When dancers dynamically interacted with manmade nets in our choreographic piece “In*Tension” (Seattle, June 2019), the nets exhibited counterintuitive stiffness properties. They stiffened under increased dancer impact loading and this phenomenon substantially differed for the orthogonal and bias net topologies. Historically, structural engineering has eschewed the design of structural nets, implicating their unsatisfactory stiffness as the cause of disastrous resonance and fatigue failures in, for example, cablenet building facades and impact net barriers. We propose to harness the stiffening effect found in net topologies when they are driven into large displacements through dance to generate novel 3D resilient flexible systems nets with adaptive stiffness properties. The core concept is that, under external loading, the flexible net undergoes large displacements and stiffens, partially as a function the elastic stiffness of the net’s individual strands, but more as a function of its mesh shape, size, orientation, and arrangement. Current structural net design occurs according to prescriptive guidelines that heavily restrict large displacements, while choreographic design focuses on expanding possibilities and here would maximize the dynamic interactions between the dancer and the net. The originality of the proposed research lies in harnessing the stiffening effect found in net topologies that are displaced unusually and extremely by dynamic dancer loading as a strategy to create resilient structural systems with force-dependent stiffness properties.
Our goals are to create choreographic works that generate a new understanding of how different net topologies rigidify when loaded and soften when unloaded.