MIDDLEBURY – Following three days of physical labor and over three months of planning, Middlebury’s Recreation Center at 154 Creek Road received a new dance floor last week. The brainchild of Christal Brown, Chair of the college’s Dance Department, the floor’s upgrade came to fruition after being a goal of hers for about a year and a half.
Brown directs and oversees Dance Xplorations, which has used the Rec Center space and will benefit from the newly installed floor. The group offers 10-week sessions in ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip-hop “designed to increase body awareness, technical trainings, confidence, and performance skills,” according to the organization’s Facebook page.
“Before last week’s installation, the floor was just a regular linoleum concrete floor,” said Brown. “It just wasn’t designed for dance.”
Dancing on concrete forces one’s bones and joints to absorb the energy exerted when they jump and move. The new floor installation aims to keep shin splints and other injuries and discomforts to a minimum.
“Dance floors are very particular,” explained Brown. “They are floors that are lifted off the ground, providing a certain level of buoyancy so that the shock absorption between joints over time is not harmful to the body. It’s the same way that a basketball court is designed for basketball.”
Brown had been hoping to update the floor since 2017 when she began working at a program at the Rec Center, but the idea became more concrete following her 40th birthday party on Nov. 17, 2018, a bash that she hosted at the Town Hall Theater.
“For my birthday I wanted to ask people to contribute to something different than the larger Facebook campaigns,” Brown said. “I wanted to make sure that the impact was felt immediately by the community that I am a part of and that I work with.”
Brown chose to gear her birthday party towards creating positive change in the community by making it a fundraiser for the project.
“I wanted to make sure that my party was not only fun for me and had a real celebratory mood, but that the impact of the giving could be felt by the community and not just in my life,” Brown said.
The party raised $2,500, and attracted the attention of Sean Flynn, President of Silver Maple Construction, who decided to involve his company as part of a larger effort to start more pro bono projects.
“At Silver Maple, we’re looking to start a backlog of pro bono projects,” Flynn said. “We’re hoping to do either a project every month or maybe a larger one every quarter moving forward from here.”
“Silver Maple Construction decided to donate their time and the materials,” Brown said. Now, she explained, the money raised at the Town Hall birthday bash will go to scholarships for residents to have greater access to dance classes.
The floor installation has been a resounding success for all parties involved.
“Our company is already strongly involved with the community, but we want to make our involvement more regimented and occurring on a regular basis,” said Flynn. “I think that the floor was a great fit in this particular case because it’s supportive of the arts but also supportive of people who may not be able to attend a regular dance school. I think it’s a win all the way through.”
Brown’s experience growing up in a smaller community partially inspired her project idea. “It feels great to give back to the community,” she said. “I come from a very small town in North Carolina where I know that the only reason I am who I am is because people invested in me when I was a young person.”
Brown recognized how hard it can be to fit giving and charitable acts into already full lives. She continued to say, however, “I think the more creative we are with the resources we do have, the more we can figure out ways to impact other people.”
Like Brown, Flynn’s decision to help with the dance floor went beyond directly supporting dance and the safety of dancers. He also cited a desire to give back to the Middlebury community as a major motivation for the project.
“Middlebury has been very good for this company,” Flynn said, “and I think that it can use a little boost. I think that it feels like we’re in a little rough patch lately with things closing and reopening, so having a cohesive community effort that builds community back up is important.”
The floor will do exactly that, with spring classes in session as of Monday. It will also provide a space where college students and people of the town of Middlebury can safely move together.
“I’m so excited about the floor,” said Dance Major Marquise Adeleye ’20. “I can’t wait to dance on it, to have my ankles feel great the next day.”
Though Flynn himself will not be taking classes anytime soon, Brown encourages anyone interested to try a class.
“Come check it out,” she said. “Come dance with us!”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/dancexmidd or email [email protected]