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Dance Floor Systems


Studio Owner Article


Self-help and Life Enhancement Tips for the Business Owner

What makes them tick and why you need to know this.

No one has to tell you that dancing requires serious physical effort.  It demands strength, stamina and skill.  If you want to excel, it requires a daily commitment.  When you add it all up, the demands on the body are great.  Exhaustion and injury are too frequent by-products of the artform.

Most injuries and a good deal of that fatigue can be avoided simply by dancing on an appropriate dance floor system.  For the dance studio owner, teacher and students that means happy, healthy productive and active clients and staff.

There are four important attributes that directly impact the frequency and seriousness of injury.

When you jump, even if it is only a couple of inches, and you land on an immovable object, the impact is equivalent to three times your body weight.  Over time, fatigue, stress fractures and permanent damage to ligaments, tissue and bone can occur.

A good floating wood subfloor reduces that shock to the body by half.  It converts some of the impact energy to resilient energy (think diving board) and safely returns it to the dancer.  Commonly this is referred to as 'spring.' 

Other energy is transferred to a layer of foam under the subfloor.  The subfloor absorbs the excess energy thus helping to create a safe working environment.

There are two other critical elements needed to make your dance environment safe and performance-friendly. First is lateral foot support.  While your flooring system is dissipating excess energy it should be providing support for balance. If the surface deflects or moves unevenly, you lose stability.  You can’t dance on a trampoline because it has no lateral foot support.  Some may reference the floor’s deflection as pointe elastic, but I prefer to look at meeting the needs of the dancer, not the floor’s characteristics as a guideline for safety.  Wood usually makes an excellent subsurface to assure lateral foot support.

The final element is co-efficient of friction.  In other words, how fast or slow is the surface on which you are working.

I don’t like using the word slippery because it sounds unsafe.  The fact is if a floor was completely non-slip you could not turn, slide or glide.  Most floor surfaces can be tuned to be either faster (ballroom, hip hop) or slower (ballet) with finishes, treatments or a change in environment.  Changes in heat, cold and humidity affect the surface’s co-efficiency of friction.  A dedicated maintenance program will help keep your floor surface consistent.

There seems to be a proliferation of dance floor surfaces and claims to go with them.  Let’s clear the air.  All roll-up dance floors (sometimes referred to as Marley) are made of PVC (polyvinylchloride), a derivative of oil.  There are only two processes used to turn PVC into flooring: calendaring, which produces soft, flexible flooring, and extruded—harder, denser surfaces for heavy-duty use.    There are homogeneous floors (solid throughout) and heterogeneous floors (layered).

Floors usually consist of a wear layer, filler and backing.  Sometimes they have a fiberglass lining for stability, and sometimes they have a foam backing for shock absorbency. A few have come with a factory finish, most do not.

A floor should be more than 1 mm thick, otherwise it was probably designed for use on a wall.

They are all relatively the same in wear, use and required maintenance.  Get samples, try them out for yourself and simply go with the lowest price for the type of floor you are considering.

The only caution is the softer floors do not hold up well with tap, clogging or ballroom.  Ask questions before you buy. 

Damage, vandalism, dirt, dye-marks and floods are not covered by guarantees.  Remember you and your floor will be together for a long time.  When it all works, you don’t even know it is there.

To contact Randy Swartz go to


Randy Swartz

Randy Swartz

Randy Swartz is regarded as an expert and mentor in his field, having presented hundreds of dance companies and solo artists in more than 1,000 performances; served on a variety of boards, arts advisory panels and academic staffs; and traveled throughout the world to work with renowned dancers, choreographers and dance companies. For more than 40 years, Stagestep - The Dance Floor System Experts - has brought innovative dance, theater and performing arts flooring solutions, including a full line of flooring surfaces, subfloors, installation and maintenance products to stages, studios and homes around the world.

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