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Dance Lighting: minimal equipment

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by wfor, Apr 15, 2009.

  1. wfor

    wfor Member

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    Location:
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    I got hired to do a small dance recital next Saturday. The director doesn't have many requests, just maybe some different looks for the different acts.

    I don't have to, but I want to do all I can.
    I'm going to try and have the

    Here's the "plethora" of equipment I'm dealing with though:

    12 - Low-end Chauvet Par 56s
    7 - 6" Altman Fresnels that I cannot guarantee the status of nor do I have replacement lamps.
    2 - Altman Mini Ellipses - I can't remember the beam angle but its very, very tight

    We have an excellent inventory of S4 ellipsoidals and Pars hanging. But with an A-frame ladder. And just me. Its not happening. We may have a Par in storage, I can't remember.

    More issues- only 3 stands (lovely odd number they chose).

    Limited gel resources- whatever we have.

    For the Pars, the frame size is larger than anything else, so nothing is cut that big. They did come with those lovely packs of Red, Green, Blue, and the always useful deep Yellow. I'm thinking they may be usable, particularly the blues.

    I'm going to try and get up to the 2nd elec and focus the four S4 jrs for some high sides, in cool and warm.

    Your suggestions?
     
  2. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    If this is a recital (i.e. show mom and dad what you learned while burning all there money this last year) rather than a dance performance (i.e. beauty in art and not so much in "oh there's my little baby") then the most important thing is face light. Mommy and Daddy want to see THEIR little boy/girl. Past that, as far as artistically lighting dance, side light in colors preferably different from cyc or front light will accent the lines of the body and that generally shows the grace and control of the dancers on stage. Also dance is a great time to have cyc light only for a part of a number. A dance that fits it (usually a more modern piece, but not always) can look wonderful as a silhouette.

    Overall I'd talk with the director and see what they're really after, is this for the moms and dads to see there child dance or is it really a presentation of art. If it's more artistic try looks that you might not think about in a normal theatre sense. One of my favorite pieces I ever designed the primary look was a bright blue cyc and orange side light from one side only, and that was it.
     
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  3. n1ist

    n1ist Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I am in a similar boat; the school where I do my daughter's recital is a football school, so I am lucky if I can find one or two lekos pointing towards the stage with working lamps...

    I try to use the lekos with no gel plus footlights (your PARs on bases would work for that) to light the kids. A couple of fresnels for sidelight and a few LED PARS let me throw some color on the backdrop. I have 2 or 3 hours to set everything up... How I wish for reliable wireless DMX - maybe I'll builld something.

    This year, I plan to place two booms, each with an Altman 6x9, out in the audience against the left and right walls to try and even up the front light and reduce dark zones. I may even get to place a 6x22 up in the projection window/computer classroom to work use as a special for the annoucer.

    Assuming that this is for the "see the kiddies" type of recital, try to use the S4s for a front wash and the fresnels for sides. The PARs on stands can also be used for the cyc and to get the "different looks" that they want, and a single color wash is usually good for seeing the kids and for any video/photography.
     
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  4. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Location:
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    I think the vast majority of dance studios have their hands full with just the logistics of getting the dances learned, perfected, and performed. There is rarely any lighting design because of lack of time, lack of expertise, lack of money, and uncertainty about what the venue can provide. For my own part, we just need a well lit stage, and as I’ve said before, anything else that the venue and venue personnel can offer is gravy.

    That being said, if you want to do more in the way of lighting, find out what some of the older dancers are doing (that is, what they are wearing, music being used, number of dancers [solo, duet, ensemble], type of dance; maybe there’s a high school senior doing her last show) and focus your efforts on some of those. Some of the audience (who have seen these dancers for the umpteenth time) will appreciate it. Some of the older dancers may even appreciate it, too.

    [I’ve been a volunteer at my daughter’s dance studio for many years.]

    Joe
     
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  5. MNBallet

    MNBallet Active Member

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  6. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    While, as a lighting designer, I'm always the one shouting "turn off the frontlight, burn the cyc, bring in the full stage black, and learn to actually tell the story with light on the dancers," I've also done my fair share of these sorts of dance recital things... and all you have to do to make them happy is usually solid front light and several color options on the cyc. Boring, obvious, artistically impotent, but effective.

    As has already been pointed out, the objective of the recital is commercial - mom and dad have to see the return on the investment they've made over the past year in order to keep bringing the kids back. Nice solid frontlight coverage accomplishes this.

    My students would kick me if they saw me type this... and several would want their grades adjusted... but changing the color of the cyc will give them all the change of mood they want from dance to dance. The choreographer will be turning around to you all during tech and asking "Can this one be blue?" and "I think the next one should be pink!"

    Speaking of tech... you won't have any time. They will typically run the dances once... twice if the dancers need it, but these are not the type of shows where you want to be calling hold for the lighting or asking if you can see something again. In a dance recital, good lighting is lighting that the choreographer never had to worry about... end of story. Most of these types of shows get one cue per number, with a blackout in between. If you're fast enough and organized enough to pull off more cueing, then go for it, but all they normally expect is a 'look' for each dance.

    If you can get sidelight on an overhead electric, or backlight, both will make the show look better, but keep in mind you're doing this because YOU care about the extra systems of lights... not because the choreographer does. I'd keep either of those systems in a fairly pale tint so they cut through the bright front light and have some effect. The backlight would be most important to me, because I know I'll be running the cyc disgustingly bright and separating the picture to keep the audience's eyes back downstage would be the most important objective for me.

    Booms will get kicked, burn 5 year olds, take up too much load in time, and take up too much tech time when the dancers don't come on stage at the beginning of a number and then when the choreographer angrily stops the music and shouts "where are you?" some girl afraid to admit that she was talking to her boyfriend on the phone will say "The lights are in the way!" You'll stop, look bad, get asked to move the booms, and get told that they didn't use them last year and it still looked fine... etc.

    The comment earlier about finding out what the oldest group of dancers is doing is an excellent one. Many studio choreographers force themselves through hours of "shuffle hop step" with five year olds by looking forward to doing something exciting, dramatic, and maybe even artistic with the oldest girls, so if you can pull an extra trick off to make these couple of numbers special, you'll buy a lot of brownie points. The 'extra trick' can be something as simple as a silhouette look, or starting the song in backlight only, or ending it in a single downlight pool... whatever the choreography lends itself too. These are the little things that will keep you getting the same job year after year (assuming you want this job again. ;) Can you tell that I've lit one too many of these dog and pony shows? :p )

    Once they're certain you're the greatest lighting designer ever (because they could see faces, the cyc changed between numbers, you didn't slow things down, and you gave them a special moment in their favorite dance) is the time to slowly (over the course of years) educate them as to what you can do with more time, instrumentation, and money(both for gear, and for you)... but this sort of relationship only develops when the first show goes problem free. Joke around with them (when appropriate!) and give them a chance for grown-up conversation (remember that all day long they hear "Miss Janet! I have to go to the bathroom!") once in a while and you'll be the one they swear they could never do without no matter how little gear you had to work with!

    Art Whaley
    Art Whaley Design
     

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