Portable dance floors and event staging reach new heights of performance and creativity.
By Danielle Beurteaux
Staging and dance floors are integral to an event’s architecture. But in the past, function took precedence over form. As long as dance floors and stages did the job, no one really noticed them. Today, staging and dance floors are coming into their own with new designs and technology that make them easier to customize, care for and transport.
“Back in the day, there were only basic wooden floors,” says Ernie DiGennaro, owner of California Portable Dance Floor Co. (CPDF), based in Camarillo, Calif. But customer demand prompted innovations, which created a whole catalog of new dance floor options.
The push to be unique is driving creativity in dance floor design, says Arnon Rosan, president of Signature Systems Group LLC, New York, N.Y. A dance floor as a practical afterthought is over, he says, and it’s becoming part of the overall decor.
Dark wood is a popular choice because it goes well with modern, modular furniture looks that are hot, Rosan says. Also popular are dance floors with inserts because clients are able to choose the color of the insert—vinyl tile that sits on a plastic base—to match the event’s decor and for branding opportunities.
Melynda Norman-Lee of Toronto, Ont., Canada-based J J L Events Inc. prefers white floors, particularly in white tents, for a subtle look. “I’ll suggest a white dance floor if the decor scheme is monochromatic so it doesn’t become a focal point,” she says.
One trend Norman-Lee is seeing is that brides and grooms don’t always want to be the center of attention during the reception, but would rather be more accessible to their guests. To that end, Norman-Lee will suggest a table in a square or U-shape instead of one long table for a more intimate feel, and she’ll put the table right on the dance floor.
“Once the dancing starts, whoever’s at the head table rarely sits down,” she says. “Usually there’s a break right after dinner and then we can get that table off the dance floor in a couple of minutes and it’s like it was never there.”
In fact, delineated dance floors may soon be a thing of the past. Event planners are creating clean, minimalistic spaces, discarding the installation of a separate dance floor in favor of flooring that can be danced on anywhere space and choice dictate.
“We prefer to suggest a complete floor in a tent,” Norman-Lee says. “Lately we’ve been doing the type of floor that is laminate throughout, so there isn’t a specific dance floor. It becomes a dance area. It’s a little bit more informal.”
Trip the light fantastic
One trend that isn’t going away is incorporating dance floors into design with branding—applying logos or monograms to floors, for example. Adhesive vinyl lettering is popular because it’s temporary and relatively easy to remove. “There’s definitely a trend to put designs and decorations directly on top of the dance floor,” Rosan says.
“Right now, laminates are popular because they require minimal maintenance and take a beating,” says CPDF’s DiGennaro. They last about 20 years, he says, and a white laminate floor is a great choice for lighting effects such as logos for branding.
Anthony Karabetyan, owner of Chic Event Rentals in Monterey, Calif., also says his clients like white floors, particularly for branding and personalization. “We do custom gobos all the time at events and we shine it right on the dance floor,” he says. “White will make lighting look really cool because it’s nice and bright.”
Tents are the perfect environment for using lighting effects on dance floors because of the structural flexibility a tent offers, and the need to direct lights straight on to floor, Karabetyan says. “That’s the beauty of tenting. You get to design from the ground up and you have unlimited hang points.”
For outdoor installation, larger modular flooring sections are a better choice than smaller sections because they’re easier to level, while smaller pieces will conform to the surface more, Rosan says. A common method is constructing a subfloor for stability and levelness, and putting the dance floor on top.
DiGennaro recommends prepping the area first, which includes raking sand, making sure the grass is mowed and checking that the sprinkler system is off (yes, it’s happened, he says). For gravel surfaces, he suggests laying indoor-outdoor carpet in a 3-foot-wide perimeter around the dance floor to create a buffer zone and help get gravel off shoe soles.
While Karabetyan also likes laminate dance floors because they clean easily and are tough, he avoids laying floors on gravel areas if possible. “Laminate dance floors are more resistant and they clean easier but once they are damaged, they’re damaged,” he says.
During transportation, DiGennaro recommends placing floors face-to-face and back-to-back so they’re not scratching each other, and storing them flat on a pallet to prevent warping.
Staging an event
An emerging trend in tent staging is constructing multiple elevations within a tent, particularly at corporate events, such as a 2011 Super Bowl XLV event where heavy-duty staging was used to make a V.I.P. balcony, Rosan says. Using staging to demarcate levels of access is something he’s starting to see frequently. “We’re seeing more creativity when it comes to multilevels within a tent,” he says.
Karabetyan uses Minneapolis, Minn.-based Staging Concepts Inc. products, which he likes for very uneven landscapes at outdoor tented events. “I did an awesome event out in the woods,” he says. “It was a 60-by-100-foot tent, and we floored the entire thing using our staging system. In some areas it was 8 or 9 feet off the ground. But we still used a white dance floor.”
Bill Beck, sales manager with Wenger Corp. in Owatonna, Minn., says tent rental companies used to have to build floors out of wood and it would take days. Today’s staging units have leveling legs, like Wenger’s STRATA® Event Staging, which uses pins to level legs and has removal surface decks that allow for customization. “I’ve seen plywood decks in our Strata floor replaced by Plexiglas® to create a clear runway or to cover a swimming pool so the water is visible underneath,” he says.
Or you can create a stage in-house. Narcy Martinez, creative director and logistics with Marquee Tents, Austin, Texas, says her company was getting a lot of requests for a rustic-looking floor that would complement the popular country-influenced decor. The company responded by designing and manufacturing Vintage Plank, which can be used for walkways, staging, ceremony platforms and tent flooring. “We just listened to our customers,” Martinez says.
Covering staging with colored carpets and logo rugs is another popular customization trend. Plus, carpeting creates a modern and seamless look between elevations, Rosan says. “You can use staging creatively to create an architectural element versus just an elevation change.”
As dance floors and staging improve with new technologies that make them more flexible, durable and customizable, expect to see bold and creative uses with these traditional workhorses. However they evolve, what’s sure is that dance floors and staging will continue to be the foundation that keeps the party going all night.