They’ve become so ubiquitous, it’s almost hard to remember a time before the existence of air dancers. Also known as “tube men” – among other things – these exuberant, arm-waving, air-powered characters have become an institution at used car lots and store openings across the country. If you’ve ever wondered where they came from, here’s a brief history of the “tube men,” and how they’re used today.
It all started with a dream. An artist named Peter Minshall from Trinidad and Tobago was an expert in designing large-scale puppets for carnivals and music festivals. Hired to create some puppets for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he came up with the idea of enormous figures that became animated by the use of fans blowing upwards into their bodies. The original air dancers had two legs – and thus required two fans – and debuted at the Olympics under the nickname, “tall boys.”
Nowadays, air dancers are most commonly seen selling everything from mattresses to automobiles. Their erratic flailing about is perfectly suited to catch the eye, and attract customers. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also really funny to look at. Instead of a traditional sign which has a cold and impersonal quality, air dancers seem friendly and inviting. An air dancer is the mirror opposite of a “hard sell.” Sometimes merchants put the name of the item they’re selling on the air dancer, or just position the guy near the entrance. Either way, it’s hard to not at least glance in their direction whenever you pass by.
In the never ending struggle to keep crows away from their crops, some farmers are employing the services of air dancers, and they’ve proven to be incredibly effective. Known as “air rangers,” these modern scarecrows are given menacing faces, so while they may seem amusing to humans, they are positively terrifying to crows.
While it’s unlikely you’ll see an air dancer at a violin concerto (though anything is possible), these crazy dancing guys are utilized at rock and pop shows and festivals all over the country. Is there a better way to tell a crowd of music fans it’s time to get excited? Throw in some bubbles and laser lights, and you’re on the verge of a serious dance party breaking out.
There’s no question that air dancers are here to stay. The only question now is where will they pop up next?