Tensegrity Playground offers a fun new way to see the arts

On Wednesday, April 13, in the open space on the first floor of 29 Park Place, students gathered for an interdisciplinary performance featuring Honors Tutorial College students Zelda Thayer-Hansen and Ella Bathory-Peeler.

Thayer-Hansen is a first-year studio arts student and Bathory-Peeler is a first-year dance student. The two created their joint collaboration, Tensegrity Playground, as a way to explore the intersection between dance and movement with sculpture and 2D and 3D art.

The performance was born as their tutorial for the spring semester. A tutorial allows for personalized attention with a professor, usually one-on-one or in a small group, which each Honors Tutorial College student must complete once per semester. Tutorials vary by major, but their flexibility allows students to think outside of what is usually done in a classroom.

Thayer-Hansen said the idea of ​​working with Bathory-Peeler came during winter break after wanting to learn each other’s medium. Both also wanted to see what they could do in a shared environment.

“We started thinking about what we could do,” Thayer-Hansen said. “We had an idea of ​​performance in mind from the start. We really wanted to focus on the upstream process. And just learning to create in the same space and bouncing off each other and getting ideas from each other and learning different media.

When the collaboration came to fruition, Bathory-Peeler said it was difficult to choose a title because of the weight and importance it held. The idea of ​​working with form, structure, line and visual elements was already central to the project, so Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler called Bathory-Peeler’s mother for ideas.

“She just typed in the word tensegrity and then she said ‘look at it.’ So we looked,” Bathory-Peeler said. “And we started learning about tensegrity, which is a scientific concept. It’s all about structure and movement and tension and imbalance and the interaction of all these things We started to realize that was exactly what we had been exploring, we just didn’t know the word for it.

Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler were unsure whether or not to just leave the “Tensegrity” title or add something else to it. They also had “Playing with Tensegrity” as an option before settling on “Tensegrity Playground” as it showed the playful silliness of what they were about to do.

A big part of what Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler wanted from Tensegrity Playground was community engagement and showing art in an exploratory way. The event was advertised in dorms and public areas with friends, students and teachers showing up to watch. People were asked to place random objects around the room and move freely throughout the performance to allow for community space and contribution.

The performance began with a few words from Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler, both explaining the background to the project and that they wanted everything to be interactive. There were three thumbnails. Thumbnail I focused on creating 2D art and dancing separately with Thayer-Hansen sketching a sculpture put together by members of the public and Bathory-Peeler dancing and moving to whatever was happening at the moment.

Vignette II highlighted how one art form can interrupt another. As Thayer-Hansen tried to continue sketching a new sculpture put together by more participants, Bathory-Peeler tried to cause a distraction by clipping carabiners attached to a rope on both of their vests. The costumes consisted of vests with fabric loops, a variety of different fabric textures, and custom details for both performers, including dining room tags, a tech bridge toy, and fake rubber cockroaches.

Vignette III presented line and form in relation to tension, movement and weight transfer. As the most interactive vignette, Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler invited audience members to grab carabiners attached to resistance bands and clip onto either performer. The action would then create a network of multiple groups and people coming together as one.

Donnie Schiffbauer, a freshman studying meteorology, said he was invited by Thayer-Hansen to the show but wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, but I enjoyed it,” Schiffbauer said. “A lot more than I thought. Because I thought it would just be a low-key thing, just a random art thing that I really didn’t enjoy, but it was fun to play with (Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler ) while they were doing stuff. So I enjoyed it.”

With Tensegrity Playground, Thayer-Hansen and Bathory-Peeler wish to continue and grow in what they can accomplish. They want to continue to develop different vignettes and even work on an exhibition. However, they mainly want to continue doing together.

“We just hope to keep doing it together and find other ways to do it,” Thayer-Hansen said. “It’s just taking the game or the connected aspect forward, and creating our art, and then finding ways to incorporate it even more where it’s not just drawing and dancing. Gather this even more for the future.

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Harold B. McConnell