The Crucial Role of a Professional Dance Floor: Why Sprung Sports Floors Don't Make the Cut….and why
.... we always ask you to take off your outdoor shoes when entering our studio space!
I am passionate about making the places we dance as safe as possible. As a dance scientist part of my previous work was researching the role of the dance surface for the prevention of injury. This is why when I opened my own studios the number one safety measure I wanted to ensure was that we had the best available dance floors to ensure even our tiniest dancers were looked after - Miss Ava
When it comes to dance, whether you're a beginner exploring your passion or a seasoned professional pushing the boundaries of artistic expression, the surface beneath your feet plays a significant role in enhancing your performance and preventing injuries. While many dance studios opt for sprung sports floors due to their versatility, it's important to understand why a professional dance floor specifically designed for dance activities is essential. In this blog post, we will delve into the importance of a professional dance floor and why it should be the preferred choice for dancers and teachers of all levels and styles.
‘It is a common assumption that a welI-designed sports floor will suit the needs of dancers, but there are two intrinsic differences: the construction of the sprung sub-floor and the performance surface.’1
The Difference Between a Sprung Sports Floor and a Professional Dance Floor
Sprung sports floors, commonly used in gyms and multipurpose spaces, are designed primarily for sports activities like basketball, volleyball, and aerobics. These floors consist of a layer of wooden boards placed over a cushioning material, such as foam or rubber, to provide shock absorption. While they serve their purpose adequately for sports, they lack the specialized qualities that professional dance floors offer.
A professional dance floor, on the other hand, is specifically engineered with the unique needs of dancers in mind. It is a sprung floor system designed to provide optimal shock absorption, energy return, and a smooth surface for dancers to execute their movements safely and effectively. These floors consist of several layers, including a subfloor, cushioning layers, and a finished surface, which all work together to create an ideal dance environment.
The Importance of Shock Absorption
Dance involves repetitive movements, jumps, and landings that put strain on the body, particularly on the joints and muscles of the lower extremities. A professional dance floor, with its superior shock absorption capabilities, reduces the impact forces experienced by dancers when landing from jumps and other dynamic movements. By cushioning the impact, a professional dance floor helps minimize the risk of acute injuries and long-term damage to the body, such as stress fractures or chronic joint issues.
Energy Return and Resilience
Beyond shock absorption, a professional dance floor also offers energy return. This means that the floor absorbs and redistributes energy back to the dancer, allowing for enhanced performance and reduced fatigue. Sprung sports floors, while capable of absorbing shock to some extent, do not possess the same energy return qualities as professional dance floors. The lack of energy return can hinder a dancer's ability to execute intricate movements with precision and vigor.
‘Many flooring companies confuse potential dance floor buyers by marketing sports specific sprung floors as ‘dance floors’. These are very frequently double-battened floors that are designed for sport and have varying degrees of force reduction where the battens cross. These areas feel like “hard spots” to the dancer. Research has indicated that sprung floors offering a consistent response across the floor provide the greatest reduction in injuries and these “hard spots” present a risk for both dancers and teachers’ 2
Smooth Surface for Optimal Technique
A crucial aspect of any dance floor is the smoothness and consistency of its surface. A professional dance floor's surface is specifically designed to minimize friction, allowing dancers to glide, turn, and pivot effortlessly. The surface is often treated with materials like Marley, a vinyl composite, which strikes a balance between slip resistance and glide. This smooth and controlled surface is particularly important for dance styles that require intricate footwork, spins, and partner work. In contrast, sports floors may have traction and grip properties that impede the fluidity and precision necessary for dance movements.
‘The cushioned vinyl top surfaces (As seen in studio 3 at DanSci) are well suited to contemporary and street dance styles as they offer a degree of protection for elbows, knees, shoulders etc, as well as protection for young children who do not have the mass to activate a sprung floor’ 1
Safety and Injury Prevention
Safety is paramount in dance, and the choice of a professional dance floor can significantly contribute to injury prevention. A properly constructed dance floor minimizes the risk of slips, trips, and falls by offering the appropriate level of traction and support. Additionally, the shock absorption and energy return qualities of a professional dance floor reduce the strain on joints, muscles, and connective tissues, helping to prevent overuse injuries and long-term damage.
The practice of removing outdoor shoes upon entering the studio is a combination of preserving the integrity of the specialized flooring, ensuring dancers' safety and performance, and maintaining a conducive and sanitary space for artistic expression and practice.
The choice of the right dance floor is crucial for dancers of all levels and styles. While sprung sports floors may seem like a convenient option due to their versatility, they do not provide the specialized features necessary for dancers to perform at their best and minimize the risk of injuries.
1: Improving Dance Floors https://www.onedanceuk.org/programme/healthier-dancer-programme/industry-standards/improving-dance-floors/ Accessed June 2023
2: Dance Floors Edited by Niamh Morrin, Healthier Dancer Programme Manager, Dance UK, 2013 With special thanks to: Bob Dagger (Chairman and Founder of Harlequin Floors), Dr Luke Hopper, Dr Boni Rietfeld and Mark Foley. https://www.onedanceuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/DUK-Info-Sheet-6-Dance-Floors.pdf Accessed June 2023