Dance and Tensegrity

by Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why does tensegrity matter? Why you should care? 

We are a ‘organic architecture’ and the routines we do, are the forces we apply to the body structure. Depending how we do this, we can change force lines (therefore body shape) using exercises…

Tensegrity matters because the efficiency of our structure (bodies) is contingent on the ‘tensioning’ in its parts. If you alter the ‘tensioning’ using exercises, you alter the behavior of the structure. Increase some lines of tension — “core strength” — or arms-shoulders lines, allows us to move our bodies and carry loads more efficiency. 


We can systematically alter the ‘tensioning’ in our bodies. Elastic structures when deformed store energy and as they return to their original shape, the energy is released. Much of the movement is with stored elastic energy. Stress, and resultant strain, stores energy within the system. In bone and tendons, this energy can be quite large and when modeled as tensegrity structures even more impressive because of its non-linearity and the resulting initial explosive force that automatically smoothes out as it reaches its resting state.

This would make for smooth, flowing movements like a pendulum swinging back and forth. Because of its collagen matrix, live bone has the springiness of a vaulter’s pole and when the icosahedrons are compressed and released, they would put bounce in each step but not skip him along.

One other resource to recommend:

It’s interesting how we have always traditionally relied upon mechanistic models to try to explain the human body. 

Our bodies respond and react and adapt. A building or flagpost just doesn’t cut it when compared to a living organism. As Michol Dalcourt, inventor of the ViPR, says on his excellent Institute of Motion website:

…we are yet rewriting our views of biomechanics and shattering our models of traditional anatomy. The era of reducing structure to its constituent parts has passed…

The 640 names given to our muscles were an artificial construct to make it easier for people to learn about the body. Deconstructing our bodies into parts might have been beneficial in some regard for anatomical learning… but in helping us understand the body in parts we have done a disservice for our understanding our bodies as a whole. And this problem derives from the tradition of using mechanical means to explain living and breathing tissue. The spine is not a column. A lever is a ridiculous way to look at a joint.

These things just don’t make sense when we really examine how the body moves and works…
This is where tensegrity comes in. Tensegrity was a term popularized by R. Buckminster Fuller who was an American inventor, architect, engineer and futurist. He invented the geodesic dome which is the basis for many large stadium structures such as the Atlanta Dome and Fukuoka Dome.


Our body as a tensegrity structure makes a lot more sense. Our bones don’t actually touch each other so how does everything not come crashing down? Tensegrity helps us explain how our body is able to bend over, to run and jump without falling over like a column would. It is integrity or unity through tension. 

Why does this matter?
It matters because we now know that the mechanical constructs we previously used to define the body were only partly correct. Our bodies are living, fractal, chaotic and constantly changing. Effective training programs must take this into account because the two-dimensional programs that were and are promoted in most gyms today are not enough. We must train acknowledging the 3-dimensional, multi-joint tensegrity structures that we all are.



I would like to mention a fantastic work I found in internet, which really suggest a fantastic future.
STUDENT: Behnaz Farahi
SCHOOL: University of Southern California
YEAR: 2013

The reality is that the technology we use today is constantly learning and catering to our needs, and learning and responding to us. Apple collects endless amounts of data every time you use your iphone, but what about our surroundings what if they learned and changed to how we live? Behnaz Farahi work at the University of Southern California challenged how a surface can interact and adapt to the way we inhabit space. The surface begins to shift and bend as the inhabitant moves around and away from the surface. The project uses kinetic motion sensors to react to the location of the inhabitant, but what if that structure adapted to our daily routines? Check it out after the jump!

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