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—Courtesy of Joel Grzenia

The Scientific Evolution of Dance Pants

Denver-born futuristic athletic gear keeps professionals focused on their moves instead of bumps and bruises.

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Kady Zinke is used to hard knocks. A former professional dancer, she punished her knees with rolls, floor moves, and other impact-heavy routines. But the available fix—bulky protective padding—hindered her moves and made her look like a hockey player. So the one-time Denver Nuggets dancer and CEO of Kadyluxe activewear sought help from Terry Lowe, a metallurgical and materials engineering professor at Colorado School of Mines. Lowe developed a soft, supple new armor that stiffens upon impact and absorbs four times more energy than existing technologies, even though it’s thinner. Its exact makeup is top-secret and patent-pending, but Lowe has revealed that the padding (pictured) combines shear-stiffening compounds (similar to cornstarch) and thin metal lattices that disperse impact. “The higher the load and the faster the impact, the more rapidly the material components adapt to keep the forces on the underlying body parts to a minimum,” Lowe explains. The Denver Nuggets and CU Express dance teams will test prototypes this spring. Zinke (pictured) hopes the new armor will be ready for the public within nine months, and Lowe predicts we’ll ultimately see the innovation in cars, football helmets, and ski jackets. But for now, Zinke is happy to see local athletes walking away with better moves and fewer bruises.

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