Hidden light


"What captures my imagination is, what is this stuff called light? It's there but it's not there. What is this stuff that we try to control and manipulate and try to make it talk?" This is the central mystery of light, as expressed by Roma Flowers in Fractured Light, a dance piece by Stefa Zawerucha, performed at PS122 in New York City, with lighting by David Fritz.

Fractured Light is a "performance interview," for which Zawerucha talked to lighting designers Flowers, Michael Mazzola, Carol Mullins, Philip Sandstrom, and Jennifer Tipton. She and Fritz (who are married) studied the transcripts and culled visual images from the passages to trigger dance sequences and lighting looks.

They decided to perform the piece in the smaller downstairs space at PS122, a black box with exposed pipes, which concentrated the audience's attention on the interaction between dancer and light. "We moved the booms in on each side, instead of leaving them against the walls, so that they became part of the piece, like a set," says Fritz. "If we're going to talk about lighting, you're going to see the tools of the trade."

The dance was rehearsed at a space at NYU, where Fritz teaches, and his design evolved in an improvisational way, along with the choreography. "I started hanging a light and saying, 'How about this?' and we played with it for a while, then we'd go into the next section, and I'd hang another light, and we kept building and adding on that way. That was the first time that I could paint in the space on the body," he explains. "I think there were roughly 70 units up there, and they were all specials."

At times Zawerucha seemed to glow from within, slipping in and out of pools of light, which Fritz controlled with top hats and shutters, and ran at low levels so that it was hard to tell where the light was coming from. "There wasn't a lot of color in this piece. There's a mix of lighting units there, ETC Source Fours and Source Four PARs that burn a whiter light, others burn a much more golden amber type of light, depending on the intensity level." But there were a couple of sections that were accented with color. "Roma talking about her dream of a multicolored fish, I turned that into an aquarium. Those lights were hung really low, so that it would lock in that one rectangular block and turn it blue."

Lighting equipment was supplied by Big Apple, including ETC Sensor dimmers. "We lucked out at PS122," says Fritz. "Their dimmers died two days before we got in there, and they put a whole new rack of ETC Sensors in there, so it was like, hey, I'm doing a piece about light and now I get these great dimmers. I had great control, the curve of things coming up and going down was amazing--total precision."

Fritz credits PS122 with giving him the freedom to experiment. "Frank Den Danto and his staff, they're really wonderful. That place, under his direction as production manager (he's also a lighting designer) has grown a lot. I was allowed to do my art,which I really appreciated. They gave me time and they gave me free hand, and I needed that time to push it in there, which is a luxury at times."