Study the Options

Putting the Spotlight on Performance Flooring

When it comes to school performance spaces such as auditorium stages and dance classrooms, the flooring of choice requires new considerations. The unique aspect of this type of flooring is its own inherent need to continually perform. Because students of the arts, particularly dance and theatre, participate in such rigorous activities, the flooring needs to hold up for safety reasons. And because this performing is meant for an audience, the flooring also needs to maintain its appearance throughout its lifetime.

Auditioning for the Lead

After determining there is designated space for the dance or theater department, schools need to decide which type of dance flooring best fits their needs. There are two basic surface options.

Wood

Hardwood (e.g., maple, beech, oak): The established option for architects and specifiers has been toward hardwood surfaces. Whereas they have a visually attractive appeal, they can require continuous and costly maintenance, with re-sanding and sealing every few years. If waxes or incorrect seals are applied, they can also pose a significant slip hazard.

Softwood (e.g., pine, fir, spruce): Specifiers should never use softwood as an unprotected dance or performance surface. Softwoods are easily damaged and there is always the risk of splintering. However, they offer an acceptable sub-surface because there is relatively more“give” than a hardwood floor.

Synthetics: Now the industry standard in dance flooring, synthetics are flexible vinyl surfaces that can be unrolled over most surfaces for instant performing arts floors.

Many factors help to determine the performance flooring choice:
• What is the budget for the space?
• How big is the room or performance space?
• Which type of sub-floor does the space have?
• How much work needs to be done to the existing floor to prepare it for the new installation?
• Will the installation be permanent or will it need to be removed occasionally?

Multi-Purpose Areas: How to Choose the Right Performance Flooring

Specifiers need to decide whether the performance space will be used for other activities besides dance and theater. If the space will also be used as a gymnasium or meeting room, it might be best to choose a loose-laid or semi-permanent floor that can be removed periodically as necessary.

Once it has been determined that a permanent dance floor is the best solution, specifiers must decide on the type of dance for which the floor will be used. For schools with a strong dance program, for example, a slip-resistant surface with a sprung sub-floor is certainly the best option. Sprung dance floors are designed to return energy to the performers to give them the extra lift they require to complete strenuous leaps, and at the same time, to absorb shock and eliminate any “trampoline effect.” On the other hand, if the performance floor needs to survive the rigors of tap and other percussive dance or a barrage of heavy stage equipment, the sprung floor needs judicious reinforcement or blocking, and an extra hard-wearing but slip-resistant dance surface. This more versatile and highly specialized heavy-duty vinyl should be considered for facilities with performance spaces that house not only dance and drama programs, but also clubs and other extracurricular activities.

School facilities with smaller budgets might not be able to afford a ballet room, for example, either in cost or in space. If the basketball court doubles as the dance studio, the dancers will want to roll up the flooring once they finish for the day to protect it from less sensitive activities.

Ensuring Performers Don’t “Break a Leg”

Important to any specifier, but particularly for school facility performance spaces, is the issue of safety. Schools must ensure safety for their students, as well as any outside performers using the dance space. As such, several questions should be considered pertaining to dance flooring.

Does the flooring have a non-slip surface?
Avoid the unhealthy chance of the janitorial department waxing the floor to a high shine, which can increase the risk of someone slipping and sustaining serious injuries. Specify a vinyl dance floor with a matte or satin slip-resistant surface to prevent falls, and ensure the dance floor supplier also provides a detailed maintenance schedule.

What are the installation procedures?
Correctly installing the dance flooring can mean the difference between years of performances and immediate shutdown. Consult a flooring professional who can assess the needs of the individual space and install the floor according to the manufacturer’s recommended procedures to avoid disfiguring lumps, ripples, poor joints, and general trip hazards.

What type of maintenance does the floor need?
Properly maintaining performance flooring is essential for its long life. Permanent vinyl flooring installation offers impermeable welded seams to waterproof and seal the floor. Some vinyls also have soil-resistant surfaces for easy cleaning and hygienic surfaces.

The choices and options are similar for each type of flooring, but the main question remains the same: Is this the best flooring available for these specifications? Both carpeting and performance flooring must ensure safety, quality, and lasting aesthetics.

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