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A New Type of Wheelchair Is Designed for Dancers

Most wheelchair designs are often focused around users’ comfort in everyday use, promising a better fit or a greater ease of movement. But wheelchair users want to do more than just move around without getting chafed. One wheelchair design in development supports dancers who can’t necessarily perform without mechanical aid. Science Friday reports that a University of South Florida-born power wheelchair is made to allow its users to move expressively, giving them the freedom of movement that dancing requires.

Wheelchair dance isn't a new phenomenon. In fact, for some people, dancing is more than just sport. It’s a form of therapy. Parkinson’s patients, for instance, often show symptom improvement after regular dance training. But performers often use chairs that are rigid and not designed for modern dance. The Rolling Dance Chair, by contrast, has greater flexibility to move in any direction. And when users move, the chair follows.

Through a wireless connection with the accelerometer and other motion sensors on the user's phone, the chair can sense the person is leaning, and lean with them. The wheels are tucked away to prevent costumes from getting tangled. And like a Segway (which partially served as a design precedent), the chair moves faster the more the user leans.

Merry Lynn Morris, the inventor, has been working on the dance chair for five years, and it’s the subject of five different patents. She began working on the device while working with dancers with disabilities who couldn’t control their lower bodies, but whose upper bodies were strong enough that the chairs they were using did more to hinder their performance than aid it.

The first prototype debuted in 2013, but Morris and her colleagues are working on a new one with hopes to put it on the commercial market. Right now, the seat isn’t powered to rotate or adjust the height, requiring manual manipulation, and it needs better wheels to make it quieter on all surfaces.

[h/t Science Friday]

Header image by Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

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politics
New York City Will Now Allow You to Dance Without a License
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In New York City, there’s a tricky law on the books that requires any business serving food or drinks to acquire what’s known as a Cabaret License in order to allow customers to dance. The mandate stems from a 1926 policy introduced by then-mayor Jimmy Walker to help curb what some residents believed to be “altogether too much running wild” in the Jazz Age clubs of the era. (It's also possible that the law was meant to prevent interracial coupling.) City officials have regularly enforced the law during the proceeding century, with some clubs even cutting off music—or switching to country—when inspectors arrived unannounced.

Now, it appears the outdated restriction has come to an end. According to The New York Times, Brooklyn councilman Rafael Espinal has introduced a bill expected to pass Tuesday that will forever end any and all comparisons to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footloose. The repeal comes on the heels of concerns that the prohibition pushes people into attending "underground" dance clubs that exceed (or ignore) fire department capacity limits.

While Espinal is convinced he has the necessary votes to move forward, several proprietors have attempted to challenge the law over the years. In 2014, bar owner and attorney Andrew Muchmore filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the restriction was outdated and obtaining the license was a laborious process. To approve an application, the city’s Department of Consumer affairs has to verify a venue has security cameras and owners have to attend regular board conferences. The cost of the license can range from $300 to $1000, depending on the area’s capacity and, for some unfathomable reason, whether it’s an even or odd year.

Espinal's efforts and anticipated success getting rid of the Cabaret Law will cap 91 years of illicit dancing within the city limits. Just don't get too cozy with your partner: thanks to another antiquated regulation, you can still be fined $25 for flirting.

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Animals
Move Over, Goat Yoga: Alpaca Dance Classes Have Arrived
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A surprising number of people want to exercise alongside farm animals. Multiple farms across the U.S. offer yoga with goats, a livestock twist on the trend of doing yoga with cats. And in Canada, you can now learn to dance with alpacas, according to Travel + Leisure.

Anola, Manitoba's 313 Farms launched its all-ages AlpacaZone Dance and Fitness classes this summer, offering hip-hop, barre, pilates, and cardio classes for six weekends.

Sadly, the alpacas aren’t teaching the dances. But the classes do take place outdoors among the merry camelids, who are free to wander into your choreography at any time. Taking a water break during class is so passé; better to take an alpaca-petting break. After class, you get a meet-and-greet with the animals, giving you even more time to pal around. (Take note: One of the alpacas reportedly loves kisses.)

Two adults and several children dance in the midst of an alpaca pasture.
Courtesy 313 Farms

313 Farms owner Ann Patman told Travel + Leisure that she was inspired to start the alpaca dance program when a nearby farm started offering a popular goat yoga series. Patman, a Detroit native who named her farm after her hometown’s area code, had previously worked at a dance studio.

The registration for classes like the hip-hop focused “Poppin’ Pacas” and “Barn Barre” costs a low $10 pre-sale, or $15 the day of. The AlpacaZone classes end on August 19, but the owners may offer more because of high demand. Sounds like it's time for a little alpaca-exercise-induced road trip to rural Canada.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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