Your floor gets installed and everything looks and feels great, but somewhere down the line (it could be a couple of weeks, months or years) seams separate, the floor develops waves or becomes slippery.

What is going on? Was it the installation, defective material, or those who clean the floor? There are a number of reasons why the floor goes bump in the night. For every reason or cause, there is a solution. The problem is finding out what has been causing the mischief.

Let's start with the installation. Were all the appropriate and approved materials for the job utilized or did someone try a short-cut to save money? If the slab (usually concrete) was not prepared prior to installation, that could be one indication why there is a problem. The slab needs to be level, smooth, and have a vapor barrier, either liquid or vinyl.

Floating wood subfloors need to be a rated underlayment grade plywood or engineered wood. The subfloor needs to be installed at least ½ inch from the walls to vent moisture that would otherwise collect under the subfloor. If the installer used nails or dry wall screws instead of wood countersink deck screws, those nails will eventually pop up, causing floor damage. Some subfloor systems require no screws, but can still be installed incorrectly resulting in failure.

Manufacturing defects can usually be seen, or will reveal themselves, in very short order after installation. Defective tape and adhesive are usual suspects if the top floor separates or bubbles up soon after installation. However, other factors could be the root cause.

Discolored flooring or floors with cuts or holes should never be installed in the first place. Take pictures and call the company that sold you the floor.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with your flooring issues? Visit us here and we can help you work through it!

So let's assume that all the proper materials and techniques were used and you still have the aforementioned problem or problems.

There are three areas of cause to be explored.

First is the physical studio itself. Have a skylight, windows, leaking pipes, sliding glass doors in the studio? Have a door that opens directly to the outside? These are all red flags that contribute to flooring systems failure. Direct sunlight has UV radiation that ages and shrinks flooring resulting in the floor cracking. Excessive heat will cause vinyl flooring to expand and create "waves" when installed with tape. Close the windows, and doors, and use drapes, or use blinds to block the sun.

Second, incorrect maintenance procedures cannot only contribute to floor problems, they can be a direct cause. Use of products not recommended for flooring can result in failure. Do not use ammonia, vinegar, alcohol, bleach, acetone, coke, or house cleaning products. Since most dance floor surfaces do not have a factory finish, these products can literally dissolve the flooring, cause the flooring to age prematurely, and become rigid, and/or cause the surface to pit and scratch. Check with the manufacturer about setting up a maintenance program with the recommended products floor maintenance.

All tape has a shelf life. Usually you have two to three years for double-faced tape and three to four months for top tape. Leave the tape down longer and it will eventually fail and when it does, the floor can fracture as it expands and contracts under variable heat conditions.

Moisture is an enemy of dance floor systems. Humidity, spillage, flood mopping, and leaks, even small ones, can impact the viability of your installation. Wood absorbs moisture. When it does it swells and expands. Since vinyl is not impacted directly by moisture in the same way, it tends to remain stable. The effect of moisture is the appearance that the floor is shrinking and gaps appear at the seams. The floor is not shrinking, it's the moisture being absorbed by the wood. This can be confirmed by a moisture meter with readings more than 10%. A dehumidifier and proper maintenance procedures can address these problems. Repairs can also be made to the seams by adding a thin piece of flooring or by heat welding the seams.

The third cause for failure is environmental. With semi-permanent floor installs, extremes in temperature and/or humidity can negatively impact coefficient of friction (floors get slippery) installation, tape can fail, wood will swell, and flooring surface expands, creating waves. Stabilize the environment, and then reset/reinstall your flooring.

There are a variety of ways to address installation issue that occur down the road, but first identify the problem, then it is possible to right the ship and get back to dancing.

If you have questions, please feel free to give us a call for a consultation, or visit

Randy Swartz | Stagestep
(800) 523-0960 ext. 105

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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