How are Lighting Designers for Ballet Hired?

I am interested in working with dance productions, but am unsure how to go about it.
Do dance companies employ lighting designers or are they contracted through a production company?
Is it more like concert lighting where the light board operator, designer, and electrician are the same person?
Or is it more like theatre where all the jobs are separate?
Does this vary based on size of the production?
What are average the time frames for work?
Thank you so much.


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It depends, most companies in my area have a designer that they use and let the designer figure out where to get whatever it is they need/can get within the budget. Most of the designers I know were hired by referral, either the TD or a previous designer knew them and recommended them.

In my area ithat person is usually hired by word of mouth. The technical director, or a previous director or designer usually recommend someone.
In my area ithat person is usually hired by word of mouth. The technical director, or a previous director or designer usually recommend someone.
Usually the same person designs, hangs, programs, and then runs the show.

It would vary based on the size of the production, most local ballet companies have pretty tight budgets, so all they can afford is one person to do it all, and an assistant or maybe two for the actual hang and focus. Obviously if you have a bigger budget, more lights, and more to get done in a short time frame then you can start to hire people to do more specific jobs.

The companies in my area usually have a meeting a month or two out from the show, give you some rough ideas of what they want and give you a DVD with video from the last production of whatever ballet it is. Then you have a couple of weeks to design. Move into the theater on a Sunday or Monday, hang the plot one day, focus the next day (all while working with and around the TD who is trying to put the set together and fix things that were damaged while sitting in storage for the last year or five. Then maybe a third day for some finishing touches and start programming, or make any changes from the previous years, update moving light pallets, etc. Then you get into one or two rehersals, more programming late at night after everyone else is long gone for the night. Then do a couple shows and load it all out.

You should try calling around and seeing if anyone needs a designer, you might get lucky. You could also try to design for some of the many dance recitals that happen every spring either for one of the dance companies, or maybe you could find a local venue that would be willing to hire you for that.


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Premium Member
I'd say you'd want to start with dance schools. There are a million in every town, and they all do a few recitals and a Nutcracker. You'd likely be volunteering to start, or close to it. Get some experience, develop some chops with dance lighting, and build your portfolio.


I've worked over a dozen dance competitions/recitals in the past 3 years and I have a bit of advice for you. Keep in mind most of my experience is with dance companies for children/teens.


1. Learn to read minds: more commonly then not, Dance groups expect you to just know what they want. Be prepared for a bunch of snarky remarks. if you have a Cyc, try to coordinate its color with the color of the dancers costumes.

- Be Prepared for questionable design decisions: In most of my experiences, your opinion and experience means nothing to them. For example: one Dance Mom demanded I flash the Pars manually to give off a strobe effect. When I suggested I use an actual strobe light, she felt that was too much.


Sound is pretty simple, they want it loud.

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