Square Feet

A few weeks ago, an e-mail from Charlie Halprin-Hamu came my way, wondering what square footage per dancer was allocated for SHIFT: The 2012 New York City Fall Equinox Jam. Charlie was planning for the Ontario Regional Jam coming up in May.

Discussion ensued about how many square feet to allow per registered dancer for a multi-day contact jam. Since I had no idea how to estimate this before being asked, I thought it might be useful to share the results with the world.

For SHIFT, no one figured out how many people should be allowed to register given the space; folks just eyeballed it and prayed. But reverse-engineering things, SHIFT took 70 people for a space that was listed as 2000 square feet (SF), for a ratio of 28.6 SF / person, or 57.1 SF / couple. That’s about 7 feet x 8 feet for a couple, but that’s assuming that everyone is on the floor at once, which rarely happens. I felt the occupancy of the space at SHIFT was pretty much perfect, rarely too crowded and not too sparse.

Charlie shared that the Moab Jam allocates about 40 SF / person, though I didn’t verify that with the Moab people, nor is it clear if that’s people registered or people anticipated to be dancing. Charlie said that at the 2012 Ontario Jam, they ended up with 20 SF / person (registered), and are going to try not to go below that this year.

I’m interested in what the ideal number is, both for registration and for actual bodies on the dance floor. It sounds like for registration for a multi-day jam or festival, a good guideline might be between 20 SF and 35 SF per person registered.

As for actual number of people on the dance floor: Eden’s Expressway in New York is apparently 35 feet x 40 feet, or 1400 SF total. The Saturday jam there can work with 35 dancers (40 SF / person), but that’s pretty cozy, and I don’t think everyone’s dancing at that number. I think I’d prefer about 25 dancers in that space at once (56 SF / person).

The Red Bean Studio in midtown is 1696 SF, and I’ve been in there for classes and workshops. I’d say for a class (note that in a class, virtually everyone is dancing at once), 25 or 30 is about right, which is between 56.5 and 67.8 SF / person, but I’ve never actually counted.

But my guess is that a space starts to feel nicely full at around 60 SF / person, starts to feel restrictive around 50 SF / person, and probably is totally full at close to 40 SF / person. This more or less makes sense. Two 6 feet people lying perpendicular to each other might take up a square that is 36 SF, but to move at all on the floor might need another two feet on each side, or a 10 x 10 space, or 100 SF, or 50 SF/person. It will depend a lot, of course, on how actively people are moving, and if they are standing or lying down.

Would love to hear other information and opinions on this. I’ll update this post as I observe other jams and spaces and gather more information.

(Note for SI/metric users: 40 SF = 3.72 m^2; 50 SF = 4.65 m^2; 60 SF = 5.57 m^2.)

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