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I often get asked about the impact of flooring on injuries in dancers, and as there are so many things that can come into play, decided that a dedicated post on it was more than overdue.
A completely unexpected blessing when I was in Perth recently was to meet Gary Wright - a National Australian Champion in Cycling who has trained many Olympic level International cyclists, but also the Flooring Technician for the WA Ballet. Gary gave me a lift home one night and we got to talking about how important the flooring is to prevent injuries, and I could immediately see his passion for this. It seems that high achievers achieve in whatever they end up doing and Gary has taken the art of Dance Floor Maintenance to a whole new level. After a few in-depth discussions I decided that I needed to get this all on film for my readers. Video 1 is an interview between us explaining why the surface of the flooring is so important, while Video 2 is an actual demonstration of how he does what he does and what products and processes he uses. Fascinating stuff!
Simply put, with bad flooring and bad technique, you are bound to get injured. A lack of absorption from the floor and through the biomechanics of how you move, repeated over and over as we do when dancing will put excessive strain on particular muscles, ligaments and bones and lead to chronic pain and injuries such as Stress Fractures.
With Good Flooring and Bad Technique you will still get injuries, as the repetitive actions required in dancing will take a toll, even when there is the highest quality flooring.
With Bad Flooring and Good Technique, there will be less injuries, but the dancer may still feel strain in their low back, knees and shins from absorbing the shock, and if the surface of the floor is slippery, they run the risk or falling and hurting themselves directly.
With Good Flooring and Good Technique you are in the safest situation possible. In this case injury prevention comes down to the Choreography and self management in regards to sleep, nutrition and Hydration issues.
So what does "Good Flooring" entail.
There are 3 main factors that I consider to be of ultimate importance in laying and caring for a dancing floor. (There are many other influencing factors so feel free to comment on any others!)
1. The Underlying Surface. If there is no give in the surface, this compounds the force going through the dancers limbs, already many times their body weight. Simply laying a Tarkett over concrete is not good enough for even recreational dancers. Wooden flooring offers natural spring, and allows dissipation of the forces across a much greater area. Specifically designed sprung flooring takes this to a new level, with one layer of flooring suspended over the other, giving room for the reverberation of the floor in between. Take care however with the size of the panels in any pre-made flooring. As Gary explains in the interview (approx 6:38) square panels may be marketed as safer, but it is essential that the top layer is as large as possible to avoid reverberation of the dancers own energy back up their lower limb. Think of a pebble dropped into a lake... The ripples will dissipate completely by the time they reach the edge, however the same pebble dropped into a bucket will create super ripples when the ripples hit the sides of the bucket and start travelling back in towards the centre.
2. The Covering. Now there are many grades of flooring, with astounding shock absorbing capacities. Go for the highest quality one that you can afford, that has a dense foam layer underneath the actual surface to give as much cushioning as possible.
3. The Condition of the Surface. Dance floors are often cleaned irregularly, or simply mopped up with a dirty mop and a bucket of water, or layered up with diluted Coke. This, in Gary's words is "..just poor form.." and will result in a sticky build up that may hinder the dancers rather than help them. Watch the second video below that explains exactly how he keeps the surface of the flooring safe and finely tuned so that the dancers have more confidence in their dancing and can do what they do best.
I hope that this helps you work out better ways of caring for your flooring, and investing in a decent floor for the safely of your dancers.
If you have any questions about flooring for Gary, please contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org