As the owner of a brand new dance school, the process of putting together all the equipment needed for a dance and ballet studio is still fresh in my mind. Here’s a checklist of what every dance studio needs:

1) Marley or other vinyl floor coverings. This is the dance surface of choice for teaching ballet, modern/jazz and tap dancing. There are several manufacturers of vinyl dance floor products. Most are 5-6 foot wide rolls and can be up to about 100 feet in length. Marley is usually rolled on hardwood floors and “floats” on the floor without any adhesive other than special vinyl tape used on the seams and edges. Since the marley is not permanently attached to the floor, it can be rolled up if it needs to be performed at another venue. One important thing to note is that ballerinas on Marley cannot use rosin – rosin can damage vinyl surfaces and is difficult to remove.

2) Audio system for CD and/or Bluetooth connection to iPhone/Android device. It is essential to have a sound system with a remote control so that teachers can easily repeat musical sections as needed.

3) Barres, wall mounted or freestanding. See the Rod Construction section below for more information.

4) Wall mirror. The mirror should be mounted on at least one wall (preferably two adjacent walls). They should start as close to the floor as possible, but even young dancers can see their feet from anywhere in the studio, as long as the bottom of the mirror is less than 15 inches from the floor. The top of the mirror should be at least 6 feet from the floor.

5) Small desks for teachers’ notebooks or other teaching materials can also be used for sound systems.

6) Large wall clock. Dancers and coaches need to know when the class starts and ends.

Ballet Barres – Build or Buy?

One of the most important equipment of a ballet school is ballet. There are many ballet poles on the market, but in the end we decided to make our own for the following reasons:

7) Commercially available barbells are expensive. Typically, a pro-grade 12′ pole is priced between $400-$1000 for a freestanding model and $300-$600 for a wall-mounted model.

8) Our experience with commercially available freestanding handrails is that even the highest quality models will eventually fail at the point of attachment.

9) We want bars that are absolutely rock solid and will last for many years. In our opinion, most commercial freestanding barbells are too light and “flimsy”.

10) We wanted a ballet system that was flexible enough to meet the needs of our school’s ballet classes for different age groups as well as modern, jazz and tap classes.

To allow maximum flexibility in our school’s schedule, we decided to build two separate 12-foot bars for each of our two dance studios. We chose independent barre so we could (1) have dancers on both sides of the barre, and (2) position the barres as a single 24′ span or two parallel 12′ spans. Because (unlike commercial barbells) we don’t need to disassemble the bar for shipping, we decided to eliminate the joint (and therefore the potential for joint failure) by using steel tubing and welded joints.

The specific specifications of the bar are as follows:

– Pipe material is Schedule 40 1 ½ in. black steel pipe.The tube has a 1.9″ OD. Using a 1.9″ diameter tube (a) makes the weld stronger and (b) very comfortable to hold

– The top of the bar is 12 feet long and 42 inches above the floor.

– The legs of the barbell are an inverted “T” and the “foot” (ie the part of the leg that is flat on the floor) is 2 feet long.

– Put the top of the pole beyond the legs 18 inches on either side. This makes it easy to move the handlebars.

– We decided to weld a 32″ downbar between the legs for our young dancer.

Schedule 40 pipe is available from most steel suppliers (search for “steel pipe city name”). The pipes are 21 feet long, and steel suppliers typically cut each pipe at no additional cost. I cut the pipes to 12′ and 9′ lengths to minimize waste.

Our welders had no problems making the barbell. The manufacturing process includes thorough deburring of all exposed ends. The result is smooth, rounded edges that don’t require end caps of any kind.

After our welder finished the rod, I purchased rubber feet (1.5″ diameter, 1″ thick) and bolted them to the end of the rod “foot”. This has been very effective in eliminating marley damage in our studio.

To finish the rod, I first sanded the surface with 180 grit sandpaper to get a smooth, level grip on the surface and prepare it for painting. Then I sprayed on textured black paint. Three coats produce a beautiful finish similar to powder paint for a fraction of the price.

The dancer’s response to the bar has always been excellent. Although heavy (they weigh about 60 pounds each), the two young dancers have no trouble moving them to center and against the wall when needed. We have no problems with the fixed height of the railing.

The total cost for 4 bars is about $450 for materials and $400 for welding services, for a total cost of $850, or $212 per bar.

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