What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance? | Harlequin Floors

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What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. The great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue but, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs.

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens “Ave Maria,” part of PBT’s Open Air Series last fall. Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. They purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin’s AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker (“It felt exactly like our regular floor,” says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

 Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring. Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account when choosing floors for outdoor venues. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color “so that it would be cooler if it’s reflecting sunlight during daytime performances,” she says. 

However, for the civic ballet company’s first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. “It felt warm to the feel,” she says. “You could see the dancers didn’t hesitate to run or step into arabesque.” (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

 State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

“To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that’s everything,” she says. “The dancers have to feel secure.”

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible.

Dance Magazine | What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

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