It seems the term “marley” floor is used today to describe just about any roll-out vinyl floor that is used for dance. It turns out to not be a very helpful identifier that could possibly mean any number of very different dance floors used for a variety of different purposes. So why is “it” called a marley? And exactly what is “it”?
The Marley Company in England made a number of vinyl floors, wall and roof products. In the 1960’s they developed a thin reversible vinyl black/gray flexible floor called “Stageflor.” Story goes that an executive’s daughter was a professional dancer who complained to her father about all the different theater stage surfaces she had to dance on while on tour. He came up with “Stageflor”. Urban legend or the truth, it really doesn’t matter. Each floor was made to order and the customer had to handle the paperwork, shipping and duty. It took five months to get a floor (back in the day).
In the USA, Stagestep began handling the paperwork and logistics for bringing “Stageflor” into the country. Soon after, Stagestep brought in full rolls and started custom cutting floors.
By the mid 1970’s, you only had to wait a month to get your floor. The choice of colors, black/gray increased to include black/white and black/tan reversible. In 1979, the Marley Company stopped making “Stageflor” and over the years, the original company was sold several times and has virtually disappeared.
While Marley is a registered trademark, in dance it is any roll-out vinyl floor.
Back then, the reversible floor was 1.3 mils thick. Today’s version of the marley Super Bravo is 1.7 mils thick and has a fiberglass lining for greater stability and better lie flat.
By the time Marley shut down production of “ Stageflor”, Stagestep had introduced Timestep (heavy duty studio floor), Quietstep (foamed-backed version of Timestep for ballet) and Dancestep (a roll-out floor that could be installed directly on concrete).
Stagestep brought the idea of the reversible floor first to plants in the US but when they closed their doors the company moved the operation to Europe.
From the stage, roll-out vinyl floors migrated to the studio. Why rehearse on wood when you perform on a “marley” in the theater? The name marley stuck and so that is why we have the generic name used by everyone to describe a number of different products manufactured to different specs used for different purposes.
For dance companies and school facilities directors, it is important to be more specific than just asking for a marley floor. Drill down to the specific name of the floor and find out it specs and uses. Some floors are great for tap, others not at all, some are for ballet, some are for touring and others are multipurpose ideal for a studio.
Remember, there is no such thing as a marley floor except for every roll-out dance floor on the planet!
President, Stagestep, Inc.