Collage Dance Collective’s Stunning Harlequin Floors Are Breaking the Ballet Mold
Stepping into Collage Dance Collective’s new Andrea Louise Jenkins Center for Dance, you immediately sense that you’ve entered a special space. With sunlight streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows, rafters painted in calm shades of blue and stunning brown-toned Harlequin dance floors, Collage’s studios instantly invite creativity and purpose, just like the company itself.
Founded in 2006 in New York City before finding its current home in Memphis, Tennessee, Collage Dance Collective is a ballet company and conservatory that aims to inspire the growth and diversity of ballet, provide a platform for professional dancers of color, and expand access to classical training to communities of color.
Recently, Collage co-founders Kevin Thomas and Marcellus Harper collaborated with Harlequin Floors to install flooring in all five of its new state-of-the-art studios. The dancers’ “safety and well-being is one of my top priorities,” says Harper, “so installing premier dance flooring where our professional ballet company and more than 400 students within our conservatory train each week was very important to me. Utilizing Harlequin WoodSpring® sprung floor systems in our studios is one of the intentional ways we invest in the well-being and dreams of the diverse professional artists and budding dancers we serve.”
Bringing Thomas and Harper’s vision for the new space to life was no small feat. The process began with Harlequin’s CEO, Guy Dagger, and American Harlequin’s sales director, Steve Gough, paying a visit to Memphis to work directly with the two co-founders. In discussing their needs, it was clear that Thomas and Harper had a vision for each of the studios both functionally and aesthetically. After the Harlequin team walked them through all of their options, they selected Harlequin WoodSpring® sprung floors for all the studios, to ensure optimal performance and safety for their dancers. For performance surfaces on the sprung floors, they chose Harlequin Studio™ for the spaces dedicated to ballet, Harlequin Cascade™ with BioCote® for multi-purpose studios, and a prefinished maple hardwood for its studios with tap classes. Collage’s facilities also use Harlequin Wall-Mounted and Freestanding Ballet Barres.
Design-wise, Collage had more choices than you’d expect thanks to Harlequin, which really allowed the ballet company’s unique vision for their new home to shine. “About 30 years ago, Harlequin started offering our flooring in colors other than the standard black and gray,” says American Harlequin executive vice president Pat Basileo. “We’re always listening to our customers, and we were getting requests for custom floor colors for different ballets, and designers that were looking for offerings in various tones. We now offer not only different shades of gray, but warmer colored floors.” For both practical and aesthetic reasons, Thomas and Harper chose hazelnut- and beige-colored floors. “Our dancers wear flesh-colored shoes,” says Thomas. “The shoes have to be sprayed, and on a gray or black floor where they’re dancing, that spray comes off, and you see the markings. With the brown floors, it’s more camouflaged. Also, it’s wonderful to have these brown tones that highlight our own skin color.”
The actual installation process of Collage’s flooring took about three weeks, and once completed, Collage’s co-founders, company dancers and conservatory students were thrilled with their new dance home. Kendall Lockhart, second-year company artist, appreciates the versatility of Harlequin’s floors, which is essential for Collage’s diverse and challenging repertoire. “This is the first time I went into the studio and felt like these were floors I could do both pointework and dance barefoot on,” she explains. “In the past, I’ve had issues being able to do both on one type of floor.”
Overall, having a beautiful, functional space to work in allows Collage Dance Collective to focus on what matters: creating, engaging with their community and continuing to break boundaries in the world of classical ballet. “If we don’t have confidence in what we’re dancing on, it takes down the quality of the performance, because we’re worried if we’re about to slip or get stuck during a pirouette,” explains company artist Fábio Mariano. “We can really focus on our art and not worry about slipping or sticking, because we know what to expect, and what we expect is great. We have the best material floor to work on every day.”
Considering investing in a dream space for your own dancers? As Collage’s studios show, it’s definitely possible to find practical ways to bring your design visions to life, especially when working with the experts at Harlequin. “A new build for a dance company, no matter big or small, is a vast undertaking that can be overwhelming,” Basileo shares. “We at Harlequin always recommend working with a designer, theater consultant or architect familiar with performing arts spaces, and to contact us early on, so we can help guide you in the floor selection process and ensure the space will be built to meet the requirements for your chosen floor system.” Explore the Harlequin line of sprung and vinyl marley floors using their Floor Selector.