Move over Dominatrix…there’s a new Dancer taking the stage.
That’s the tune being sung by longtime kayak designer Corran Addison, who, as the designer of such cutting-edge kayaks as Riot’s Dominatrix, is now resurrecting the age-old Dancer kayak (with a little help from original designer and Perception founder Bill Masters) under his Soul Waterman brand.
Old school paddlers who honed their whitewater chops on Perception’s original Dancer kayak can rest easy; Addison’s new version, of which is soliciting 50 initial orders to build, is a similar all-around kayak, with more modern lines.
Roll your eyes instead of your boats if you will, but Addison is excited to bring the classic kayak back. So is original Dancer manufacturer Bill Masters, founder of Perception kayaks.
“When he asked my advice on re-creating the Dancer, I was glad to repay the favor and encouraged him to do so,” says Master of Addison, who lived with his family when Masters’ son Adam, founder of Bellyak, was a young teenager paddler and Corran was an aspiring designer. “When the Dancer was at its peak it had without question sold more of that whitewater design than any other kayak model in history — a number the Dancer still holds today. With Corran’s design skills to create a modern Dancer and honoring that golden era of whitewater kayaking, I think he’ll have a winner and wish him the best to exceed those original sales numbers.”
While the original Dancer came in at an at-the-time unheralded 11’2”, Addison’s new version measures 9’10”, with a volume of 79 gallons.
Paddling Life caught up with Addison for his take on the Dancer, Part Two.
Paddling Life: You’re trying to get 50 orders to produce it?
Addison: Correct. This company is self-funded. So when I want to develop a new design, I have to pre-sell a certain number of boats. This covers about half of the mold and production costs, so the risk is lessened. It also tells me that interest is real, and not just tire-kicking.
PL: How do you feel about resurrecting such an iconic name?
Addison:It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. But it wasn’t until recently that a trademark attorney told me about how a name in disuse becomes public domain again, so now I can actually do it. The Dancer held a special place for me — I cut my teeth with that boat. It was the first boat I had that wasn’t a stone-age, fiberglass, long pointy slalom derivative boat. I went from a hack with no skills, to the beginnings of the paddler I’d become in the Dancer, going from a Class II paddler to Class V in two years with the boat.
PL: Who’s helping you with it?
Addison: I’m working with Bill Masters, the founder of Perception and its original mastermind. Alan Stancil is the guy who actually did the work on the boat, following Bill’s direction. I actually started working on the Dancer II in 1990 when I was still at Perception, but left before it was finished and Bob McDonough completed it. I have no idea whether it was a success, and seems like at the time, it was the wrong time to do it as people were just getting out of the Dancer into boats like the Pirouette, or Corsica series, so I think it was probably premature. But now is the right time.
PL: What do you like about the original Dancer, and how is this one improved?
Addison: Compared to the kayaks I was paddling at the time, it was like going from a horse and carriage to a motorcar. At the time, Perception kayaks were light years ahead of anything else: in design and outfitting. I’d been in a Quest before, but it was basically just an “unbreakable” and better-outfitted version of the torpedos we were already paddling.
To understand the new Dancer, you can’t focus on design, but rather you need to look at design intent, compared to the contemporary boats it’s going to be measured against. When the Dancer came out, the goal was to make an easier boat to paddle (Bill’s description of the design goal). Back then, that meant going shorter, more rocker, blunter ends, higher knees. These are all things that made the Dancer easier than the Mirage and other boats that were the go-to designs of the time.
Today, your average river runner is paddling a creek boat on rivers (massively overkill in some regards for what they’re being used on). They’re short, don’t paddle very strait (lots of energy used to keep tracking), have really short waterlines for their length making them slow, and have high knees, making them harder to roll. They’re designed to make steep Class V safe. But on a Class III-IV river run, they’re not ideal. The way you make a river runner today easier than the boats it’s measured against is to increase length and reduce rocker, increasing speed and tracking, and lower the knees so it’s easier to roll, as just a few examples.
So in reality you’re going in the exact opposite direction as the original Dancer (compared to the contemporary designs) in order to get to the same “easy space” for the end user, which is kind of ironic.
And that was the key. When I first decided to do the new Dancer, I got in touch with Bill and asked him what the design goals were (not the design specifics, but the design goals). Then I went about trying to hit those same goals, but for 2020 compared to other boats of today. It’s been really fun.