Compressor brings dancing robots to life

Paul Boughton

One of the most popular events at the Merge Arts, Music and Performance Festival, currently being held on London's Bankside, is being performed by a troupe of eight perfectly synchronised dancing robots activated by the public via a control panel. 

This dancing machines installation has been created by Peter William Holden, a British installation artist based in Leipzig, Germany, with help from Thorite, the UK's largest distributor of pneumatic products and process systems, in the form of a loaned compressor which brings the pneumatically-activated tap dancers to life. 

One of the festival's organisers approached Thorite for assistance as the installation is located in out of use commercial premises on Bankside, a thriving Thames-side cultural district in central London with the famous Borough Market and Tate Modern at its heart. 

The venue possessed all the space necessary for the robotic dancers to perform in, but lacked a sufficient power supply. Stephen Wright, Thorite's Managing Director, arranged for a 3HP single phase Hydrovane compressor to be delivered to the venue and connected to the robots. 

Stephen said: "Peter's machines are really fascinating, combining high level engineering skills with top quality fabrication to produce a spectacle which is completely beguiling." 

Spectators can re-invent the existing robotic performance and create their own composition using 16 switches to trigger short sequences of sound and movement. A second routine is inspired by the Industrial Revolution where the motions of the robots emphasise relentless work, ignorant of their environment and unwilling to stop if anything gets in their way. 

Merge runs until October 12th.

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