Popular Christchurch Dance-O-Mat could travel the world

DAVID WALKER/The Press

Teachers and students from the Ara Atu class at Waimari School have been visiting the Gap Filler projects as part of their experiencing art in context. The students hit the dance floor at the 'Dance-o-mat' in Gloucester Street today to bust some moves.

Christchurch is the city that dances.

A coin-operated dance floor in Christchurch city centre is a hit, with people dancing in the street for the equivalent more than five weeks solid over the past year.

The Dance-O-Mat, developed by community group Gap Filler, has proven so popular that the idea could soon spread across the world.

Prince Charles dances with Christchurch woman Lisa Shannon on the Dance-O-Mat during his visit in 2012.
Iain McGregor

Prince Charles dances with Christchurch woman Lisa Shannon on the Dance-O-Mat during his visit in 2012.

A $2 coin activates the dance floor, complete with speakers, lights and a glitter ball, for 30 minutes. Dancers attach their music player to a headphone jack.

Gap Filler is in talks with two cities in Australia and one in Canada about franchising the idea globally.

The group has written a detailed instruction manual on how to build and operate a successful Dance-O-Mat. Interested city councils or organisations would buy the manual and pay a licence fee for the right to build their own.

A crew of break dancers having fun on New Year's Day 2014 at the Dance-O-Mat.
Kirk Hargreaves

A crew of break dancers having fun on New Year's Day 2014 at the Dance-O-Mat.

Data supplied by Gap Filler reveals the Dance-O-Mat's huge popularity on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo streets in central Christchurch.

The dance floor has been activated 1869 times since July 4 last year. Each activation provides 30 minutes of dancing for $2, meaning that Christchurch people have danced in the street for about 934 hours in just over a year. That is the equivalent of 38 solid days or about five and a half weeks – an average of two-and-a-half hours a day over the last year.

The disco proved even more popular in recent weeks, being used an average of nearly 10 times a day from May 15 to June 7.

The most popular day was the Saturday of the Queen's Birthday weekend, with 11 hours of dancing over the 24 hours. Over the four weeks, the most popular day for a dance was a Saturday, with an average of about nine hours a day, closely followed by Sunday, with an average of six hours.

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Gap Filler co-founder and chairman Ryan Reynolds said he was surprised by the popularity of the Dance-O-Mat.

"In the early days, when we were developing the idea, a lot of people thought that no one in Christchurch would dance in public. They said Christchurch was too conservative," he said.

"But, you look at those figures and it shows that people are dancing in public for several hours a day."

Reynolds said they had received about a dozen unsolicited requests from cities around the world for advice on how to build their own Dance-O-Mat.

"Of all of our projects, we have had the most requests about this one. People have got in touch to say: 'We would like to put one of those in our space, can you help us?'

"We didn't have that in mind at all when we made the project. The designs and documentation were not there. It is not easily replicable."

The manual they had created was "like a Lego instruction manual", he said.

More than half of the manual is about how to ensure the Dance-O-Mat is embraced by the local community.

"If a council in another city just replicated that design and put it in a vacant space, it would get used less than the one in Christchurch. The significance of it would be diminished. The community engagement side of things is really important for its impact."

Reynolds said the possibility of the Dance-O-Mat becoming a global franchise was never considered when it was first designed.

"A lot of what has happened with Gap Filler over the last four years, I never could have predicted. We certainly never set out to make something to sell over the world," he said.

 - Stuff

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