In Summer 2015 DELIRIOUS was the first dance company to be in residence at Materials for the Arts(MFTA) in Long Island City, NY.
MFTA was founded in 1978 and helps keep stuff (furniture, paint, books, fabric, you name it) out of landfills by accepting donations from companies, museums, stores and individuals, and then recycling the donations to NYC Schools and non-profit organizations (theater, dance, music, puppetry, etc). MFTA also provides a range of workshops and professional development classes in creative recycling. As a passionate advocate for composting and recycling, I was thrilled to have a MFTA residency!
Warehouse Artist Studio + Shipping Palettes The residency was in the MFTA warehouse artist studio, which has a cement carpeted floor and a triangular shape. I asked MFTA if I could build a temporary dance floor in the studio, and they said yes.
A colleague, Andrea Haenggi, had used shipping palettes to build a dance floor at the former 1067 Pacific People Space. Shipping palettes have a cross-hatch structure that allows for a "spring," and the MFTA warehouse had stacks and stacks of shipping palettes for transporting supplies.
Sarah Schetter (Technical Director/Carpenter) designed a plan for building a 12x16 foot dance floor out of palettes. The width and height of the palettes varied greatly, so we had to find palettes that were relatively the same size, in good condition, and shimmed some of them so they were all the same height. We built a central platform out of re-purposed wood from the warehouse, and then attached the palettes to both sides of the central platform to allow for differences in length.
Coushiny Spring + Dance Floor Surface For the dance floor surface we debated about using plexiglass (too brittle), masonite (too soft), or plywood (just right). When we started the project there were several 4×8 sheets of plywood in the warehouse, however by the time we were ready to install them, they were gone. I learned the hard way that if you see something you want at MFTA, you need to claim it right away. So we bought 4x8 sheets of 1/4 inch lauan to surface the floor. The lauan and screws were the only aspects of the floor that were not recycled.
To give the floor more spring, I suggested placing strips of car tire over the palettes, however we had difficulty accessing and transporting tires to the warehouse. The warehouse had big bins filled with obsolete rubber cellphone cases that we considered using, however nixed that idea as it was going to be labor intensive to unwrap, and staple hundreds of cellphone cases to the palettes. The warehouse also had huge rolls of plush synthetic carpet and Sarah suggested using the carpet to give a coushiny spring to the floor. We stapled the carpet to the palettes, then placed the lauan on top and screwed it down.
The initial plan was to paint the luan white, however we lucked out as BRIC donated to MFTA rolls of old grey marley from the Celebrate Brooklyn stage. The marley was marked up and moldy in areas, however after a lot of scrubbing it looked like new!
Empowering Building a dance floor out of palettes transformed where and how I can present work. As a choreographer I'm often taking dance out of proscenium stages and into communal locations (storefront windows, city sidewalks, public parks), so I'm delighted to have a viable solution for an affordable temporary dance floor,
In addition, having taught in New York City public schools and at international dance festivals where I frequently was working on concrete or non-resilient floors, and having to modify what I was teaching (no big jumps, leaps or high impact movement) to reduce the possibility of injury; it is helpful to be able to propose and advocate for an affordable temporary dance floor.
Re-Purposed At the end of the MFTA residency the floor was dismantled and the wood and carpet recycled into the warehouse. The marley went to Norte Maar who produces a summer outdoor dance festival at Socrates Sculpture Park.
Many Thanks to Harriet Taub, Michael Kaiser, Omar Olivera, Kwame Belle, Nakeshia Betsill, Miguel Vasquez, and the entire staff and volunteers at MFTA who made the residency a wonderful, productive and supportive experience.