Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cheap home ballet studio stuff

With so many people stuck at home because of the pandemic, many dancers are looking for ways to create home ballet studios. Here are some suggestions for ways to do this.

Here's my setup. The space is a bit larger than 8' x 10' (2.5m x 3.0m)

The first thing many people want is a barre. I've seen photos of people using everything from kitchen countertops to futon frames, but nothing beats something designed for the purpose.

I bought my barre from Vita Vibe several years ago. It's the 5-foot "Prodigy" model. It's quite sturdy and light; in fact, it's so light that I've wrapped my scuba diving weights around the uprights to give it some heft. I got the double-barre version because I need the upper bar fairly high (I'm 5' 10" tall) but am not flexible enough to get my foot that high. The second barre also makes the barre more stable. To cushion my ankle, I wrapped the lower bar with heavy foam plumbing insulation purchased at my local hardware store.

Not everyone can afford a commercial home barre, especially now: the one I have now sells for $180 plus shipping (from the US). However, here's a website that gives directions for making one out of PVC pipe. The dimensions given produce a barre 43" tall. The only issue I have with the instructions is that it doesn't tell you to glue the pieces of pipe together. I suspect this construction will get wiggly pretty quickly. I'd get some proper PVC pipe glue at the same hardware store when you're buying the pipe and glue the five pieces that make up the feet, and the four pieces that make up the uprights. That would leave you with six solid pieces that can be assembled and disassembled conveniently. Oh, and you don't need a special cutter to cut PVC pipe -- a hacksaw will do nicely. Here's different site that says you can cut it with a piece of string.

So that takes care of a barre. What about flooring? That depends on what you're starting with. The floor in my room is Pergo, which is a hard laminate formed in planks to look like hardwood but is very hard. It's laid over a foam pad that makes it a bit resilient. The two problems I have with this floor is (1) it's quite slippery, and (2) the joints between the planks are apparently not entirely smooth. Even though walking on it in bare feet feels smooth, the sudden appearance of holes in the toes of my slippers suggests otherwise.

My first thought was Marley, the rubbery flooring used in professional dance studios. I assumed it was only available in massive rolls for big bucks but you can buy pre-cut sections online from several vendors for reasonable prices. Greatmats sells a 5.25' x 8' roll of reversible Rosco Marley for $128. Harlequin Floors sells a 5' x 6' dance mat made of similar material for $75. Due to current demand both of these companies are advertising a 5 to 7 day lead time before shipment.

If you're cheap or impatient (or both), here is a decent alternative. Big box hardware stores like Home Despot and Lowes sell a product called "Shower Pan Liner" made of 40 mil PVC that has about the same texture as Marley. The roll I bought from Lowes cost $40 and there were several rolls in stock. It is labeled as being for "installations up to (4ft x 7ft)" but actually measures 5' x 8', and smaller rolls are also available. Just unroll it over a clean floor in a ventilated space and let it sit for a couple of days until the plastic smell dissipates. Even doing pirouettes on it doesn't cause it to shift or twist once laid flat.

What if your floor is carpet? My suggestion is to add a sheet of plywood or Oriented Strand Board (OSB) to your shopping list. These are sold in 4' x 8' sheets, which works well with the dimensions of the flooring above. Lay this over the carpet and top it with your choice of dance flooring. I'd suggest wrapping the edges of the plywood with some duck tape to make it a little less dangerous to bare feet.

What if your floor is something solid, like linoleum over concrete? Try putting some foam playroom floor squares between the concrete and the plywood and dance floor. I know of someone who did this sandwich for her dancing daughter and she reported it was acceptable even for pointe work.

Let me know if you try any of these suggestions, and tell me how well they work for you!

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