Dancers jump for joy thanks to new floor at Midd rec center

MIDDLEBURY — Dancing at the Middlebury Recreation Center has been a joyous, yet at-times painful activity. The hard flooring hasn’t been friendly to the feet and muscles of those who’ve used it for disciplines ranging from ballet to hip-hop.
But a recent partnership between a renowned local dancer and a community oriented-construction company has culminated in new flooring at the recreation center that will benefit current and future generations of dancers.
The partnership involved Christal Brown, director of Middlebury’s Dance Xplorations program, and New Haven’s Silver Maple Construction. It produced a new, 18-feet-by-29-feet floor that Silver Maple workers installed last week. It includes two layers of half-inch PTS plywood, underlaid by a series of foam blocks that provide an extra cushion for those leaping, strutting and shimmying across the floor.
“When you jump up and down, it has ‘give,’” Sean Flynn, president of Silver Maple, said of the new floor during a break in construction last Wednesday.
It was just what the doctor ordered for Brown and Dance Xplorations’ many students who’ve persevered through less-than-ideal dance conditions.
“When they built this space, they didn’t really make it into a dance floor,” Brown recalled of the previous surface. “The floor had caused a couple of injuries.”
The floor was simply too dense and unforgiving for dance moves. Brown and her colleagues had tried to soften the impact with Marley flooring — a roll-out, linoleum-type surface that reduces friction with dancers’ feet, thus producing less torque and muscle strain.
Last year, a grant through Brown’s charitable organization paid for floor insulation to place under that Marley surface.
This created additional cushion, but limited dance styles that could be taught.
“You can’t teach tap on a floor like that, because it absorbs all the sound,” Brown explained.
Not wanting to limit instruction options, Brown last fall decided to use her 40th birthday as a donation springboard for more dance-appropriate flooring at the recreation center off Creek Road.
Town Hall Theater on Nov. 17 hosted Brown’s birthday bash, which included a variety of entertainment.
Brown herself was part of the show, though not in the way one might think. She decided to sing, rather than showcase her considerable dancing prowess. She’s made many friends and fans over the years as a choreographer, educator, performer, writer, activist, and chair of the dance department at Middlebury College.
“It was kind of my courageous entrance into 40 of modeling this idea that we’re always going to be learning something, and if you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?” she said with a smile.
Around 200 people gladly paid to see Brown and her stellar supporting cast. Organizers earmarked admission proceeds for scholarships and flooring for Dance Xplorations.
That money will now go a lot further, thanks to Silver Maple. The company gave Brown another birthday surprise when it announced it would cover all expenses for the new dance floor.
“When Silver Maple jumped in and said, ‘We’re going to handle this for you,’ I was like, ‘Are you sure? Can I pay for the wood and the nails?’” a very grateful Brown recalled. “They said ‘Nope.’”
This means Brown will be able to use her birthday celebration proceeds for other dance program amenities, including student scholarships, instructors’ pay, T-shirts and other dance attire.
Brown will continue to raise money for long-term improvements to the dance space, including mirrors and curtains.
“We really want to make sure we have a fund to sustain the program,” she said.
Middlebury Parks & Recreation Superintendent Dustin Hunt is thrilled with how the floor project has panned out, and praised Brown for her stewardship of Dance Xplorations, which on Feb. 25 will launch a new series of eight separate dance classes.
“We are so thankful for Christal’s continued support and her dedication to building a vibrant dance community in and around Middlebury,” he said. “When we first met with Christal she had a vision of what our dance program could be like and this new floor is the next progression of that vision.”
It should be noted the floor will benefits more than the community’s dance enthusiasts. Bone Builders, Tai Chi and Yoga practitioners will also enjoy the new amenity.
“We are so excited to unveil this floor and get dancers on it when our spring session starts… and we along with Christal are thrilled to provide them with a space they deserve and can be proud of,” Hunt said.
Silver Maple officials said they’re pleased to have participated in the effort and look forward to performing other occasional community service projects.
“We’re trying to do these projects on a quarterly basis; we don’t have massively deep pockets by any stretch of the imagination, but Middlebury has been good to us and we want to pay that back in kind,” said Flynn.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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