Q & A with Lighting Designer Laura Glover
This is resident lighting designer Laura Glover's 30th season with DK. A true artist, her work has been praised by critics, audiences, and company dancers. Here's a look into her process for creating the stunning lighting for A New Dawn.
Q: How would you describe the difference between creating stage lighting for a dance vs. a play?
A: Allow me to talk about the similarities first. I always want to present dancers and actors in a three-dimensional form. It is always important to have the performers "pop" from the background, whether it be a backdrop or pieces of scenery. I accomplish this through color, angle and intensity of the light, and use of shadow. So, the difference [between theater and dance] comes in what I choose to emphasize. With dance I pay more attention to the sculpted bodies—how I reveal that form. With actors, I usually light their faces more predominantly so the audience can see them talk, but I always pay attention to their form as well!
Q: You are exceptional at helping to tell the story that the choreographers are telling. How did you approach the two pieces in A New Dawn?
A: Good question. My approach to Belly of the Whale was very different. First, André [Megerdichian] shared his compilation of music with me. When I listen to new music, I allow myself to see and feel its textures. Next, conversation about the ideas André was interested in exploring with each section gave me ideas and images to contemplate. Finally, the choreography and dancers’ performances provided the inspiration for the final product. From the party atmosphere of the opening section, to the realization that life as we know it is changing, to dealing with loss and culminating in "the only way out of this is together," André provided a lot to chew on conceptually. To be honest, working with André is like working with my brother—I sometimes know what he wants before he does!
For Hindsight/Blindsight, Stuart [Coleman] was working with a definite narrative in mind. For the first section, it was all about our normal everyday lives pre-pandemic—our hopes and dreams, the rituals we perform, the events we attend. How do I light a wedding? A discussion? A basketball court? My approach was to support the emotions of those experiences. The second section was much more internal—as are our own thoughts about racism and racial inequity. The movement shows us the struggle and I chose to illuminate that struggle in various ways: there are moments that are blindingly clear and others that are insidious in the nature of hatred.
For Stuart's solo, his intention was to illustrate his own struggle in dealing with those inequities and his thought processes. The ideas that came to him are illustrated through the moving light that haunts him, from the thought that first arises with the music to the searchlights from a helicopter chasing him. By the way, all the credit for the use of those moving lights goes to Stuart! I simply implemented his ideas. And finally, the fourth section, which leaves us with the question of "what Is next?" I wanted to provide a neutrality in the lighting based upon the fact that we don’t know what is going to happen amidst all this chaos.
I was so lucky in this program to work with two different and talented voices in choreography. A lighting designer’s relationship with the choreographer is very collaborative and both these pieces illustrate that: one that is new and invigorating, forcing an old dog like me to new thoughts and processes; and the other grounded in a 25-year friendship that I cherish and honor.
Q: Knowing this show was going to be filmed by WFYI for streaming, did you adjust your lighting approach?
A: My relationship with lighting for video is evolving, and I am learning. One change we made for this taping is that I had a large monitor next to me at my tech table so that I could adjust my lighting appropriately for the camera. The cameras WFYI uses to film these performances are wonderful and really capture the lighting well. The concepts and ideas that I discussed with the choreographers did not change.
Q: You frequently use moving lights in your design for shows. Could you explain exactly what they are and how they are incorporated into your lighting plot?
A: The reason I love using moving lights is the flexibility they afford me. I love the coolness of their color temperature, which adds a certain surrealness to the stage picture. I can use them as color washes or as pattern washes. As you see in Stuart’s solo, they even can be used as another dancer. In André’s piece, they allowed me to evoke different landscapes from section to section. As to what they are exactly . . . they are magic.
Photos by Emily Schwank (Be Here Now), Chris Crawl (Voices of a Generation), and Crowe's Eye Photography (A New Dawn)