CriticalDance Forum

Safety in dance performances
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Dec 20, 1999 10:35 am ]
Post subject:  Safety in dance performances

Salzberg has raised the important issue of safety in the context of a discussion about 'The Nutcracker'. But it seems to me that it is a crucial matter in its own right, so I have taken the liberty of starting a new thread on this topic. Here is the original thread:<P>********************************************<P>If I were the parent of a kid who was dancing in Nutcracker <shudder>, there are some questions I'd ask first:<P>1. Is the "snow" flame retardant? (Hint: if it's just confetti, homemade with a paper shredder, it's not.)<P>B. (If applicable) Are the flash pots used for the cannon and Drosselmeyer's magic operated by professionals? Do those operators have direct line-of-sight to the flash pots? Does the controller require that two momentary (that means that when you release it, the switch returns to the "off" position) switches be turned simultaneously in order to trigger the effect? Does at least one of those switches require a key?<P>In my entire career, I can't remember any parent ever asking me these questions.<P>*********************************************<P>Salzberg has raised some important issues that non-professinal audiences and parents will probably miss. <P>I visited the preview of the Millenium Dome in London yesterday. The central show had a lot of performers on stilts and the friend I went with (an ex-dancer) was concerned about the risk to the performers if they fell on the concrete floor and the risk to the audience who they were moving through during the performance.<P>In the dress rehearsal of the new RB production of 'Sleeping Beauty,'I remember seeing the whole cast sliding round the stage . Darcey Bussell fell over at least 3 times. In addition, there are instances of RB dancers being badly injured on sub-standard stages on tour.<P>There is also the problem of impoverished companies cutting corners on rehearsal facilities and using floors that are not suitable for dance, rsulting in long-turn, if not short-turn injury for the dancers.<P>Does safety get a sufficiently high priority from dance companies? Should there be someone in each company who has specific responsibility for health and safety issues? <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited 12-20-1999).]

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Dec 20, 1999 9:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Someone told me recently that there is a requirement in the US that if the base floor is concrete that there must be a one-inch air space between the concrete and the wood floor above it, to make the floor softer on the legs and the bodies.

Author:  pidge [ Mon Dec 20, 1999 10:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Azlan,<P>All the companies who can't afford to lay their own floor or bring their own floor on tour would absolutely LOVE that rule. Unfortunately it doesn't exsist. Large companies who can afford it bring their own sprung floor, others, deal with whatever is on the stage and lay their marley on top of it. I've hard stories of fairly large profeessional companies touring and having to deal with soft spots, trapdoors, sunken areas, cement floors, etc etc etc. <P>Unfortunately, with the way dance companies are funded in the States, and to a certain extent Canada, corners are often cut, and very often they do affect the dancers. For instance, a company plans a tour, a sponsor backs out, and now they can't afford to bring everything they need to go on tour, what gets cut? Perhaps the sprung floor (if they bring it on tour usually), perhaps second and third cast dancers, perhaps they have to do a eight hour bus ride to teh next city instead of fly, and still perform that night. They have to cut something, or the entire tour gets called off. Very often, its the dancers who will suffer, and generally its due to lack of money. Because many companies are now union, the dancers can band together and refuse to dance if the conditions are extremly bad (theater where it's 15C). Often defined in contracts are working and performing conditions as well.<P>In terms of pyrotechnics on stage, I'd imagine the theater has to comply with city regulations of public display of pyrotechnics, which means the company has to follow the same rules and regulations. I do remember one awful show of nutcracker where the tree caught on fire in the middle of battle, and the snow king and some stage ahnds came running out with fire extinguishers. Interesting, I never thought about if the snow was flame retardant or not. Oh well, enough rambling in endless circles...<P>pidge

Author:  salzberg [ Tue Dec 21, 1999 5:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Most companies and schools are aware to some extent of the need for floor safety; few are aware of the larger issues of theatre safety in general, including electrical and fire safety.

Books have been written on the subject. One of the best is called "Stage Fright". On my web site, under "Original Articles" is a monograph (I've always wanted to use that word; it makes me feel Holmesian) called "Selecting a Recital Venue", which touches on the subject.

