BP Lab – or Bullet Pointe Lab – consists of a collection of product prototypes designed for the unique needs and experiences of the Twenty-First Century classical ballet dancer. These prototypes include new learning tools, devices for monitoring performance and preventing injury, and ways of creating interactive, innovative experiences within this highly traditional field.
Combining past with present, tradition with innovation, BP Lab ultimately works to augment traditional ballet equipment, attire, learning practices, and performance with the possibilities offered by emerging technologies.
3D printing – Arduino – branding – computational craft – costume design – entrepreneurship – physical computing – product design – soft circuits – wearable technology
Floor mat that quizzes users on the 5 basic foot positions of ballet using a game mechanic similar to Simon says and by sensing foot position using embedded proximity sensors.
Ballet slippers with embedded flex sensors that visualize how far the user has pointed his or her feet by lighting an increasing number of LEDs at the toe of the shoe.
A ballet skirt that measures consecutive turns, or fouettés, completed in a given period of time using the data received from an accelerometer / magnetometer / gyroscope sensor. This turn count is visualized by the number of LEDs illuminated along the side of the skirt.
Shorts with embedded heating modules that warm user’s key muscle groups prior to performance or training. Shorts are embroidered with thermochromic thread, changing from black to white as temperature increases.
Rotating disc that allows users to work on their turn out, lighting an increasing number of LEDs as turn out increases and vibrating when the user is too far rotated and risks injury.
Pointe shoes created using 3D printing technologies to allow for the possibility of custom fit, improved durability, and increased cost-effectiveness.
BP Lab grew from my work as co-founder of Bullet Pointe, a company I began with my mom and younger sister, Madison, during the final semester of my undergraduate studies at Barnard College, where I graduated in May 2013 with a degree in Art History and Visual Arts. During my sophomore year at Barnard, Madison was accepted into the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center. With this, she and my mom moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Soon after, my mom began learning how to sew and construct garments – specifically, skirts and other ballet apparel for my sister and her friends at SAB. With these items growing in popularity and demand amongst the dancers, we began to see the business opportunity available to us – thus creating Bullet Pointe Ballet Apparel Company.
Even in its creation, my role at Bullet Pointe has always been driven by design – I established the company’s name, image, and mission statement, developed our website and social media accounts, created content for us to share with our users, designed our packaging, and more.
However, since completing this initial design process, it has been difficult for me to remain passionate about a company that serves a market to which I have no ties other than familial ones. Ballet is notoriously insular, often immune to external cultural shifts or progressive influences in its adherence to tradition. It’s a world that creates a niche demographic, an exclusive subcultural cosmos with traditions, rules, and standards that seem antiquated and sometimes even anti-feminist when viewed from an outsider’s perspective.
But I have been determined to insert myself – my passions, my ideas, my designs – into it. And one way that I aspired to do this is through BP Lab, a project that relates two obscure, seemingly impenetrable pockets of professional practice (classical ballet and technological innovation) to embody not only the ethos I imagined for Bullet Pointe, but also the one I imagine for my future.
Technology x Costume Design
The final installment of BP Lab focused on reimagining three unique female protagonists from classical ballet performances: Odile from Swan Lake, Hippolyta from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Sylph from La Sylphide.
Each costume uses new practices of technological production and craft – such as 3D modeling and printing – as a medium for its construction, reimagining a possible future for costume design.
All content © Copyright Jane McDonough, 2016.