From a spectator's point of view, lighting is one of the key elements in a performance and Lady Deborah MacMillan, Kenneth's widow, is on record that she has come to the view that lighting is the most important factor in a dance performance, after choreography.
A few further thoughts:
- William Forsythe tends to design his own lighting, and some new lighting equipment. This image from "Artifact" shows just how exciting that can be:
Ballett Frankfurt in "Artifact" choreography and lighting by William Forsythe
Photography by Dieter Schwer
- In Continental Europe, conceptual dance has been one of the strongest strands in recent years and the tendency there is for much simpler lighting and frequently no changes at all within a performance. At a recent seminar, one speaker characterised Scandinavian dance as "emphasising technique and with lots of lighting cues" ie the style dominant in Belgium and Germany 20 years ago.
- In London's Royal Opera House, stage time for new ballets is so short that even with some of the top lighting designers, the lack of time means that this aspect often does not get the detail and refinement that it deserves.
In answer to your specific point about compromising on lighting design, Jeff, your arguments are cogent, but the old bugbear of cash is a problem, especially when directors/choreographers sometimes have to choose not to pay themselves in order to get a work on. You gotta have the theatre, you gotta have the dancers and other areas are where you will have to compromise.
Even a company as powerful as Rambert has to compromise sometimes. For one recent production, an expert Lighting Designer was used, but they had to compromise on having the work notated - they couldn't afford the £10,000 that would have cost.