with Alice Sheppard and Yevgeniya Zastavker
Dancer and choreographer Alice Sheppard approached us with a dream design brief: a large-scale ramp for dancing on stage. She contacted Sara in fall 2015, asking to collaborate, and the project found a home in an Olin course—not the usual test kitchen, Investigating Normal, but in an introductory physics class with professor Yevgeniya Zastavker. The challenge was to house the operations of the inclined plane, or ramp, in an expressive physics—an exploration of its resistance, acceleration, and its affordances not for access, but for choreography.
Alice came to campus in March for what we’re calling at Olin a “micro-residency”—suited to our scale (350 students total!). She gave an artist’s talk, and we audited the built environment of our campus to test its many ramped conditions for maximum speed, Alice’s preferred movements, banking, and so on.
We made a provisional dance studio with floor tiles that our student dance club uses, and we borrowed mirrors from our colleagues over at Babson College’s theater group.
Students then spent time building out ramps—connected in modular, mutable fashion to the dance floor tiles—to test various heights and arrangements for Alice’s use. We also assembled my own ramps from the long-running Slope : Intercept exploration of the inclined plane.
Now with a better idea of the slopes and ranges of movement Alice was seeking, students set about making a new design—one that turned out to be monumental in scale, an entire landscape. They made some paper models:
And when Alice came back in April, this time with her collaborator, Laurel Lawson, they danced on the real thing. It was the result of enormously steep learning curves—in CAD, in shop bot, in fabrication to the very end. You can read more about it in the Globe’s story here.
This model will be built for performances in the next 12-18 months. And the work continues! Sara and Alice travel to South Korea for an exhibition and performance in Media City Seoul, and Alice and Laurel return in fall 2016 for further work in Investigating Normal. Follow the project also at Kinetic Light.
Team: Alice Sheppard, Laurel Lawson, Yevgeniya Zastavker, Sara Hendren, Katie Butler, Daniel Daugherty, Duncan Hall, Andrew Holmes, Erica Lee, Scott Mackinlay, Apurva Raman, March Saper, Alexander Scott, Kimberly Winter, Jingyi Xu, Rachel Yang. Thanks to Jeff Goldenson, John Rosenwinkel, Russell Zacharias, and Mark Lorenzo.