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 Post subject: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 5:49 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 3663
Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Not long ago, a choreographer with whom I sometimes work was explaining to me why she didn't require my services for one particular show. She said something I've heard many times from various choreographers and artistic directors: "The theater furnishes a lighting designer for free. I know you understand."

Well, no, as a matter of fact, I don't understand. You don't let the theater furnish your costumes do you? What about your dancers? Would you let someone who just happened to work at the theater do your choreography? No? Not even if it were cheaper? Then why would you let them furnish one artistic element but not the others?

The answer is simple; these choreographers don't really regard or respect lighting design as an art. To them it's just "tech" (which is something they don't much respect, but should). It's not that they don't understand the design process; they don't even realize that there is a design process and that no real design can be done by someone who first sees the dances the day they arrive at the theater.

So, what if the in-house "designer" is willing to attend a couple of rehearsals before the load-in? Is it then OK to use that person?

Probably not. The process of selecting a lighting designer -- a person to whom you're entrusting your artistic vision -- is (or should be) the same as the process for selecting dancers and costumers and choreographers. You need to know that that person has an aesthetic compatible with yours as well as the experience and talent to do the job well. The fact that someone is the most convenient or cheapest person to use should only peripherally be a factor in your decision.

After all, it's your art. How important is it to you?


<center>Originally posted in the Rogue Critic weblog.</center>

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Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
Dance Lighting Design
http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 5:59 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
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:

Image
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.


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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 3:39 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 3663
Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
I'm painfully aware of the financial limitations of dance companies -- especially small ones -- but I also know that for a dance company to become successful, it has to develop an aesthetic. This doesn't happen overnight; it's the result of a process -- and a vital part of that process is collaboration and continuity. If a dance's lighting is different every time it's performed, then there isn't -- there can't be -- a governing aesthetic, any more than there could be if the costumes were different for every performance.

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Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
Dance Lighting Design
http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


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