‘Domino Masters’ on Fox: Competitors tell us how it’s done

DeMond Nason discovered the art of dominoes after he was heartbroken.

“I was scrolling through YouTube clips trying to find something to comfort a broken soul,” recalls Nason, a San Diego native now based in Brooklyn, NY “I came across these domino drops and there was something so quiet about them.”

After expressing interest in trying out dominoes himself on social media, a friend and veteran domino artist reached out to invite Nason to join him.

“There’s a great output in this art form that’s a big draw for me,” said Nason, who has experience in national Broadway tours and off-Broadway shows. “Part of [domino] art is the fall, that’s what I like. You build something, and then you [topple] it’s over and you move on to your next canvas. … I really use art as a form of mental health, as a form of meditation and stress release.

Now, however, Nason is adding the stress of competition to his dominoes — he’s among the domino artists vying for the top prize in Fox’s “Domino Masters,” a reality competition series premiering Wednesday. Hosted by “Modern Family” alum Eric Stonestreet, the show will see 16 teams of three compete in a tournament for a cash prize of $100,000 as well as the Domino Masters title.

Similar to other creative competitions, each week four teams will be presented with a theme and given a set time to complete their domino builds. Their goal is to use the 16 hours to build a massive piece to impress the jury, made up of actor and mathematician Danica McKellar, former NFL player and art enthusiast Vernon Davis and professional artist of domino and chain reaction Steve Price.

But unlike most other art forms featured in competitions, dominoes are kinetic. The art is not only in the completed structures that are built, but also in the way they crumble or in the sequence as the bricks crumble.

“The difference between dominoes from any other building hobby is that in the end it moves,” said Michael Fantauzzo, who competes on the show with his cousin Matt VanVleck and friend Doug Pieschel on the team. Back Breakers. “He’s doing something completely on his own, relying on both physics and art, to create something truly unique. There’s nothing quite like it.

The creative possibilities and the thrill of successful reversal are among the defining elements of the medium that attract these domino artists.

“I love the idea that this art isn’t a still image,” said Emma Renner, a systems engineer who is part of the Brains and Brawn team. “Art is in the full journey and process of it. The art begins when you lay that first domino, then each domino – sometimes it’s 50, sometimes it’s hundreds, sometimes it’s tens of thousands of dominoes you lay for a project – every domino helps.

These large domino projects are more than a long line of collapsing single-row bricks. Complex domino projects, like those featured in the competition, incorporate techniques such as domino fields and walls – which are two-dimensional domino planes created by lining up bricks horizontally on the ground or stacking them vertically, respectively – as well as 3D structures built from dominoes and other creative chain reaction towers.

A sports themed domino in “Domino Masters”.

(Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

“Every domino artist has a different style,” said Scott Suko, a veteran domino artist who competes with a team called the OG Topplers. “Some people like to do beautiful paint-like patterns on the floor. Other people like to do more Rube Goldberg elements.

Suko, who first became interested in the art of dominoes after seeing a world-record domino toppling in 1979, considers himself “an old-school domino topper” who generally uses mostly wooden dominoes. wood in his projects. (Dominos made from other materials like plastic are more often preferred by new domino artists.)

“I like connecting them to classic wooden toys,” said Suko, whose friend and teammate Paul Nelson is the domino artist who invited Nason to his first knockdown. “I work on all kinds of toys and games in [pieces] and make them move under the control of the dominoes. …I really like the back and forth between falling dominoes, classic old wooden toys moving, dominoes going up stairs, something sliding down a zip line, dominoes throwing balloons. It’s just one thing after another. It’s kind of clunky and fun to put that kind of stuff into it.

In addition to the various tricks and techniques, however, the show’s judges are looking for stories told through each team’s knockdowns.

“The storytelling was a really judge-driven thing,” Renner said. “Not only when he’s just standing, when your creation is complete before you knock him down, should that be a story, but while he’s falling, knocking him down should add more elements to the story The sequence should be a story.

“What’s so great about dominoes is that you literally have a direct line,” Nason said. “There is always a beginning, a middle and an end. … The dominoes don’t just fall in a big fall. It’s on a path. You can create these wonderful stories through the lines of the dominoes.

In addition to the storytelling elements, resident domino and chain reaction expert Price said as a judge that he “was there to make sure that [the teams] challenged themselves” using more difficult techniques.

“I was looking for the variety of different types of chain reaction techniques and dominoes used, the variety of different sizes,” Price said. He was also looking for “really good combinations of chain reaction tricks directly incorporated into domino techniques”. [and] how well [the teams] can mix the two worlds together.

A domino novice, for example, might be just as impressed by the pixel art of a huge field of dominoes as by a vertically built structure. But as Price explained, “Even though it can hold fewer total dominoes, it’s much harder to build because with 3D structures, if you make one wrong move, everything will fall.”

Price was also looking for ways teams could have made different objects behave in surprising ways.

a scoreboard surrounded by dominoes

A sports themed domino from an episode of “Domino Masters”.

(Ray Mickshaw / Fox)

Fantauzzo, who first became interested in dominoes at the age of 12, is also drawn to the different movements that can be created in reversals.

“Even if you create tons of different images, tons of different-looking structures, they will generally fall the same way,” Fantauzzo said. “But if you’re smart enough with your dominoes, you can knock them into insane patterns. You [can] have a circle of structures and then they all fall inwards at exactly the same time. This creates a very satisfying movement for me.

Fantauzzo also appreciates cross fields, in which art is revealed when the rows of the piece fall in alternating directions.

Dominoes are a fragile medium, and although experienced domino artists have tested various reactions and are familiar with different design principles and best practices, completely successful knockdown is not guaranteed.

Because teams are built as closely as possible, “when someone [project] accidentally drops, it affects everyone in the room,” Renner said. “It’s awful. If you test something and it sounds like a bunch of dominoes falling, you have to yell ‘test’ to everyone, so if they hear that noise they won’t automatically panic and mess up. not what they do.

Failures and accidents are part of the learning process of artists like Fantauzzo.

“I film everything,” Fantauzzo said. “I can go back to the script and see ‘OK, why didn’t it work?’ … Paying attention to those failures made me a better domino artist.

Even when things don’t go as planned, “it’s just dominoes,” Nason pointed out. “The cool thing is we have more dominoes. We can rebuild it.

“Domino Masters”

Or: Fox
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-PG-L (may not be suitable for young children with a warning for foul language)

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