A well-made floor is as essential to a dancer as well-laid turf is to Thomas Muller and rope and canvas is to Tyson Fury. Whether you’re a Bayern international midfielder or the WBC heavyweight champion, the right surface can mean the difference between a good or bad performance and, more importantly, even reduce or increase the risk of injury.

And like the gyms, studios and training pitches on which they prepare, the modern dancefloors have unique benefits for the athletes who use them, regardless of discipline. And given that all of the above are spectator activities, they also have to look the part, which is why wood is often a preferred aesthetic.

So, what are the options? That usually depends on the discipline. Ballet dancers, for example, will want something completely different to, say, someone who performs ballroom or modern jazz. A percussive dance such as tap will need a sprung surface with a vinyl layer element to withstand the movement. But whatever the style, one of the most important starting points is that is has to be slip-resistant. Traction is important only insofar as it doesn’t introduce too much rigidity. Dancers, for example, need a combination of what the experts call energy return and shock absorption. Athletes and sports players in particular tend to need an even higher energy return. When Thomas Muller plays a long ball forward, it needs to bounce.

A sprung floor has its own bounce, yet it absorbs shock, supporting and cushioning dancers, whether aided by either of the two most popular styles of Point Elastic or Area Elastic sprung systems. Point elastic floors absorb shock at the point of impact. So, as the dancer hits the floor, that is where the shock is absorbed. The degree of deflection is produced by using cushioned vinyl at the point of contact.

Area elastic floors deflect impact over a wider surface area. So, they provide a high level of shock absorption and comfort: one of the reasons Area Elastic flooring is becoming increasingly popular.

As far as materials are concerned, it’s usually a choice between wood and vinyl. Laminate surfaces have a tendency to be too slippery and easily scratched. You will find wood flooring in most dance studios, even though it tends to be more expensive: ideal for ballet, Latin, and ballroom, in fact, although obviously less so for tap, even when protected by a suitable lacquer.

Vinyl is popular for its resilience and good for protecting the surface from shoe taps while giving a fair amount of grip and, equally, a lot more give. Sprung sports vinyl comes in a range of thicknesses, typically from 5mm-10mm.

Given the significance of a reliable, flat surface for an activity based on the performer’s constant interaction with it, it’s important that he or she feels they can actually trust it. Yet there are no dedicated technical standards for dance floors and the benchmark most often used is EN 14904, the one used for multi purpose sports floors.

Not that this should come as any no surprise, perhaps, given that athletes usually look for the same sort of performance and safety characteristics. In Germany, Sport Group, has partnered with the multinational chemical company, BASF, for the distribution and installation of a new, sustainable flooring system with Infinergy, the first expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) specifically made for flooring systems.

The high-performance material has a strong environmental profile and is Oeko-Tex certified. All aspects involving functionality, stability and environmental compatibility have been extensively tested and make Infinergy a credible alternative to previously used materials. It also ensures a production cycle without residual waste, because it can be fully recovered and reused without the risk of harmful residues.

In Sport Group, BASF has found a partner who will distribute and install the new system worldwide with Jens Dierssen, Director Global Business Incubation Infinergy going on record with the comment: “The strategic co-operation between Sport Group and BASF will enrich sports facility construction with a new, sustainable solution.” Headquartered in Burgheim, Sport Group is the world’s largest sports surfaces company.

The Group offers artificial turf sports fields, athletics tracks, playing fields and landscaping products in more than 70 countries and covers the entire value chain, including research and development, manufacturing and installation, and recycling. Due to its particularly effective cushioning properties, Infinergy® is ideally suited as a component of fall protection flooring, which shields children in particular from injury in the event of falls on playgrounds. With its subsidiaries, Polytan GmbH and Melos GmbH, Sport Group, as a strategic distributor, covers the distribution and installation of such fall protection flooring with Infinergy.

Sports wood flooring: The hard facts

One of the factors that determine how suitable wood is for gym is how hard they are. Hard Maple, for example, has a hardness rating of 1450, high in comparison to the likes of oak, walnut, and pine. The rating also ensures a lifespan longer than many others that tend to deteriorate more rapidly, especially in areas of heavy footfall. It’s not unusual to find a hard gym floor still in use after 50 years or more. The shock resistance of woods such as maple can also mean better ball bounce, making it ideal for multi-purpose sports surfaces. And because it can absorb shocks, it is less susceptible to damage from hard blows and weights. It also has the greatest stability and it is less responsive to environmental changes, meaning it’s less likely to crack from, for example, temperature fluctuations.

In recent years, however, a new contender has surfaced in the form of polyurethane, which offers outstanding longevity and is more cost-effective than hardwood. Again, it tends to satisfy the majority of people who demand a hard playing surface with optimal ball bounce. Timber is a more premium product, but unless you are dedicating the surface to something like basketball, it’s a more economical option.

Science and Sustainability

In the Netherlands, artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde and his team have created an eco floor for Rotterdam’s Sustainable Dance Club which produces up to 25 watts per module, generating enough energy to power the club’s lighting and DJ booth. The modules flex slightly when stepped on. Inside each tile is an electromechanical system which transforms the small vertical movement produced by dancing people into a rotating movement that drives a generator to produce the power.

The Dutch Energy Floors work to the philosophy that all technology is available to create a sustainable world. "We just need to realise this and embrace these technologies into our everyday lives," they say. "Energy Floors aims to create awareness about renewable energy generation and environmental impact. We do this by making energy production visible, interactive, smart and fun."

These smart floors interact with the public and involve them in a unique and interactive energy experience. In other words: “We design and build floors that generate energy, are smart, interactive and make sustainability visible. So everyone who steps on them realises that they can really make an impact.”

In the UK, Harlequin Floors are renowned for providing resilient and resonant surfaces suitable for everything from ballet to tap to Irish dancing, itself a unique and distinctive style often characterised by the dancer’s rigid upper body and intricate footwork.

The repetitive and percussive nature needs a heavy-duty surface. They also have to be resonant to ensure a deep, clear tone is produced when the shoe strikes the floor; a key element of what makes Irish dancing unique and distinctive and further evidence of the compexity of the subject.

There’s a saying: look smart and you’ll play smart. It doesn’t just mean what you wear.

Autor: Richard Burton / Worldshow Media