that dancers may not be the
commissioning clients, but they are the end users. Major dance companies
understand this, which is why it is not uncommon to ask their dancers to “test”
floors before the final choice is made.

Research in recent years has identified a correlation between the consistency of
dance floors and injuries incurred by dancers. When specifying a floor for dance,
using general flooring or sports floor standards will not ensure the right floor is
installed. Only a floor developed specifically for dance will do. There have been
some high profile examples where floors have had to be replaced by a dance
company after the building is complete because the floor was not considered fit for
purpose by the dancers using it.

Why sports floors are not suitable for dance

It is tempting to presume that as the elite athleticism of top dancers is on a par with
sports people, that a sports floor is appropriate. It is not. There are some critical
factors that distinguish the requirements of dancers from those of sports played on a
sports floor. Many sports played on these floors require a firm floor which allows
balls to bounce predictably. Sports footwear is generally cushioned to protect against
impact injuries. The footwear also provides grip for the sports person. By contrast
dancers need more absorption or cushioning on landing from jumps. Their footwear
varies according to dance style and doesn’t cushion landings. Dancers also need the
right degree of traction from the dance surface.

Harlequin work extensively with dance scientists and biomechanics experts to
investigate the effects of the choice of dance floor on dancer performance and
injury, and to research and develop floors that minimise these risks.

Biomechanics expert Luke Hopper explains “Injury occurrence is all too common in
dance. Dancers will always push their bodies to the limit to get the most out of their
training, it is therefore very important that safe dance environments are created by
reducing any unnecessary injury risks”.

Dr Boni Rietveld is an orthopaedic surgeon at the Centre for Medicine, Dance and
Music in The Hague, Netherlands, and is also Past President of the International
Association for Dance Medicine and Science. Boni Rietveld observed, “There is a
distinction to make between injuries caused by the floor and those caused
accidentally. As far as the former are concerned, it is evident that there is a cause
and effect relationship between dancers’ injuries and the floor on which they
perform.”

Harlequin’s CPD Programme

As part of Harlequin’s commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of dancers
and performers, our RIBA approved CPD explains why specifying the correct floor for
dance and performing arts is critical to the longevity of a performers career.
 
​Using comprehensive data and case studies, we outline the key considerations
when specifying a performance floor and look at the important contribution the floor
makes to performer health and safety. We explore the history of dance floors, the
reasons why floor choice is so important, current standards and tests and how to
ensure you specify the right performance surface.

Harlequin is the world leader in advanced technology floors and stage systems for
the performing arts and is the industry choice for the world’s most prestigious dance
and performing arts companies, theatres, venues and schools. Harlequin
manufactures, supplies and installs a range of high quality sprung and vinyl floors
and specialises in the building and refurbishment of bespoke stage systems.

For any performance floor enquiries please contact our technical team on:
+44 (0)1892 514 888 or email: architects@harlequinfloors.com. If you are
interested in booking a CPD please contact: cpd@harlequinfloors.com

 

From the CPD Specifier, February issue 2021, page 17

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