Meniscus tears, slipped discs and ligaments sprains are all too common in dance, a direct result of the body absorbing the shock of landing. A floor could mean anything or nothing to a lot of people. Not to a dancer though. A far cry from the simple surface that one would use to tread on, a dancer is very much dependant on the floor of their studio.
Elina Wisung, principal dancer to The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet recounts and explains the difficulties faced when stages are built for performers here. Uneven surfaces that are too slick make pointe work extremely challenging and are dangerous for the dancer
A point to note is that different dance forms require different types of flooring, the most demanding of all being Classical Ballet. The jumping and turns executed in this exquisite dance form call for a very special kind of dance floor. One that is smooth enough to turn on, but with enough traction so that the dancer does not slip, and one with enough ‘give’, that provides them with the spring they need to jump high and acts as a shock absorber when they land. Dayita Nereyeth, a long time student of The Foundation, describes the flooring in her dance college at Mt. Holyoke, USA, as feeling like a trampoline which is exactly what a sprung floor feels like and is perfect for Ballet.
It consists of 3 layers of wooden planks placed perpendicular to each other. These three layers have been placed on rubber pads that acts as shock absorbers, and on top of this ‘basket-weave’ formation as it is aptly called, is another load distribution layer, above which, is the performance surface on which the dancers perform.
It may seem trivial to the non-dancer but the type of flooring designed for ballet is specifically tailored not just to the dance form but also to the dancers. Think about it like this. Your child takes an hour to an hour and a half of ballet lessons every week during which she will perform hundreds of jumping steps. As she gets older, this time will eventually triple and quadruple which places enormous stress upon her ankles, knees and lower back.
Bad flooring can bring with it a host of problems to the dancer and their career. Simply put, with bad technique and flooring, you are bound to get injured. However, injuries will reduce with good technique, but it cannot eliminate those due to overuse, as steps in Ballet and almost every other dance form are performed repetitively until perfect, leaving good flooring and good technique as the safest option.