What’s the Story Behind Marley Dance Flooring?

Many things, people, ideas, and aesthetics vary within dance. Indeed, people all over the world and in different regions have various approaches to dance, but one thing that I have found to be constant and consistent is “marley flooring.” As dancers, perhaps our greatest asset, tool, partner, and help is the floor. It is always there, always supportive and constant. We rely so much on the floors we dance on, and the level of traction versus slide is crucial to dancers. I have always been curious about what the infamous “marley” is and if “marley” was a person, place, thing, dog, or idea so I decided to delve a bit into the history of marley flooring. 

Photographer: Katie Bruce

How did Marley Flooring get its Name?

I learned that in the dance industry, the term “marley” describes just about any roll-out “vinyl” floor used as a dance surface. The name first came about by a business named “The Marley Company” in England which made vinyl floor, wall and roof products mostly for construction. They developed a thin reversible vinyl black/gray flexible floor called “Stageflor,” the first ever vinyl dance surface. 

The story goes that in the 1960’s one of the executives of Marley had a daughter who was a professional dancer in Europe. She complained to her father that at every theater they went to, they’d wind up on a wooden floor that was different from the last one they’d used. It was very difficult for the company to perform on all these different surfaces. So he invented the product. From that time through 1979, The Marley Company was the sole creator of dancing vinyl surfaces in the world. Slowly other companies started replicating this fantastic product and producing more color and texture options for dancers, companies, and schools. Today actual marley floors are no longer available, but the name “marley” stuck. 

Common Myths about Marley Flooring

In my research I also discovered some of the myths I’ve heard about vinyl dance floors are not true! 

  1. Myth: It’s necessary to use rosin on marley floors to help with slip. NOPE. Vinyl floors are designed to provide a specific amount of controlled slip without any additional materials, such as rosin. Each floor has a certain amount of slip it will allow, which should be one of the factors considered when buying the floor.  Using rosin can actually make marley floors more slippery over time.
  2. Myth: You should mop marley with coke to add “grip to the floor.” FALSE. Coke just attracts dust, dirt and bugs which makes the floor more slick. Cleaning the floor with a neutral pH cleaner designed to clean vinyl flooring will help restore the factory finish and return the floor to its original state of grip/slip.
  3. Mith: Marley floors are expensive. As Scrooge would say – Bah Humbug! Not only are vinyl dance floors more affordable than you think, they’re also available anywhere in the world. 

Now You Know!

We live in a golden age of dance floors. Dance floors have never been so safe, studied, and perfected and “marley” is seen in almost every studio and performance venue you could visit. In our efforts to learn more about our craft, I have never been educated about the floors I’m performing on. Here’s to changing that! What’s the only instrument you must have to dance? The floor! Without the floor, you’re not dancing. The better the floor, the more you can do, the longer you last, and the greater your dancing. Win win win!

-McCall McClellan 

Originally from Vernal Utah, McCall received her BA in Dance and a minor in Media Arts in her home state at Brigham Young University. While a student, she taught clogging, and performed with BYU’s Contemporary Dance Theater and the International Folk Dance Ensemble. She has performed at the Breaking Ground Festival in AZ, the Dumbo Dance Festival in NY, the American College Dance Association in UT and WA, and in Europe at the B12 festival, Impulstanz, and the New Prague Dance Festival. McCall is also heavily involved in the screen dance scene in the intermountain area.