Friday, September 4, 2009

Dance Venues - What to look for

At the risk of repeating or presenting the obvious, I decided that, rather than just give dimensions of spaces that would work, I would give a complete description of our requirements. This can then be sent on to folks who may know of a place, to see if it would be suitable.

The space we now dance in is about 35 X 65 (35 feet wide and 65 feet long, stage excluded). The space is more than adequate for a single line, and just a tad crowded in width for two lines. The ratio of width to length is about right, with the length being double the width. That being said, the ideal hall for our group, allowing for more people if a bigger hall came up, would be something like

40 X 80 (two lines) to 60 X 120 (three lines).

These dimensions EXCLUDE the stage, or the space where a stage would have to be. In other words, a stageless room would have to be extra long to accommodate a band, while maintaining the ideal one to two ratio for the dance floor itself.

In fact, these two sizes, and the ranges in between, represent pretty much the lower and upper limits of what we are shooting for. Our current venue is slightly smaller than the small dimension, and is just a bit crowded when our attendance is optimum. Anything larger, like a basketball gym, runs the risk of even a very well attended dance seeming "empty'. In Charlotte, this problem was so effective in robbing the dance of energy that the dance organizers ended up dividing the space in half, and using only half of the floor, just in order to give the dance the right "feel".

So, the desired dimensions of the open space available just for dancers (band and doorkeeping excluded) is at or somewhere between these dimensions:

40 X 80 (two lines) to 60 X 120 (three lines)

The other "must have" requirements are:
  • More or less centrally located
  • Safe and adequate parking area and environment around venue (lighting etc.)
  • Good air conditioning system and/or openable windows.
  • Working restrooms
Considerations that are not requirments, but which are important:
  • Flexibility of the flooring. Suspended floor, regardless of cover, is ideal. Wooden floors are hardly better than concrete if they are on concrete (ie, inflexible). Any non slab floor is preferable to any floor on a slab, but, obviously this excludes carpeted floors, which are totally unsuitable.
  • Ambience - All other things being equal, room esthetics are important. Rooms that look like a prison cafeteria are obviously not what we really need, whereas rooms/spaces that already contain artwork or other esthetic advantages are preferable.
  • Sound Considerations: As rooms get larger, it becomes more and more important to try and avoid large hard flat walls, because they muddy the sound of music and make good timing diffucult for the musicians and dancers. Rooms that have this problem, but which can easily be modified by hanging blankets, are preferable to similar spaces which we would not be allowed to modify.
Most of us know from experience what makes a good dance hall, with the exception that some of us may have never had the chance to dance on a suspended floor that can really "give" during a balance. That issue makes a huge difference to the energy of a dance, because a hard balance is impossible on a slab floor, unless you want to wreck your knees and ankles. Anyway, enough blather. Go forth and hunt......
John Wetzel

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