Clifton Taylor Lights Cedar Lake

Lighting designer Clifton Taylor, who serves as creative consultant for the Live Design Dance Lighting Master Classes, recently lit a short-term installation for Cedar Lake in their resident space far west on 26th Street in New York City. There were no seats—the audience was standing and able to walk around as the dancers performed throughout the space, on and around a central sculpture and on side stages and right in amongst the spectators. Live Design chats with Taylor about the piece:

What is the company’s backstory?

Cedar Lake is a contemporary repertory company in New York City that was founded in 2003. They have commissioned and performed works by many choreographers from around the world. In addition, their wonderful artistic director, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, creates dances for the company's rep that tour and they just completed a two-week spring season at the Joyce with theatrical works. They are one of the few dance companies in New York that is blessed with their own rehearsal, office and performance spaces and for this project, "Installation 2012,” we turned 1/2 of their space into a performance gallery. The work is 50 minutes long and the audience is invited to view it in the way you might visit a gallery. There are no fixed seats, and they are invited to wander around the entire room during the event. The performance takes place throughout the space in all different areas and configurations, so the performers are often inches away from you. Unlike most dance works that are intended to tour, most often in proscenium spaces, we were all invited to create this piece for this particular room. This gave me an opportunity to work in ways that are often not possible in a touring rep situation.

How much of the lighting gear is in-house and what did you add for the installation?

For this project all of the gear is owned by Cedar Lake. We had to rent some cable to fit it all out, but they were very kind in allowing me to raid their warehouse for odd bits and bobs! For one section of the piece, I created three hanging chandeliers that are made up of clusters of cable, MR16 birdies, plugging strips, tie line, and tape. I love these objects because they are very messy! The opposite of what we try to achieve when working with this gear most of the time. We also used 12 Martin Professional MAC2000 Profiles, and the show was programmed on an ETC Ion console.

What about your choice of colors?

The over-riding concept for the show is the natural light from the sun. We mounted 46 very narrow ETC Source Four VNSP Pars on one wall, all focused with the exact same angle to be able to light the room fully with a simulated sunlight. All the beams of light are parallel and when the complete array is on, it’s quite warm in that light! Each of those lights is fitted with a Wybron CXI color changer, so I can do color fades to simulate a sunrise or a cloud passing over the sky through the sunlight. Within that big construct though, there is quite a bit of variation. When the show requires a more intimate setting or a more private feeling of space, we opted for monochromatic palettes, often getting quite saturated. Benoit-Swan told me that he has never used so much color in his prior works. I feel great about that because I think we should all work to discover new things and new ways of seeing.

What's happening on the large sculptures that create the scenic elements?

Colin Kilian created these beautiful climbable metal, cloth, and cardboard structures that form the central physical statement of the design. The larger one feels organic and animal-like with a central 'spine' that is about 16-feet long and has two wheel-like ends. It seems like it could be a dinosaur skeleton or perhaps a protective structure. The second element is a kind of sun model. It is hung above the floor of the space and is moved and manipulated during the course of the event. The sun sculpture forms the center of my array of PARs that I referenced earlier. I was able to embed beautiful dimmable German color-changing LDDE Spectra-ConnecT5 fluorescents mounted into the floor below the main sculpture. It allows me to isolate the piece and the dancers around it in a very striking and unexpected way.

What emotion did you want the audience to have?

I guess I didn't really think in those terms for this piece, though I think it’s a very emotional work in the end. In some works in the theater, the storytelling event implies a kind of intent towards manipulation, but here I think the work asks the audience to consider things like the formality of theatrical/gallery space, the humanity of the event, and the evocation of the natural world in the choreography and design elements.

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