It was the opening number of the Christmas Show, 2016. The theme was “Broadway” and I was sitting at the top of a pole during “Cell Block Tango.” Instructor Paige climbed under me and put her foot in my crotch to hummingbird and the pole tilted her direction. Then Instructor Meegan handspring and I grabbed her foot and the pole tilted in her direction. As I sat up top, above the connection point of the two pieces of the X-Stage, and teeter tottered I had one very clear thought. Our tricks have gotten too big for these stage poles and I feel unsafe up here. It was at that moment, in the middle of our opening number, that I knew I needed to find a safer option for the show the following year.
Rigging Pole & Aerial is dangerous and fraught with liability. If anything goes wrong, people could die. It is a specific skill set that you must have training and experience with. I took a course in Aerial Rigging so I know the basics but I also knew that with everything going on for the show I could NOT be the head rigger on this. And the person I had trained to be this role left my life in early 2017 so I had to find a production company with the skills, knowledge, and willingness to take on the Aerial Dance productions.
I knew I wanted to work with Event Production Systems (EPS). I’m lucky to play with Vic Ferrari’s Symphony On The Rocks and EPS does their work. Over the years I’ve become friends with their people so I enquired and after discussions they agreed to take on the event if they could use ModTruss to rig it. I hadn’t heard of ModTruss but after a quick internet learning session realized it was the best product on the market and couldn’t believe everyone wasn’t using it! Added bonus, Mike from EPS personally knew the developer and the stuff is engineered in Fond Du Lac. So we were in business! We had a production company in EPS and an awesome product to make it super safe with ModTruss.
In the months leading up to the show I went to EPS a number of times working with Mike, Andrew and Issac to figure out how to work with the ModTruss and the poles. I had ordered single piece, competition grade poles for the show from Lupit. They were 12 feet and had a standard box truss attachment. But ModTruss isn’t box truss. Box Truss has a square tube with zig zagging to make the square stable. ModTruss is all aluminum with holds. This added rigidity makes it a TON stronger than box truss, but means that the clamps normally used to attached a pole top won’t work. So EPS devised a way to take the top attachment off the box truss rig and instead to just use the plate on the ModTruss. This eliminated a possible point of failure! The less things that can break, the better.
It also allows them to adjust the height by 1/4 of an inch! This is SUPER important. Poles are ordered at a fixed height. With the Lupit poles you have about an inch of wiggle room, but that’s it. And other brands have less, or none! And then you have a situation like Pole Worlds where the Poles from Italy were not the same intended height as the stage and box truss rig. They built down a level of tubing to make the poles work, but at one point there was a failure of the top pole attachment and it had to be fixed during the competition. With ModTruss, that failure isn’t possible because we can move the main truss header (what the pole attaches to) up and down in 4 inch sections; meaning we could lower the entire top truss by 4 inches to accomodate a shorter pole or up as we will have to for the taller USPSF Midwest Regional Competition poles. And then we can also move the pole attachment point within 1/4 inch increments. The versatility of ModTruss means that we never have to worry that the stage is the wrong height for the poles.
The 2017 show premiered our gorgeous ModTruss Rig and stage. It was so beautiful. And so safe. It was the first show I wasn’t worried about something breaking! But that first year there was a lot of learning. We had a plan but it took a while to execute and there were issues on the path. Specifically the brand new poles having an excessive amount of coating that I had to hand sand off a few days before the show to get them to fit into their bases. Thank God we did a test run with EPS the Tuesday before the show that year so I could find the problem and fix it.
The 2018 show was magic for me. EPS now had the plan with modifications we used from 2017. I dropped off the poles at 10am and came back at 2pm to have them up on the stage. That is one of the beauties of working with ModTruss & EPS, every event organizer I have ever spoken to says “do NOT leave the venue until the poles are up” because they have all had issues with the height of truss/stage and poles not matching. I don’t worry about. Because everything is adjustable on the ModTruss to fit whatever poles I bring; I am 100% confident EPS will get the poles up to my saftey specifications.
But the improvement in assembly isn’t the only benefit for using ModTruss. My truss does not have the lateral shimmy that a box truss does. All box truss rigs I’ve seen, even with amble cross bracing, have a lot of sway movement. My setup doesn’t. It barely moves at all. It is so structurally sound that Instructor Chrissy this year took a running leap across the stage onto the “wrecking ball” and literally swung back and forth in a wide arch and there was still almost no movement. ModTruss is not only more adjustable, it is a more stable and secure feeling rig.
I feel so lucky to work with EPS. What they have built for my company is truly spectacular. We turn volleyball courts into an amazing stage. The poles are secure. The aerial attachment points don’t have swinging limitations or any realistic weight limitations. They also go the extra mile to make it look pretty with uplight in the truss. Thank you EPS for being so fabulous!
Come to the US Pole Sport Federation Midwest Regional April 12-13 at Tanner’s Bar & Grill, hosted by Aerial Dance to see this beautiful rig in action! We will have two 13+ foot poles rigged for the two day competition.