A coin-operated ex-laundromat washing machine powers four speakers which surround a custom-made, sprung dance floor. The idea for the Dance-O-Mat was born at a cafe with a laundromat out the front at a time when the city had few spaces for dance. A decade on, it has become a much-loved inclusive amenity.
The Dance-O-Mat is back!
After a $45,000 upgrade, Gap Filler’s much-loved coin-operated dance floor is open for play on its new central city site at 211 Manchester Street, in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
Using Boosted, a crowdfunding platform for the Arts, Gap Filler raised just over $25,000 in six weeks from 340 donors to upgrade and relocate the world-famous Dance-O-Mat.
Thank you to everyone who supported our efforts. Crowdfunding takes a lot of work but it is very much worth it for the togetherness it grows. And what’s more, it aligns with the community-minded spirit of the Dance-O-Mat project to have so many different people, groups and companies make contributions.
BIG THANKS especially to Kerry du Pont (our amazing videographer) and the dance groups who gave us their time to create little videos for the campaign which was all done online due to the Omicron outbreak of Covid-19. Thanks to Latin Addiction, Lucy & Max, Claudia Hillyer, JOLT, Skye Brogberg and Swingtown Rebels.
The new Dance-O-Mat operates between 7am and 1am daily. It uses an adapted ex-laundromat washing machine – inserting a two-dollar coin activates 30 minutes of lighting and sound with music chosen from your own Bluetooth device. The floor is accessible for wheelchair users and prams.
Just plug and play
To use the Dance-O-Mat, plug in any device with a headphone jack or use Bluetooth to connect to the converted washing machine, insert $2 to activate the power and get dancing! $2 gets you 30 minutes of lighting and sound.
Gap Filler created this project to respond to the lack of spaces for dance post-quake and bring people, life and energy back to the city. Tens of thousands of people have used the Dance-O- Mat, even Prince Charles and Camilla in November 2012 on their Royal Jubilee tour. And the King of the Netherlands, many’a passer-by, kids, theatre-goers and more. With dance forms ranging from salsa to flamenco, break dance, swing, ceroc, hip hop and belly dancing. Local choreographers, social dance groups and teachers also use the floor to work out in the open with their students first due to necessity and later, just for the fun of it.
Fit for any location
The Dance-O-Mat was first located on a vacant site (a former car rental place) on St Asaph Street in 2012 and has occupied three different gaps in the city since then. This project in its first iteration was extremely successful, getting 600 hours of use at our best guess (based on the $2 coins collected) across 3 months.
The Dance-O-Mat not only creates spontaneous interactions between people from all walks of life, but brings energy and vibrancy to the immediate vicinity in the city. It creates a spectacle for passers-by to observe and enjoy, imbuing the area with a sense if possibility and fun.
An experiment into how people behave in urban spaces, the Dance-O-Mat has shown that people will dance in public, defying not only behavioural conventions but also spatial and social ones as well.
Who, what, where, when
Date: February 2012 – Current
Location: 211 Manchester Street, Christchurch – next to Paddy McNaughton’s
Client/Funder: Christchurch City Council
Key people: Andrew Just, Pippin Wright-Stow, Richie Lorgelly (F3 Design), Matt Ballantine
Values: Experimentation, Collaboration
Support/Sponsors: Plywood (Placemakers), paint (Resene), steel tubing & galv. (Steel and Tube), bunting (KiteShop), Electrical labour (Aotea Electrical and Matt Ballantine), electrical materials/parts (Ideal Electrical), washing machine (Phil at Maytag), loaned limiter device (SoundStore), electrical support – Pete Moss.
Volunteers: So many over the years. Thank you!
“The Dance-O-Mat made the kids sooooo happy, they just got the hang of it straight away.”
This has been one of our most successful projects to date because of how many different people have used it. From random passers-by to organised dance groups, flamenco, break dance, parties and the Superhero Dance Squad it’s been an adaptable and well-utilised project. And it really seemed to tap into a need not only for a space for dancers but a space to have fun and gather in the city. It is accessible, very simple and encourages people to ‘play’ in the city. A few people warned us early on that they didn’t think Kiwis would dance in public and expressed concerns that it wouldn’t see much use. Dance-O- Mat has certainly proved them wrong, or rather, us Kiwis (and more) have proved them wrong!
Dance-O-Mat is an amenity. And it only comes to life when people use it. Dance-O-Mat can be a breakdance space, a venue for a party, a rehearsal room and more. It is flexible and accessible. It creates a spectacle in the part of the city where it is located. It is something people stop to observe and in some cases, join in with.
Dance-O-Mat was been vandalised a few times – the first instance only 3 days after it opened when the lid to the money collection compartment was crow-barred off and the timer device ripped out to access the money inside. We guess they got about $16. It was welded back on by F3 Design promptly. The wall behind the floor was tagged, as was the blackboard. And more than a few times, possibly 20 times now, the headphone jack was broken or the cord cut. Design modifications were made to stop this happening. Maintenance has been ongoing with this project but it’s not onerous on the whole.
The floor has had its moments with dirt or spilled sticky drinks and needed cleaning. And it has had a couple of paint jobs in its time. A gloss paint might be better next time to make it easier to clean, or perhaps a polyeurethane of some sort. Due to a lot of use, the edges have become a bit chipped or damaged in places. And, of course as expected, we’ve often had to pick up empty bottles and cans from around the floor. The original speakers have lasted 8 years due to being enclosed in speaker boxes and therefore kept dry. We also have had to manage noise levels over time depending on where the project has been located, working with the City Council and neighbours on this issue each time.
A Dance-O-Mat for Your City?
We’ve created a How-To manual for how to create a Dance-O-Mat that encompasses the physical build but also importantly the community side of the build – how to engage people, involve volunteers, choose a good site and layout, address council regulations and so on.
We’ve learned a lot from our Dance-O-Mat and have made many modifications to the system over the years, incorporating them into this manual. It means you don’t have to problem solve how to create one for your city; we’ve done all that for you and this assures you of a high-quality, well-designed amenity that will bring life to your city for years to come.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the price of our 100-page manual complete with full designs and materials list. Sales from the Dance-O-Mat manual go to support Gap Filler’s community projects.
Get your Dance-O-Mat
Contact us about a Dance-O-Mat for your City