Dancer Assist

Designers: Devin Slesicki and Thomas Wang

Supervising Professor: Richard Goldberg and Kevin Caves

Our client is a professional dancer who has Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS).  She wanted a device to lessen the weight on her legs while onstage.  The Dancer Assist consists of a lightweight mobile frame with a harness attached via a spring suspension. This device allows her to perform jumps and other aerial maneuvers she could not do before, while the support frame glides with her onstage.  The Dancer Assist can be disassembled within minutes by hand, and is readily portable for the client.

How this project helped
The client commented, “This device, the Dancer Assist…has really gone above and beyond my initial expectations.  I think that the aerial dancing capabilities that I hadn’t expected have really expanded my repertoire as a dancer and I look forward to exploring these possibilities as I continue to work with [the Dancer Assist] in the future.”

The Dancer Assist (Figure 1) contains three components: harness, frame and suspension system.

After considering harnesses for rock climbing and roofing, we selected a commercial harness used by professional circus acrobats, which had a more comfortable and supportive fit.  The circus harness distributes support to her waist in a two-point attachment, which can securely hold her in full lateral suspension.

The frame is constructed of materials purchased from 80/20 company (Columbia City, IN).  It consists of extruded aluminum struts, which are strong and lightweight.  The door-frame design features three components: one “U” piece overhead and two “T” pieces for the wheel base.  These three pieces are easily assembled using a slide-in joint on each side and secured by hand with a wing nut, all under two minutes.

The suspension system includes two springs, a safety spring and a heavy spring, connected in series.  The safety spring is intended to support loads of up to 50 lbs, which is the amount of support that our client wanted while standing.  When the client requires more support for jumping and full-body suspension, the safety spring is fully extended and the heavy spring incorporates.  The springs connect to the harness by a pulley and cable system, which offers a smooth and secure connection to the two-point attachment at the waist, and allows the client to rotate her body even while fully suspended in the air.  The design also features a ball-bearing swivel to anchor the suspension to the frame, which offers smooth and complete rotational freedom.  All moving parts are enclosed inside a protective denim sleeve to prevent pinching or abrasion.

Finally, a lashing system, constructed from plywood, L-brackets and wood screws, holds the frame pieces securely together when disassembled ease of travel.

The cost of parts for the Dancer Assist was approximately $825.

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