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Dance Floor: Size does not matter, skill and attitude do

If a studio owner is telling you that his/her studio has a dance floor of standard size, (s)he is exposing his/her ignorance or is trying to mislead you. On the other hand, if a dancer is complaining about a certain dance floor, the problem is likely his/hers, not the dance floor itself!


In fact, there is no such thing as a standard floor size, as far as we can tell. A search on the Internet shows that this is in fact the case, that is, there is no standard dance floor dimensions.

Photos of dance floors or of competition dance floors also tend to give a fish-bowl effect, giving the impression that the floor size is larger than it actually is.

This dance floor, as taken using a low-end camera, measures 30' by 33'. But it looks so much more spacious because of fishbowl effect. If a higher-end camera with wide-angle lens is used, the effect is more dramatic.

Skill Matters

A good, and especially trained, dancer should be able to negotiate corners, navigate around or floor-craft a dance floor, as long as it is of a reasonable size. Progressive dances such as smooth dances would normally require more space than Latin dances.

In the case of performing, especially on a stage, organizers cannot possibly "push" the walls back to "adjust" the stage space - which is more often than not, a leased property - to accommodate the performers; quite the contrary, great or professional performers should be able to study the stage space layout, adjust and floor-craft accordingly, or improvise with whatever is provided. Otherwise, just turn down the offer to perform. Floor-crafting - to fully utilize or to improvise the performance space - is an art in itself and a major part of successful performances.

Size Does Not Matter

Only recently, in competitions, some governing bodies have started to provide certain guidelines for organizers to conform. These guidelines are put in place because of the scope of these organizations (whose competitions are normally highly attended); the expected number of couples in each heat is no less than 8. Smaller scale competitions, where there are few competitors in each heat, may not need so much space.

To be sanctioned by some of the more prestigious dance organizations, for example, the minimum under USA Dance rules is 36' by 60'. Floors for championship events are of a minimum of 42' by 66'. Other dance federations will require in Europe 16m x 26m; in China 15m x 23m; in USA 36' x 60'; and in Canada 35' x 60'. [Note assemblable parquet floors come in 1m x 1m, or 3' x 3' squares].

Now that quite a number of international competitions are being held in emerging countries. For example, Bayview Hotel in Batu Ferrighi, Penang, Malaysia, sanctioned by World Dance Organization (WDO). In order to have a fairer competition, governing bodies set standard syllabuses and minimum floor size so that sanctioned competitions are standardized!

Just to clarify a very misleading fact: all dances which follow standardized syllabuses, standardized guidelines..., especially in competitions, are "standard", just like SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States to evaluate students from different parts of the world (which have varied scoring systems).

Real properties are leased by the square footage (or square meterage). The (unnecessary) space requirements understandably contribute to economical unsustainability of many studios. And indirectly to the rise in popularity of other dances, which require only reasonable space. Indeed, we iterate the fact that good dancers should be able to negotiate corners, making a continuous circular/elliptical line of dance, that is, no edges. Instead of dancing along a long-edge and a short-edge [a rectangle] - a concept which only constitutes to robotic dancing, or rote-dancing at best, and which slights creativity - a dancer can dance along an endless line of dance!

The fact of the matter is that dancing is for enriching dancers' lives; Standardization is very much for competitions (just like examinations). An unfortunate consequence of all the "standardizations" is a production line of dancers who cannot adapt to unstandardized environments! Which really makes dancing completely devoid of fun, not to mention stifling creativity.

Dance Etiquette, Courtesy and Professionalism

In almost all cases, when a dancer shows up at a dance club, or at a dance competition, the floor is for everyone to use, for the purpose of that particular event. It is thus very important to exercise etiquette and common courtesy.

In social or practice settings, everyone is sharing the floor. Everyone is paying for the use and has equal privilege. Most dance studios/clubs do play a variety of music and do suggest certain dance for a particular song to minimize reckless behaviors or injuries. If the music is not of a dancer's taste, then the dancer is probably in the wrong place. For example, it would be very inappropriate to go to a Salsa club and expect a smooth dance!

In competition setting, every competitor is competing on the same floor, with the same advantage or disadvantage, and under the same conditions. Unless ALL competitors complain, it is thus unreasonable to complain about the dance floor when dancing less ideally. In a fair competition, each competitor should, under the same conditions, dance to the best of one's ability, and may the best dancer prevail!

In all situations, it is most inconsiderate to apply powder or wax to dance shoes. Smeared powder or wax may create a hazard for other dancers.

It is also very rude to "bull-doze" around, especially down the line of dance. This is particularly true with those dancers who dance with a fixed set of patterns to execute along the long-edge, and another fixed set of patterns for the short-edge. A good dancers should be able to navigate around other fellow dancer "obstacles", or modify dance patterns so that no one bumps into each other.

It is a good idea to dress properly for each occasion.

Points to Ponder

The idea of governing bodies setting forth guidelines is not to make life difficult for competitors, but rather to make competitions more fair. When competitors come from different parts of the world, with diverse cultural backgrounds, and varied training programs, a standardized guideline, syllabus... is probably a solution (just like we still cannot eliminate standardized examinations even though it is a time-proven fact that examinations are not the best way to evaluate and rank a person's intelligence).

Rather, it is the goal-setting, the time invested honing dance skills to improve dancing, the thrill of competing against some of the best in the world, and the joy of winning or celebrating with winning friends, that count.

A champion professional dancer, who also judged, once remarked, "By you having the courage to go onto the competition dance floor, you have already won, whether you eventually get placed first or not. Just give it your best and have fun. If everybody wins, then no one wins; if nobody loses, then no one wins either..."

Indeed, a winner wins a particular competition under that particular condition, environment, and situation. The most adaptable competitor prevails in a fair competition.

An analogy will make the point clearer. A "monopolistically" competitive dancer is like a professional golf player - the player is striving for a personal best to win the tournament. In contrast, an "oligopolistic" competitor is like a professional tennis player whose action and reaction depend on where the opponent hits the ball to outplay the opponent. Until such time as when they begin to have physical contacts between competitors, or dancers bull-dozing down the line of dance, dance competitions are monopolistically competitive.

We humans are, after all, social animals who love to have fun (or to have fun showing off!). Indeed, we love to dance on floors that are relatively crowded; not one empty dance floor. Governing bodies have the right idea to help judges do judging; but for fun, the more the merrier.

And never blame it on the dance floor if you have less fun - showing off or not - size does not matter; attitude and skill matter!

Article citation:
Hal Lim, "Dance Floor: Size does not matter, skill and attitude do", BravoK, BDS201412-09, December 2014.

CARnHAL, at an international competition.

CARnHAL, at an international competition.

Hal of CARnHAL, enjoying dancing with some university teens and tweens at an event in a foreign country, on carpet.

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