L.A. Dance Project makes its New York debut at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) October 16-18, with works by Benjamin Millepied, Justin Peck, and William Forsythe, as part of the 2014 Next Wave Festival. Live Design chats with the company’s resident lighting designer Roderick Murray. Be sure to read Part One for the beginning of the interview. Here is a continuation of that interview:
Live Design: How do you work with the various LDs that design the pieces you don't design? Process? Gear? Do they have to use the established rig or can they add specials?
Roderick Murray: Here’s the fun thing for me: I am learning all the time from the other people who join us. Because they don’t have to compromise, I can be there in a completely supportive role, and not be combative about a limited number of “specials.” Most recently, a young Israeli designer Omer Sheizaf asked for pipes at 7m high (we use borders as part of our rep, but not legs, and the bottoms of these are at 7.6m) with his lights on them; I simply added electric pipes and isolated his whole plot onto his own pipes. The choreographer Emanuel Gat uses only two pipes: one way US at 12-14m with 30 PARs all in L200, and one way DS also at 12-14m with three 2.4k HMI’s. In situations where a designer is getting lost a bit in the process, I am able to be encouraging because I have always been supportive, and that’s a nice feeling.
So, we have ended up with this syncretic crazy dance company with, for example, a super American setup on top of some wacky thing I have come up with for Benjamin on top of Emannuel Gat’s minimalist piece as a single show. It’s like layering aesthetics in one dance performance without compromising any of them.
LD: How do you tech and rehearse in various venues?
RM: In this, we are a typical big venue touring dance company with a three day involvement at any venue: pre-hang day, focus day with tech of two pieces that night with dancers, then notes in the a.m. of the third day, and teching the final piece in the afternoon of the day of the show. We have to be careful because while we are a big venue company, we are a small company with only nine dancers and injuries to one dancer can destroy the programming for an evening, so…we almost never have a full dress rehearsal.
The wacky thing with this company is that, because it is a highly desired booking, and because we are completely brand new, we get asked to performances in very inappropriate venues for the work, but we still take the gigs. Since I am the actual designer, I have no qualms about totally redoing my designs to fit a venue’s architecture. We have a piece with decor by Barbara Kruger (we’re doing this at BAM) that involves two drops that are 30' high, which have to fly out of sight. For this piece, we need a minimum fly house loft of 72 feet, but when we started getting booking offers at smaller venues, we were all scratching our heads. But then I said (because it’s true) that the piece is a lovely piece in the all white studio where it is an intimate feel so why wouldn’t that work in one of these smaller houses? I offered to redesign the piece in all white for these situations, and so all of a sudden, we have essentially 11 pieces in the rep, and more possible work. [For] other designers’ work for the company, I am less ready to compromise in this way.
LD: Can you talk about the lighting for Reflections, especially in terms of the scenic design?
RM: Since the designer was Barbara Kruger, I always knew that collaboration was not part of the vocabulary. She was quite clear that bright was all that mattered, and it was clear from what she said that warm spectrum light was to be shunned. But, problematically, I was never able to meet with Benjamin to discuss a plan before we got into the theatre. We were fortunate that the premiere venue for this work was the opera house Chatelet in Paris with a great staff and tons of gear. I know how things go by now when you haven’t met enough times with a choreographer, and so I decided to give myself tons of options so that when he said something like ‘Can we make it all red,’ I would be able to do it; and that after a bit of time of fulfilling all requests, he would get tired of random ideas, and then we could build a palette—that’s what happened. I hung 12 VL 3500’s and that took care of that. Now there are very few cues and simple variations on this massive and overwhelming red and white space.
This piece, quite simply, is lovely. Benjamin found a new path for himself choreographically, and his ear for music was perfectly tuned for this mesmerizing piece by David Lang. Imagistically, photos from this piece are used more often than any others as publicity by presenters.
Lighting L.A. Dance Project, Part Three