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:
Live Design: How do you establish a touring rig for the company? Will that change for BAM? Do you carry a console or other gear when the company tours?
Roderick Murray: I have been with the company from the beginning along with the extremely experienced Will Knapp as production manager. The company, LADP was created as a “rep” company to show off the talents of young dancers and young choreographers (though we started with works by Cunningham and Forsythe), and we knew we would have to be able to support various programming mixes of the pieces we would have in our rep. Right away we found ways to keep each piece separated but fulfilled and ready to be thrown into an evening with any other piece.
This might sound like a super boring place to begin answering your question, but by using that approach I was able to do a lot more than I have ever been able to do when I have come into an already established and ongoing company’s rep. On top of that for us, I wanted a look that reflected my design aesthetics even as other choreographers and designers worked with us. I have worked with a lot of really great choreographers and I know how important it is to not compromise design choices simply because of some company’s or theatre’s overbearing rep plot. When I toured with Ralph Lemon’s Come Home Charlie Patton (which was at The Harvey) as PM and as the LD, I was a real pain to the theatres with rep dance plot setups and pushed budgets through the wall in order to get them taken down so we could put up exactly what we wanted.
The net result is that our rep light plot consists of PAR backlight in NC and L200, front light (for bows mainly) in L201 and G872, and cyc lights in L200, L202, L203/NC. That’s it! For every new piece we get, I add exactly what the designer wants (me and by now two other designers for our total of 10 dances). Every light gets a channel number to be used only in that piece. This might seem nuts, but it supports design the way I think it should be done, and we are lucky to be a company that can support other designers in this way.
We also are an international company and have done 80% of our work outside the US, and the choreographers we have worked with are either in their own aesthetic world (Forsythe) or following European design traditions, and this setup has made it possible for us to do it all. Boom side light is not part of our rep, which is completely contrary to what many US dance houses offer as their rep to touring companies to help them save time and labor. But we are glad we don’t have it because of our 10 pieces, five don’t use them. Only the piece by the New York City Ballet (NYCB) choreographer with his designer has 20' high booms with seven lights on each; our other pieces that use them use booms with only two or three lights. The great thing is I end up with every show at every venue using just about the same number of lights, but the configurations are completely different from one another, and yet I can keep my focus schedule to the same number of hours all the time.
More nitty-gritty stuff about the rig: I use Vectorworks for the drawings and keep the lighting for each piece on separate layers for easy combining. Will keeps décor for each piece in its own cases. We have an extremely highly developed Dropbox communication system that has made getting plans back and forth super simple.
Last thing on this is that this summer ETC came out with a thing that allows a laptop to be as good as the computer in the Opera House at BAM, and we just built two premieres on it. A few buggy things, but from now on we will be able to travel with our own board, or easily translatable files into various lightboard languages. But this was expensive.
Stay tuned for parts two and three of Lighting L.A. Dance Project.