Determined design discipline behind Diavolo’s daring dance-wheel

Architecture & Design · Dance

A group of Penn State Architecture and Engineering students spent the year designing and building the 12’8″-tall-by-17′-wide “Dance Vehicle-01” in an interdisciplinary studio built around a collaboration with renowned Los Angeles-based Diavolo Dance Theater.

An exercise in the interplay of movement and devices, “The Secret Life of Public Spaces” studio resulted from a $251,670 grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The prestigious Creative Campus Innovations Grant integrates the performing arts into the University and surrounding community.

Dance Vehicle-0 evolved out of research conducted by Penn State Assistant Professor of Architecture Marcus Shaffer, was one of the most ambitious initiatives to result from that studio.

The students built Dance Vehicle-01 in wood, and used the prototype to make adjustments. Then they redesigned it in steel, learning how to weld and use a newly purchased rolling device that turned the steel. Meanwhile, a team of engineering students designed the transmission.

Impressed by Dance Vehicle-01 and Professor Shaffer’s research, Jacques Heim, the founder of Diavolo Dance Theater, has asked Shaffer and a group of students to design the schematics for a future piece.

We hope to see Diavolo Dancers performing wheelies in their dance vehicle barreling south on the Harbor Freeway soon.

Video by Jerry Sawyer

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