A Dance Performance Amid Countless Bouncing Ping-Pong Balls [Video]

Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham of Snarkitecture used thousands upon thousands of ping-pong balls to turn a dance performance into a kinetic wonderland.

It’s hard enough for dancers to perform live, between remembering steps, staying on the music, and trying to forget that hundreds of beady little eyes are watching their every move. Now imagine they’ve got to do all that with ping-pong balls flying at their face. Thousands of them.


For this, the dancers of Why Patterns, a new performance by mega-talented choreographer Jonah Bokaer, have Snarkitecture to thank. The Brooklyn art and architecture studio — made up of Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham — created a set for the show’s world premiere in Becket, Massachusetts, last week, designed such that “a single ball initiates a series of choreographed games and unpredictable results.” That, in turn, prompts more balls to cascade out of a container in the lighting grid. Add a few thousand more, and the dancers would look like they’re flopping around a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

[Fashion designer Richard Chai created the costumes]

Why ping-pong balls: “We built a custom ping-pong table in our studio so there were a lot of the balls around,” Daniel Arsham tells Co.Design. “I brought some with me to our first concept rehearsals and it went from there.” More to the point, Bokaer catered the performance to the ping-pong balls. “All of the language of the piece is built around the manipulation of these balls in three dimensions,” Arsham says. “The dancers move and are moved around by the balls and Jonah has used this variety of movement to build the work choreographically.”

But it has to be dangerous for the dancers, right? Apparently not. “The choreography that Jonah made for Why Patterns is generally slow so there is no risk for the dancers,” Arsham says. “When they do step on the balls they are soft enough to crush.”

More Co.Design coverage of Snarkitecture including a story on an apartment covered in — you guessed it! — ping-pong balls here and here.

[Images courtesy of Snarkitecture]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.