Ball Passing
May 9, 2009 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Ball Passing is grounded in the basic act of passing a ball from one person to the next. Teams of participants, organized in groups divisible by three, stand in rows on bleachers and pass brightly-colored 4” nerf balls, creating complex visual and temporal patterns. The action of passing a ball is extremely simple, yet the organization of the work—the rhythmic patterns and physical configurations—is exceedingly complex.
posted by starkeffect (64 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Perhaps, someday, I too will transcend my self-imposed limitations such that I may be known far and wide as Ambrosia Voyeur, Ball Passer.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:53 AM on May 9, 2009


I like the part where the guy in a monkey suit walks through the middle of the group.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2009 [41 favorites]


Now I so badly want to have "ball passer" on my CV...

Seriously thought, this was cool, thanks for posting it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And so the spirit of cup stacking lives on.
posted by cortex at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2009


Ball Passing, a "human rubik's cube," is like this for this crowd.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Ball passing.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Neat
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:32 AM on May 9, 2009


This was fantastic. I think people should do this once a month.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2009


Perhaps, someday, I too will transcend my self-imposed limitations such that I may be known far and wide as Ambrosia Voyeur, Ball Passer.

That'd be better than Ambrosia Passer, Ball Voyeur, anyways.
posted by inigo2 at 11:35 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am sorry, but to me, when passing a ball happens in real live competition, like in basketball, team handball, American football, etc., it is infinitely more compelling. This just seems so, um, staged and boring.
posted by greasepig at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that was kind of neat, but the faint slapping sound made by ball touching hand is slightly disturbing.

Who is the host in the "nerf balls" link? Her voice is immediately familiar to me. I'm thinking NPR? Maybe a local person from WBUR?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person for whom this reads like Waiting For Guffman?
posted by namespan at 11:46 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Rock Steady: Susan Stamberg

The clip is from the mid-80's arts showcase "Alive From Off-Center". Laurie Anderson hosted it for a year or so after Stamberg.
posted by starkeffect at 11:47 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was all ready to be smart-assed about this, but the performance video of all 60 people is really something. It was a pleasure to watch. The only suggestion that I'd add would be to make the balls large enough to be more clearly visible, but I'm guessing that would detract from being able to grip. Still, pretty cool.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:50 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Of course that's who she is. Thanks starkeffect.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:51 AM on May 9, 2009


OK, but call me when they can do this.
posted by metaBugs at 11:51 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am sorely disappointed as I was totally expecting some Harlem Globetrotters, streetball type stuff. But that roundabout juggling thing was pretty awesome.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2009


And so the spirit of cup stacking lives on.
posted by cortex


That was the first thing I thought of. Except cup stacking has a practical application: you end up with stacked cups. The end result of ball passing? Nerfwrist.
posted by The Deej at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2009


It looks like all the passers were having a lot of fun, which is nice. I don't think the result is very interesting to watch, though -- and this should be up my alley, I used to juggle (poorly).
posted by The Tensor at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2009


This is completely bizarre and I never knew anything like it existed. Thanks!
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2009


To all snarkers: Please go watch the full performance, I was fairly uninterested until I started watching.
posted by flatluigi at 12:52 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Going to have to add to the meh. I can't really see where something like this could develop as an art either, except to team juggling. It doesn't even have the wow of contact juggling. meh feh.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2009


Wow, cocaine is one hell of a drug.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah but remember Around The World.
And great screaming mother of all that is unholy, Ambrosia Voyeur's second link... I just... am looking forward to living there.
posted by zoinks at 1:18 PM on May 9, 2009


For some reason when I watch these vids, it makes me think they're failed Riverdancers.
posted by Malice at 1:24 PM on May 9, 2009


It's a little odd to compare this to juggling, I think. Ball passing looks more like a form of dance, where as juggling is a way for socially awkward high school freshmen to get people to pay attention to them (see also: Hackey Sack).
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


ATTN all video technicians working with footage of choreographed performances: take refresher course on deinterlacing.
posted by mistersquid at 1:43 PM on May 9, 2009


juggling is a way for socially awkward high school freshmen to get people to pay attention to them

