Equip yourself with basic studio equipment in portable form to make lease-hopping a cinch.
Gone are the days of garage dance studios and wheedling your local recreation center into letting you commandeer the gym four days a week. Today’s studio owner needs a space of her own. But that space doesn’t have to be—and often isn’t—permanent. “Today, 80 to 90 percent of all dance studios are leased,” says Randy Swartz, president of Stagestep Flooring Solutions.
As your business grows, your location is likely to change more than once. Rather than replacing your entire studio outfit with each new space (or only renting former dance studios), consider equipping yourself with portable studio basics—flooring, barres, mirrors and sound system. Below, we offer easy, affordable ways to take your studio essentials with you from one leased locale to the next.
Taking the Floor
Glynis Van Slyke, president of Entertainment Flooring Systems (EFS), is familiar with the I-need-a-temporary-but-safe-dance-floor plight of many studio owners. “We have studios that are desperate—they need to open—but the location they’ve gotten isn’t really ideal, so they’ll only be there for a couple of years,” she says. “Why spend $30,000 for a floor that’s designed to be permanent?” You won’t be there long enough to recoup your investment.
That’s where portable flooring comes in. EFS’ portable sprung floor, for example, comes in a choice of finished maple or oak hardwood and runs cheaper ($8.30–$9.30 per square foot) than the company’s more permanent options. Its tongue-and-groove locking system, says Van Slyke, is not affected by multiple moves (though disassembly and reassembly should be done with care to hold up during transition). Even the moving process is designed with portability in mind: “You’re just pulling up the boards, stacking them, pulling up the under layer and loading it into a truck,” she says.
Harlequin Floors’ Liberty LatchLoc sprung floor uses the same principle—a floating subfloor with interlocking wooden panels, which simplifies installation. Reconfiguration is a breeze: If you want to pull it up and move it to a new space, you can at any time. Stagestep’s Encore floor, at $10 per square foot, works in a similar way.
Transportability If you’re traveling often from one nonstudio location to the next, consider investing in a rollout floor, like EFS’ Duofloor. It’s the most lightweight model (under 3 pounds per linear foot, as opposed to 4 or 5 pounds), reversible (black/gray or black/white) and comes cut based on customers’ dimensions (like 30′ x 40′, which, Van Slyke notes, “matches up with a lot of stages”).
Raising—and Lowering—the Barre, Ad Infinitum
Unlike a wall-mounted ballet barre, which can leave sizable holes (and possible structural damage) should you choose to remove it, portable barres are lightweight yet sturdy, substantial and still adjustable. EFS offers PVC or aluminum options; Harlequin has aluminum and beech. “It’s a double barre,” explains Harlequin marketing director Chrissy Ott, “so you can use both or just the lower barre. There are various configurations.” Companies offer different lengths—52 and 72 inches at Harlequin ($470 and $570, respectively), for example—to fit whatever size studio you’re operating in.
Transportability Stagestep’s The Elite portable barre, with its 1-2-3 assembly, carrying case and light weight, was created for easy transport. “You can take it apart, carry it by its case handles, open it up and snap it together,” says Swartz. “It’s very stable, very strong.” The 5′ model is $685.
Smoke and Mirrors
Instead of installing heavy glass mirrors (with the potential to shatter dangerously) in your temporary studio space, try glassless mylar. This nonfogging, nondistorting alternative stretches and vacuum-seals mylar over an aluminum frame. “If it breaks, it’s not going to shatter,” says Ott. “It’s really a safety thing.” (And, as Swartz points out, glass mirrors aren’t included in your insurance—they’re an add-on.) Harlequin offers a bifold two-piece model and a trifold; they can come on wheels or on floor stands, allowing multiple configurations.
Transportability Wall-mounting versions like those of Stagestep and Harlequin only require double-faced tape and/or mounting brackets. Stagestep’s smaller size (4′ x 6′) is $400, and the larger (4′ x 8′) is $425.
When it comes to portable sound systems, remember that amplification requirements will differ with studio size. A small studio, for example, can get away with a build-your-own hi-fi system, but larger rooms might require the more powerful PA (public address) systems. Both require the same equipment: a CD or MP3 player, amplifier and speakers. JVC, Panasonic, Sony, JBL and Yamaha all offer hi-fi or PA packages to fit the size, shape and budget of your studio.
Transportability It’s easy to go completely portable when it comes to sound—a sound dock, like Bose’s SoundDock XT speaker ($149.95), works with (and charges) iPod and iPhone models. You’ll get good sound quality, compact size and auxiliary input for other audio devices, like a tablet or MP3 player.
Finally, don’t forget: If you do eventually find the studio of your (permanent) dreams, you can always sell your portable floor, barres, mirrors and sound system to the next owner starting out studio life in the temporary zone. DT
Dance Equipment International
Entertainment Flooring Systems
O’Mara Sprung Floors
Stagestep Flooring Solutions
Photos from top: Thinkstock; photo courtesy of A-Team Dance Center