Dance Studio Owner

Innovation and service past, present and future: Stagestep’s history and ongoing mission

The Quiner Sisters. Photo by Margo Reed Studios, courtesy of Stagestep.
The Quiner Sisters. Photo by Margo Reed Studios, courtesy of Stagestep.

From penicillin to sticky notes to the microwave, many modern innovations are the fruits of serendipity. Even the most devoted dancers might not realize that the flooring on which they move, if they’re doing so on a Stagestep floor, has something similar to its origin story. 

Over five decades ago, Stagestep’s Founder Randy Swartz leapt into action – making calls, pulling strings – to serve a customer in need of quick flooring (at the time, that process took months). Swartz and colleagues then realized that they could make the same thing happen for many other dance institutions…enter Stagestep. Additional innovations followed, such as subsequent generations of flooring and those designed for a wider variety of dance styles. 

Gitanjali Dadlani Morris, The Dance Floor. Photo by Alison Yin/Alison Yin Photography.
Gitanjali Dadlani Morris, The Dance Floor. Photo by Alison Yin/Alison Yin Photography.

That story also demonstrates Stagestep’s spirit of ingenuity and service; they’ll get the job done for their customers, through attention to dancers’ needs and working by the most current best practices. And they’re continuing to push the envelope — expanding their flooring options for varied dance styles and settings, as well as striving toward more eco-friendly products and processes.

Also of note: Gerflor acquired Stagestep in 2022. The French company, now Stagestep’s parent company, has been serving Olympic athletes since 1976. Considering ballet’s roots in France and French culture, there’s also something fitting – maybe even poetic – about that international connection. 

To hear more on those matters and beyond, we’ll hear from Stagestep Managing Director Vanessa Botha. She entered the role this past year, after decades of experience in manufacturing and distribution in South Africa. She brings an entrepreneurial drive, to boot, having also been part of two start-ups prior to working with Gerflor. 

The founding of Stagestep is an Exhibit A of ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ In what ways has Stagestep carried on that spirit of adaptability, ingenuity, and plain elbow grease in service of customers? 

“From its inception, Stagestep has exemplified how necessity can spur innovation. This foundational principle has not wavered. Through the years, Stagestep has consistently demonstrated adaptability by responding to the ever-changing landscape of dance and performance arts. 

Whether it’s through the introduction of more sustainable materials, the development of floors that cater to a wider range of dance genres, or providing solutions for small studios to large theaters, Stagestep has shown a relentless commitment to solving problems with creativity and hard work. Customization and responsive customer service have become hallmarks of our approach, ensuring that they meet the unique needs of each client.”

Following that founding and the first iteration of Stagestep’s signature flooring, the company developed subsequent generations of flooring for various dancer needs. How has the company built upon such innovation? To the extent that you can say now, how will that continue into the future? 

“Stagestep’s approach to innovation is iterative, building on each generation of products with feedback from the field, advances in material science, and a keen eye on the future of dance.

The company has diversified its flooring solutions to include options for every type of dancer – from classical ballet to modern to hip hop – ensuring that each floor type provides the right balance of grip, bounce and durability. We’re always listening to dancers and seeking to serve their needs. 

Looking ahead, Stagestep will continue investing in research and development, focusing on eco-friendly materials and digital tools that enhance the customer experience. Such approaches ensure that dancers have access to the safest, most advanced floors available.”

Stagestep now has a French parent company, Gerflor. How does the company manage operations ‘across the pond,’ so to speak, and perhaps also make fruitful international connections? 

“In order to help navigate the complexities of a transatlantic business, Stagestep leverages the strengths of our French parent company to enhance its global reach and operational efficiency. This includes adopting best practices in design, production and customer service from both sides of the pond. 

We utilize a combination of cutting-edge communication technology, streamlined logistics, and local expertise to smoothly manage operations and maintain a strong international presence. These efforts enable Stagestep to harness global trends and innovations, enriching our product offerings and services.” 

Are there any other exciting things on the horizon for/from Stagestep, that we can anticipate, which you can disclose now?

“The future for Stagestep appears to be bright with potential. We very well might explore new territories such as flooring systems that could be utilized for other areas of a dance studio (such as hallways, changing rooms, lobbies, et cetera). 

Geo Hubela, ICON Dance Complex.
Geo Hubela, ICON Dance Complex.

Additionally, expanding our sustainability initiatives and exploring new markets could be on the horizon. Collaborations with dance companies, educational institutions and technology firms might also lead to innovative projects that could redefine the dance floor industry.”

Please share anything else that you think our readers should know. Thanks so much! 

“Stagestep’s journey from a necessity-driven startup to an industry leader in dance flooring is a testament to the power of innovation, adaptability and customer focus. As we look to the future, our commitment to quality, sustainability and the global dance community will likely continue to drive our success. 

For those in the dance world and beyond, Stagestep represents not just a provider of dance floors but a partner in the artistic process. We are dedicated to supporting the evolution of dance through innovation and service.

For the latest on Stagestep’s projects and initiatives, stay tuned to our announcements and engage with our community. That can provide the most current insights and opportunities to benefit from our expertise and innovations. For example, we recently released Balletdanse, Stagestep’s latest Marley dance floor offering designed specifically for ballet.” 

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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