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Why Marley Floors Suck for Tap Dance

Published on July 25th 2019 by Hillary-Marie

In Episode 035, I talk about our body being our instrument, so is our floor, and the floor that we as tap dancers stand on is a large contributor to our health and quality of sound.

So here it is y’all. It’s not appropriate to have percussive dancers dance on marley. It exhausts the body and dampens our sound, which often leads to dancing heavier and harder in hopes of being heard, and there’s huge potential for injury. Swimmers need water, runners need a track, and we as tap dancers need sprung, hard wood floors. It’s our responsibility as individual tap dancers to make sure we’re working with the appropriate instrument for our art form.

Michelle Dorrance is a MacArthur Genius Award Winner, director of Dorrance Dance, and an overall beautiful artist and human-being who has worked so hard to bring tap dance to concert dance audiences throughout the world in an amazing way. There’s a bonus episode not too long ago where I did a recap of “ladies in the shoe,” which she was involved with. Check that out. Michelle once told me that while she was on tour with Savion Glover that Savion had compared asking tap dancers to dance on a marley floor, to asking ballet dancers to dance on sand. And I thought to myself… yes! Yes! This is so right!

Why do so many studios have marley? 

Simply put, it’s cheaper to install, cheaper to maintain, cheaper to clean, and it’s great for non-percussive dance styles, including Contemporary, Ballet, Pointe, Jazz and Hip-Hop. And I know what you’re thinking… but what about the tap dance marley, specifically made for tap dance? This tap dance specific marley is a thicker marley that doesn’t get scuffed or torn up as easily, made specifically for the studio owner who wants to host tap dance classes on a marley floor. It’s important to realize, this product wasn’t made for tap dancers, it was made for the studio owner who doesn’t want to invest in the installation and maintenance of a wood floor, which is a HUGE investment, both up-front for installation and long-term for maintenance. Check out Episode 007, where I talk about the built-in floors I have used and installed.

In Episode 011: New Year’s Resolutions, I talked about how years ago it was my new year’s resolution to not dance on a marley floor and after making that decision, the quality of my tap dance life increased 10 fold. It is important to note that I would never go off on someone for using Marley, it is about educating and sharing knowledge and a lot of people just do not know that Marley is detrimental to a percussive dancer. Studio owners have good intentions and are just trying to create an environment that they can afford that serves the dance community, and marley seems like a choice that they can afford. The only way we can get them back to the wood is through education.

In Episode 019, you’ll hear me discussing with Dr. Daria Oller, a physical therapist who is also a tap dancer, a student of mine, talking about how marley makes your muscles work overtime and can lead to injury.

So what do you do? Quit all your teaching jobs? No. But you can keep a piece of wood at the studio for yourself, or in the trunk of your car. Travel with it. If you’re looking for portable wood flooring options, check out Episode 013.

I want to hear from you!

Are you currently dancing on Marley? Have you made the switch from wood to Marley or Marley to wood? Comment on the show notes or in the iTapOnline Community Facebook Group!

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