There has been a lot of change throughout the life of Pleasure Island, which at times has featured nightly New Year's Eve celebrations, West End Stage shows, roller skating, line dancing and jazz rather than Irish jigs.
But through it all, that big wheel of a dance floor has kept on turning at Mannequins Dance Palace since P.I. opened in 1989. It's simple, but it's something folks don't see every day: a 40-foot diameter Lazy Susan, set to a dance beat.
It's also a crowd-pleaser. The ratio of dancers to nondancers may be higher at Mannequins because merely standing and surfing the floor passes for dancing. It's not surprising in theme-park country that the ground can constitute a ride, an a-go-go-go-round, if you will.
Here's the setup. Below the foot of the stage is the rotating dance floor -- it can shift from clockwise to counterclockwise and back in the same evening. (It's controlled by a sound and light technician, Disney says.) The wheel is separated from the spectators area and bars by a guardrail with stools. There are four entrances to the turntable that are about 7 feet wide, and therein lies occasional hilarity: mounting and dismounting.
Not that the floor is moving that fast -- just a lot faster than your living room. A Theme Park Ranger time test shows that a full rotation takes about 60 seconds, so that would be in the neighborhood of 1.5 mph.
Still, you're likely to encounter a conventioneer or other P.I. newbie stumbling onto the surface, perilously close to losing balance or adult beverage. Another unusual sight is women gathering in a circle, surrounding their purses and shopping bags on the floor, dancing in a somewhat tribal fashion. Fancier dancers can choreograph leaps from the dance floor to the stationary floor and back with flair.
Back in the day, there were professional dancers on the stage, and the movement of the dance floor was meant to make the place interactive.
Christopher Carradine, a Disney exec who headed the Pleasure Island development team, discussed the design with the Sentinel when the nightclub complex opened.
"You have live dancers in a proscenium setting, claiming the dance floor as a thrust stage," Carradine said at the time. "We thought the dance floor would be a tertiary attraction, and what we found out is what I suspected all along: It's one of the primary means by which we literally rotate the social situation and turn it in on itself. . . . It's always in a state of flux, which is what the magic of theater is."
A social situation, it is. A friend who used to man the sidelines devised a nickname for the floor, which handily and constantly rotates the view of the dancing populace. He called it "the wheel of meat." I'm just saying.