Morningside Gymnasium Shoe Policy
Questions and Answers

Background

The Chattahoochee Country Dancers are fortunate to have the use of Morningside Baptist Church's gymnasium. This is a large space with a decent wood floor, in a nice neighborhood with lots of safe parking, and is easily accessible from the interstate highway.

Floor damage has been a significant concern of the owners and has strained our relationship with them at time because the space isn't just used for dancing, like a ballroom or other dedicated floor. The needs of other users have to be considered.

We want to keep dancing there for a long time to come. To do that, we need to take good care of the floor.

What do shoes have to do with this?

Contra dance (and any turning dance for that matter) is brutal to floors. Part of the time you are spinning with all of your weight on one foot. Any grit on the floor or your shoes eats up the floor finish like a rotary sander—having grit on the bottom of your shoes is like taping sandpaper to your feet. One dancer with hard soles or embedded grit will leave circular scuffs all over a polished floor. So you can imagine what a gym full of dancers could do in three hours every week!

We can minimize damage by wearing clean, soft soles and by sweeping the floor frequently. When we do this, the finish lasts longer and we pay less per year, on average. This helps keep our relationship with Morningside on good terms and helps us keep our admission to less than the price of a movie ticket.

Do other dance groups have similar shoe policies?

Our policies are similar to shoe policies from various contra dance groups who dance in nice, multi-use gyms — including Toronto, New York state, the west coast, and our own Southeast.

Why can't I just clean up my street shoes?

As a practical matter, in some cases, you could. If they have leather soles, you could brush the soles very thoroughly with a stiff steel wire brush, such as is used for cleaning files. If your shoes are composition (rubber-like), that may or may not work. In any case, the degree of cleaning needed to remove grit that is invisible to your unaided eye but is still in the sandpaper range is more than most people are willing to do each and every time they come to dance. Hence our dance-only shoe policy. It makes it fairer if everyone plays by the same rules.

How can I tell if my soles are soft and non-marking?

You should be able to dent the sole with your thumbnail. Check for marking by trying to "write" with the edge of the sole and heel on a piece of white paper. If it leaves a dark mark, leave them at home.

What's the deal with heels?

Narrow heels (less than 1-1/2 inches in diameter) concentrate your weight into a very small area. They can leave dents in the finish or even the wood itself (especially from a vigorous balance). Heel impact over a small area also helps drive grit into the floor.

What if I don't have dance shoes?

Short term:

We want you to stay and dance and are trying everything we can think of!

Long term:

And as a last resort:

If you must re-dedicate old shoes to dancing, clean the soles very vigorously and for a long time with water and a stiff wire brush. Make sure the heel is broad and has plenty of cushioning on the outside. Check for exposed nails or metal which could severely damage the floor or its finish.

What if I go outside at the break?

Take them off, or change into your street shoes first and walk around the sidelines on your way out and back in. A hassle? Yes, and we're not happy about it either. We don't have a better answer yet.

Why do I need to clean my dance shoes if I only use them for dancing?

Because dance floors are dirty despite our efforts to keep them clean. We want every shoe to start out clean. If your dance shoes have smooth soles, cleaning them will probably require no more than a few swipes with a nylon brush.

I've got a suggestion. Want to hear it?

Absolutely! We don't have all the answers and welcome ideas. Please let us know what you think and how we can improve. Contact any steering committee member.