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35′ x 10′ x 20′ high paper, magnets, string, steel, wooden ring, 88 pulleys, one motor.

In 2009 I met the choreographer Gideon Obarzanek while we were presenting our work at Poptech. He was talking about dance. I was talking about waves. We both talked about movement. I immediately loved his work and felt that he was reaching deep into a realm of meaning to create his dance pieces. And I was simply struck by how dynamic and expressive the human figure can be.

We struck up a conversation about how to do a collaboration combining kinetic sculpture and dancers. Rather than simply having the sculpture overhead and the dancers below, we both wanted to do something more challenging, and to somehow have the sculpture reflect the movement of the dancers. Over the next year Gideon stopped by my shop twice, and we experimented with different ways of tying strings between a person and a suspended matrix.

The sculpture we decided upon has similarities to a torqued square wave, but rather than adding two sine waves, one axis is tied to the dancer’s arms, and the other axis is tied to the legs. These twin movements allow for a wide range of expression in the sculpture, and the strings can also be distributed between multiple dancers. Besides the suspended paper matrix, the sculpture consists of an overhead tension grid and a block on the floor that adds a mechanical wave to the motion originating in the dancer. I came to think of the sculpture as a musical instrument, where my job was to give it the most expressive potential possible before Gideon figured out how to play it, give it meaning, and somehow incorporate it into a performance. Gideon wanted to build the sculpture on stage, and so I designed an articulating magnetic joint so the paper elements could quickly snap together.

While I was building the sculpture in my shop in California, Gideon was developing his choreography with five dancers in his studio in Melbourne. In January of 2011 I traveled to Australia to set up the sculpture. Connected is produced by Gideon’s dance company Chunky Move was rehearsed and developed with the additional talents of two composers, a lighting designer, and a costume designer. The opening was on March 15, 2011 at the Malthouse Theater in Melbourne, Australia. The show is now on a worldwide tour with the U.S. premier scheduled for Portland, Oregon in October 2011. Please see Chunky Move’s website for complete schedule and production details.

Special thanks to Alex Forman for expert fabrication assistance building Connected.