Dance Studio Owner

Keep the dancers dancing: Stagestep tap boards

Photo by Ian Weston, courtesy of Oklahoma City University.
Photo by Ian Weston, courtesy of Oklahoma City University.

When the world shut down in March 2020, everything stopped. No more gatherings, no more group dance classes. Slowly, and thanks to the innovations of many determined minds, life before the pandemic began to emerge again. But differently. Many schools turned to Zoom and online platforms to hold classes, some dance studios started to mark up their floors giving dancers at least six feet apart.

Many university dance programs remained totally remote during this transition time, but Melanie Shelley and her staff at Oklahoma City University (OCU) developed a well-researched plan to keep their dancers as safe as possible while still providing an in-person experience.

“Students rotated days between in the studio and in their rooms for classes,” explains Shelley, Executive Director of OCU’s Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment.

Photo by Ian Weston, courtesy of Oklahoma City University.
Photo by Ian Weston, courtesy of Oklahoma City University.

So, the logistics were mapped out – but what about safety? Depending on the genre of dance, appropriate flooring is crucial to a dancer’s training and mastery of a skill.

While Shelley says she was aware that Stagestep, a reliable and innovative dance flooring company, sold tap boards, it wasn’t until these early days of the pandemic that she began to research them. She soon realized that they could be utilized as a solution for the group of dancers using home spaces for class.

Stagestep’s Large Tap Practice Board is 4 feet by 3 feet, perfect even for a dorm room floor. The multipurpose wooden board is portable, and was created for tap dancers in mind, making for great sound at home. The boards are made of a thick wood and are laminated in a Marley floor tap surface, with a high-density foam shock layer. They can fit in a dancer’s closet, under a bed and in the trunk of a car for travel.

“We purchased 325 tap boards to check out to dancers and music theater and theater students who also take dance classes at OCU,” Shelley recalls. “This allowed us to socially distance students in the dance studios, and the students Zooming in from their dorm rooms had the tap boards as a safe surface for dancing. The tap boards were a critical part of our safety plan and students experiencing in-person learning.”

Shelley says one of her favorite features of the Stagestep Tap Practice Board is the foam padding on the bottom, which she says is “critical to protect dancers’ joints while tapping.” In addition, “the vinyl covering matches the dance surface in our studios. The option to have a slightly bigger board that is still portable isn’t always an option with other tap boards out there.”

With Shelley and her students using the brand’s tap boards so frequently, she realized there may be a couple ways to even further improve the board’s design. “Because we have very advanced tappers using the boards, they wanted to tap all the way to the edges,” she says. “Stagestep took this feedback for their newest board design by placing foam padding all the way at the edges of the board for stability, and replacing a handle hole cut out of the board to a carrying handle attached to the bottom of the board.”

“The feedback provided by Melanie Shelley and OCU regarding the Stagestep tap boards played a significant role in influencing the product development process,” shares Stagestep Managing Director Vanessa Botha. “Specifically, the feedback highlighted an issue with the design of the old tap board, which featured a handle cutout that posed a risk for dancers as they could hit or fall into it while tap dancing. In response to this feedback, Stagestep took decisive action by redesigning the tap board. They addressed the issue by installing a new handle that was attached to the back of the board, thereby eliminating the problematic hole present in the old tap board design. This adjustment not only mitigated the safety concern but also improved the overall usability and performance of the tap board for dancers.”

The fact that Stagestep took an instructor’s feedback and let it influence the product development process shows the dedication the brand has to its users and to the safety of dancers.

The uses for the Stagestep tap boards have lasted through the pandemic and are still an important resource for OCU teachers and students today.

“Our tap professors absolutely love the new tap board design,” Shelley says. “They actually use them on top of our existing sprung dance floors to give them a little extra height and sound clarity when demonstrating steps! Students check out tap boards for the school year to allow them to practice in their dorm rooms. Tap faculty have noticed a positive difference in students’ progress when they utilize the tap boards for home practice. We can perform in non-traditional spaces utilizing the tap boards. We even produced a promotional video with 100 dancers tapping in front of Oklahoma City University’s administration building.”

Botha adds, “Overall, tap boards are highly regarded for their ability to facilitate effective tap dancing practice sessions by providing a durable, portable and high-quality surface for dancers to hone their skills. Their versatility and reliability make them indispensable tools for dancers looking to improve their technique and performance abilities.”

Stagestep’s Large Tap Practice Board is lightweight and great over virtually any floor surface. It also comes in a variety of colors, including grey, orchid, clover, blue and red. In addition, Botha hints, there will be a new sized tap board (junior) that will be available in the future. For more information and to purchase a tap board, visit

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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