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Smoke Vortex Cannon

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Birmingham and Barcelona-based dance company, Humanhood  are a rapidly-rising star in the dance firmament.  Artistic Directors Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés root their work in physics and astrophysics, as well as in their personal insight into Eastern mysticism. Their new production, Torus, is inspired by the creation of a geometrical shape by revolving a circle in a three dimensional space around a coplanar axis, and by the existence of these shapes throughout the natural world.

Project Breakdown 

We were asked to design and build a piece of equipment capable of projecting a single large smoke ring from the rear of a stage, out over an audience. The  ‘smoke vortex cannon’, had to be large enough to make an impact in a sizable performance venue, whilst being resilient and easily transportable on tour. In addition the cannon needed to be DMX programmable, to enable control from the lighting gallery. 

The design features a rear-mounted membrane pulled into extension by a series of bungees and secured by electromagnets. Upon release the membrane creates a sizeable single shock wave of air. Simultaneously, the cannon’s chamber is filled with a non-toxic, water-based smoke vapour which is forced out  by the shockwave through the barrel of the cannon in the form of a large smoke vortex ring. The donut shape of the torus is formed by the air leaving the cannon at the centre of the hole, rolling outwardly to the edge and travelling faster than the air around this outside edge.

The finished product was a cannon 2.5 metres long, with a diameter of 1.8 metres. As Humanhood needed to take the cannon on tour the team created a lightweight, flexible end product with a collapsible concertina-style fabric body for ease of packing and transport. This was reinforced with steel rings and adjustable steel bars enabling the cannon to be extended and locked into the solid rigid form required to create the shockwave. This shockwave creates a donut-shaped vortex smoke ring or, mathematically, a ‘torus’.

Ritchie Beacham-Paterson, the SFX Supervisor who lead the project for Artem said, 'Rudi and Júlia are used to collaborating with physicists and mathematicians, as well as creative performers, so they had a very clear vision of the effect they wanted and an understanding of the engineering challenges we faced.'

You can see the audience view of the torus in a darkened theatre here:

About Humanhood:

Humanhood was founded in 2016 by Birmingham and Catalan born artists Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés. Since the creation of their first full-length duet, Zero, the company has rapidly gained notice on both the UK and International scene. Together, they have developed a unique symbiotic fluid movement language that lies at the core of their work, creating intricate choreographic patterns that merge into multi-layered energetic shapes with flow and dynamism. 

 Humanhood’s previous productions include Orbis and Nomadis. Torus is their first larger-group production, show-casing the unique styles of five exceptional dancers. 

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Working with Artem was fantastic from day 1. There was never a “No" and only a drive to make our ideas materialise… an artists dream.

Rudi Cole & Júlia Robert Parés

Artistic Directors

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