Emerge – Melbourne Ballet Company
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Emerge – Melbourne Ballet Company – Chapel off Chapel – December 2008
The Melbourne Ballet Company is a mid sized, emerging contemporary ballet company. Based in North Balwyn, the company has undertaken 6 shows in the last 18 months, and is beginning to gain momentum as an established company. Launched in 2007, they have already made an impact on the dance scene with over 160 people audition to be in Emerge.
In mid November, Melbourne Ballet Company contracted me as their stage manager and lighting designer. It was my job to not only facilitate the performance, but also to design the lighting for 4 new choreographed works. The Venue was Chapel Off Chapel’s, Chapel Theatre.
Working with the company posed a number of issues from the outset. The dancers were contracted only for the period of the performance, and as such most of them had never worked with each other, and most of the company had never performed in the space before. The lead in time was also a challenge, with only 1 and a half weeks of rehearsal before opening. I had my work cut out for me.
Working with 4 choreographers in the same space with the same company posed a significant problem. How do you differentiate each piece? The four works were quite specific in their styles. Sharon Fernandez, a young choreographer and company member favored high action, with lots of movement and an open and flowing rhythm. Tim Harbou used an abstract story style format, showing the strains and intimacy in a relationship, pulled off by using just two company members. Robert Kelly had designed a visually beautiful piece that took the viewer on a journey and told a story. Simon Hoy, the resident choreographer of MBC had crafted a very specific, abstract, scene based work to finish the performance.
Sharon Fernandez’s work was flowing, dramatic and energetic, and did not need a great deal of assistance in terms of lighting. I felt it was important not to draw the audiences attention away from the action of the work. This meant that minimal and subtle lighting changes were needed. Apart from the opening and closing scenes, most of the work was performed under a general state, incorporating blue side light, open white booms, dark blue backlight and high side light. The opening and closing scenes incorporated a montage of athletes, and as such specials were needed to highlight certain performers.
Tim Harbou’s work was extremely intimate, and as such we working with trying to define the work using one lighting source. Tim and I worked with the idea of having light as an object onstage. The idea behind this was to create a nondescript sense of place. We developed this concept to incorporate movement of this source. The light source, a 40w light globe, was rigged in the centre of the space, and by using a pulley system, it was raised and lowered to different heights depending upon the part of the story. Side lighting ensured that the illusion of this light globe as the only source was maintained. At the beginning of his work, the audience was greeted by the glowing bulb which moved up into the roof of the space as the dancers entered. Whilst they danced, this bulb hung above them, always on. At the conclusion of the work, the bulb was lowered again and faded out with the end of the musical accompaniment.
Robert Kelly’s work was the most story driven work of the three, and this posed a number of lighting considerations.