<small>[ 08-09-2002, 21:30: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Dec 22, 1999 12:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

As chance would have it, a major safety issue has arisen at the new ROH. The Orchestra are very unhappy about the safety arrangements for a new opera 'Gawain'. But they had to stage a walk-out to make their point, rather than the problem being identified by management. Here is the link to an article about the problem:<BR> <A HREF=",3604,116408,00.html" TARGET=_blank>,3604,116408,00.html</A>

Author:  salzberg [ Wed Dec 22, 1999 3:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Another good (and free!) source of safety information is the web site of the Center for Safety in the Arts:<P> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <P><P>------------------<BR>=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=<BR>Jeffrey E. Salzberg,<BR>Lighting Designer

Author:  Azlan [ Fri Dec 24, 1999 9:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

salzberg, I never realized that there were so many safety issue and that there are actual organizations set up to address them.<P>You cite the Center for Safety in the Arts. Does this include all performing arts? Is Hollywood included too or do they have their own organizations? I ask because live performing arts is so unique, with its own specialized requirements.

Author:  Azlan [ Fri Dec 24, 1999 9:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

pidge, yes, dancers seem to get the brunt of it even though they are the ones who have to go on stage and put on a fabulous show. That's sad.

Author:  salzberg [ Sun Dec 26, 1999 6:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>You cite the Center for Safety in the Arts. Does this include all performing arts? Is Hollywood included too or do they have their own organizations? I ask because live performing arts is so unique, with its own specialized requirements<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>There's not much (if anything) on film, but most of the stuff on performing arts (construction materials, ladder safety, fire safety, electrical safety, "fog" and pyrotechnical effects, etc.) would certainly apply.<P>There are many safety issues in the world of visual arts, too, and those are covered extensively.<BR><P>------------------<BR>=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=<BR>Jeffrey E. Salzberg,<BR>Lighting Designer

Author:  Mikal [ Sun Dec 26, 1999 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

hi jeff,<BR>good to see you found this group too.<BR>One aspect of Nutcracker that was addressed this year was the safety of the 9 yr old children under the Mother Baffoon costume.<BR>In Salt Lake MB has always been a very large metal frame which was worn by a large male dancer. Many times the dancer has fallen while dancing in this 200 lb+ "dress". Once down the dancer really can not get up.<BR>Add to the danger of back injuries for the dancer, and the fact that the skirt moved back and was a great effect, but hit the little kids in many places while they were under the skirt.<BR>My own daughter was hit a number of times during her stint performing in this role.<BR>She never told me about it.<BR>Last year or the year before, one little girl got hit, and was so scared she never came out of the skirt to dance. The Ballet Mistress got very angry at the little kid..NOT the danger of the costume.<BR>Finally, this year, they have put the entire thing on wheels. The male dancer stands on a platform, and two male stage hands wheel the whole contraption around. The kids are no longer subject to the danger of the swinging skirt...they stand on a platform also.<BR>But the crew hates the costume..they hate pushing it around.<BR>As for the dancers, I am sure the little ones are much more secure and safer in this costume. The male lead does not have nearly the freedom to "play" the role in this large house on wheels, but it is much safer.<BR><P>------------------<BR>bek

Author:  Lucy [ Mon Dec 27, 1999 8:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Sorry Pidge, I have to disagree. There is an AGMA rule that there has to be one or so inches (I have forgoten the exact measure) between the floor and the concrete. I do know this to be fact as I was a Union rep for the company that I was with and we used that rule many times. On several occasions they built a floor over the one that was there. Believe me on a 3 month bus and truck tour, we needed to save our legs. We brought our own Marley floor so that was not a problem, but as for temperature and hard floors we had the option to not do the performance if it was not up to the union code.<p>[This message has been edited by Lucy (edited 12-27-1999).]

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Dec 27, 1999 9:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Thanks, Jeff, for the clarification on safety issues in the arts.

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Dec 27, 1999 9:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

bek, that is a horrific story... to subject the children to such abuse. My god, who would have thought dancing could be so traumatic. My first reaction would have been to redesign the costume. Wasn't that possible?

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Dec 27, 1999 9:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Lucy, thanks for the info on the concrete floor rule.

Author:  pidge [ Thu Jan 06, 2000 11:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Safety in dance performances

Lucy,<P>Not all AGMA dance companies have the same rules. I know an AGMA company who have danced on extremly hard floors, and many dancers complained about it. However, each ballet company has a different AGMA contract with their employer.... It's only recently that there has been a 'standard' ballet company and employer agreement. Forgive me for asking, but can I ask which AGMA company you were with? Just curiosity... I wonder if it's now standard in all new AGMA contracts to have certain floor requirments. It would be a savior to all dancers.<P>pidge

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