True story: one time I showed up to the juggling club meeting a little early and started warming up. A rather awkward guy came up and watched me a little, then asked, apparently serious, "So, this juggling thing, is it, like...a chick magnet?" I replied, "Chick repellent, more like." He seemed disappointed.
posted by The Tensor at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


where as juggling is a way for socially awkward high school freshmen to get people to pay attention to them

Did you watch the videos? Who do you think these, pardon the oversnarking of the scare quotes, but, "dancers" are? Color guard. In chairs. I guess that makes it a "pageantry artform" too.

Ball Passing Pros: pixel people, good lighting plan

Ball Passing Cons: uncreative musical accompaniment, imperfect synchronization, unmotivated narrative, too much non-ball passing, dancers making goofy woop woop noises, summer camp hyperbole.

So, this looks like a really fun routine to learn for Parents' Day or the Talent Show, but it's a singular show of technical choreography, and never really makes it, with artful expression of any feelings or concepts, to the level I would call personally call dance with a capital D.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:52 PM on May 9, 2009


Actually talking to girls looks a lot easier than juggling, too. What an odd approach. I suppose you and a buddy could trap some girl in a volley of pins and tell her you'll let her go if she agrees to go out with you, but then she could just grab one of the pins and club you with it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:52 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you watch the videos? Who do you think these, pardon the oversnarking of the scare quotes, but, "dancers" are?

I'm starting to get the impression you didn't care for the Ball Passing. You're being awfully subtle about it, though, so I could be wrong.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2009


I'm glad I watched the 60-person version first. That was really beautiful and compelling. Less so with the nine-person version from the 80s. But so that's cool — it means they're learning what works and getting the hang of making it watchable.

The only suggestion that I'd add would be to make the balls large enough to be more clearly visible, but I'm guessing that would detract from being able to grip.

Yeah, I was wishing for darker costumes on the (dancers? passers?) so the ball passing patterns were more visible.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:56 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person for whom this reads like Waiting For Guffman?

Not at all. My thoughts exactly.
posted by odinsdream at 1:56 PM on May 9, 2009


I got the Christopher Guest vibe too, but I think it's as much from the shooting/editing style as from the content. You can't play the director speaking hyperbolically about the significance of the work at hand over shots of the performers practicing without bringing to mind "Waiting for Guffman" or "A Mighty Wind."
posted by contraption at 2:03 PM on May 9, 2009


Paging Kim Jong Il, is there a Kim Jong Il in the house?
posted by fcummins at 2:08 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and can I just say, Alive From Off Center FTW? I had no idea what I was seeing when I was flipping channels one night and landed on Laurie Anderson's What You Mean We?. Not to mention Michael Moschen—now there's some ball manipulation!
posted by The Tensor at 2:12 PM on May 9, 2009


This would be great if the balls were on fire.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Why do people disable embedding? There's no fucking way I'm going all the way to youtube to see this.
posted by joe defroster at 2:27 PM on May 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


After watching the performance video my thought was that this would be fun to do.

Ambrosia Voyeur: dancers making goofy woop woop noises

This is clearly a pro, not a con :)
posted by Kattullus at 2:30 PM on May 9, 2009


I had a hard time making out the interesting patterns because I couldn't follow the coloured balls next to the performers' bright shirts. Some black lighting might have helped here.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:11 PM on May 9, 2009


joe defroster: Why do people disable embedding? There's no fucking way I'm going all the way to youtube to see this.

You don't.

Geez, I'm really starting to get the impression people don't click on the links here.
posted by flatluigi at 4:07 PM on May 9, 2009


Internally lighting the balls would help, I think.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:12 PM on May 9, 2009


This would be great if the balls were on fire.

And the musical accompaniment was Jerry Lee Lewis, maniacally screaming "good-ness, gray-shus, GREAT balls of fi-yahhhh!!!"

Tell you what I think, though: the people involved are certainly having fun, and they're learning to work together rhythmically. People need more rhythm. When people grasp and internalize rhythm in ways like this, it's good for their minds and their bodies and their spirit. This is, therefore, a very good thing. In my most humble opinion, that is. And with my Dance Critic hat off my head and stuck deep into my closet.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:36 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only thing that could make this ball passing uninteresting would be if it had lame, repetitive electromusic and was a bad YouTube rendering of a poor VHS copy of a substandard analog TV broadcast from 30 years ago.
posted by DU at 4:54 PM on May 9, 2009


Just re-read my comment. It came out more harsh and less amusing than I intended. Sorry.
posted by DU at 5:37 PM on May 9, 2009


where as juggling is a way for socially awkward high school freshmen to get people to pay attention to them

It's also a way to have conversations with your children. Like this:

Young L. Mustachio - What are those, Dad?
Pa Mustachio - These are torches. I'm going to set them on fire and juggle them.
Ma Mustachio - (from another room) NOT IN THE HOUSE, YOU'RE NOT!
posted by louche mustachio at 5:53 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This, my friends, is part of the slippery slope of when you ban Dodgeball from school.
posted by stifford at 6:14 PM on May 9, 2009


Humans are so very strange.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:43 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not a bully or anything, but watching these people made me want to slap the balls out of their hands, or possibly hit them with water balloons. Weird.
posted by orme at 7:21 PM on May 9, 2009


I like the part where they pass the balls.
posted by squarehead at 8:00 PM on May 9, 2009


But really, the balls are almost a McGuffin. I don't know if the experience is different in person, but the balls aren't very visible in the videos, except when they cut to close-ups of smaller units of people, which are less interesting. It might be different if everyone was dressed in black and the ball movements were better highlighted, but the coolness of this was more about the how coordinated movement can create such different effects when individuals are treated as something like pixels. It's like seeing how far you can take the idea of a wave in a stadium. I do like it.
posted by squarehead at 8:20 PM on May 9, 2009


This is nothing compared to watching 50 senators pass the buck.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:39 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I watched the whole 80's video. I started off thinking (and still think) that this would have been a great MST3K short before a movie, but somehow I kind of got into it. I even liked the music (mmmm.... hypnotic).

There's something about actions performed in groups that make an action that, performed by a single person, looks silly, but in a group interesting or even enjoyable. For me, I noticed that if you focused on one person for a long enough time, you'd notice that they were actually doing very little, not passing the ball, or just moving one arm. As a group, though, the movements are absorbing. That, and just imagining how much work it must have taken to choreograph and practice, it's vaguely mind boggling.

Still, MST3K would be fantastic for this.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:01 PM on May 9, 2009


Replace the balls with dollar bills and presto you've got "buck passer," a model of the economy!
posted by mono blanco at 10:35 PM on May 9, 2009


None of those people ever got laid, except by a fellow ball-passer.
posted by unSane at 10:43 PM on May 9, 2009


snark withdrawn after watching the 60-person video

that guy completely rocks
posted by unSane at 10:49 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


meh
posted by ChickenringNYC at 1:09 AM on May 10, 2009


The full performance was really wonderful. This struck me as a metaphor for our existence -- interaction with community, observance of ritual (like the death of a member of that community), and continuation. Well done.
posted by Kikkoman at 1:35 AM on May 10, 2009


This looks a lot like a synchronized swimming routine without the water. This might have gotten a few less snarks if it had been presented as a group dynamics exercise for rival LA street gangs on probation rather than as a dance routine.
posted by birdwatcher at 3:53 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many years ago there were people who used to do that sort of thing in an organized propfessional league.

It was called the NBA.
posted by Zambrano at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2009


Travis Orr
Ball Passer
posted by Zambrano at 8:25 AM on May 10, 2009


For better clarity, the balls should be blue, and they should be using their mouths.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:48 AM on May 10, 2009


This is what your nightmares will look like after playing this.
posted by you at 10:59 AM on May 10, 2009


Thanks - I've never seen such a thing before. Well, maybe this.
posted by sneebler at 9:36 PM on May 10, 2009


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