"I’m a freelance Kathak dance artist at the beginning of my working profession as a dancer. Having the chance to perform at Déda next week is a really humbling opportunity for me to be able to share the same programme and be part of a triple bill with incredible artists Subhash Viman Gorania and Sonia Sabri. In the process of finding out about the show I was keen to have some guidance for a lighting plan for the new piece I’m performing ‘The Beginning’ choreographed by my Kathak Guruji Sujata Banerjee.
Déda approached me about this after seeing one of my call outs for local lighting designers to get in touch. This worked out perfectly and Déda generously proposed two days of lighting support.
Straight after finishing 6th form in 2014, I made the decision to take up dance - hence taking it further as a full time profession. In 2015, the BBC Young Dancer competition took place and that opened up many doors for me which at the time I was keen to make the most of those opportunities.
Being at an early stage in my career as a dancer, embarking on lighting a piece was a new experience for me, therefore I needed as much guidance as possible with this. Mark Richards, a longstanding member of Déda staff, lighting designer and technical stage manager, was extremely helpful with this and took me through the entire process whilst willingly educating me on the fundamentals of lighting.
Travelling up from Birmingham to Derby by train was a surprisingly quick journey, followed by a walk to Déda. It was the first time I had visited Déda's space so Mark kindly gave me a tour of all the great facilities they offer and the different spacious studios.
It was a relaxed start to the working day and Mark began with asking the question, ‘How much do you know about lighting?’ and I plainly answered, ‘Not much at all’.
It was assuring to know that I wasn’t expected to come with all the answers and as we spoke about my ideas and Mark exchanged possibilities, restrictions and ideas - we were instantly on the same page. Since Mark hadn’t seen the piece so I warmed up and did a run through.
Questions, ideas and concepts were all open to discussion at this point whilst talking through the atmospheres I was picturing in each section of the piece. There was a lot of freedom; Mark made suggestions of what effect different lighting states could achieve and how what we choose would depend on what perspective I wanted to stage the piece. Once we came to a draft first lighting, Mark began rigging all the different lights. Each light has it’s important qualities including their strengths and weaknesses that make them unique. I found it fascinating to see the endless possibilities.
After Mark’s demonstrations, I could easily understand how effectively the intensity or use of shuttering could add and say so much more about the empty box and the whereabouts of the dancer.
Then we came onto more dilemma causing questions like what colours or gels I wanted to use in the piece. Overwhelmed with so many choices, I picked out a variety of colours and one by one Mark patiently tested each gel in the sidelights to display the effect they had on space and skin colour. Some looked drastically different to the colours I thought would be emitted; the slightest tinges made the skin look more colder, warmer or entirely ghoulish!
With Mark's many years of experience in lighting, he figured out and suggested what could work well with this piece to compliment the dance and give it a new life. By the end of day two, Mark had focused all the lights ready to be used - with the option of gels for day two of the lighting.
Arriving, the next morning I made sure to return with my costume fabric which is maroon to see how it was lit. We used this time to walk around the space, feel how the light felt and the shadows it made. Switching places with Mark to see what it looked like helped me visual how it would looks especially with a few helpful spins and pirouettes. I was sensing that the lighting was creating the right atmosphere and trusted Marks judgement on this too.
After running through the piece with the lighting twice and having a small sharing to some of the Déda staff, there were a few places where I understood how crucial my place on the stage was to ensure I was lit. I also had a note to change the choreography on certain points according to the lighting. It was only after seeing the recorded version on my phone that I fully could comprehend how the lighting enhanced the piece and created the different states during the work. The lighting gradually edging in on different moments contrasted with intense columns of lighting worked together with the music and dance work beautifully to create the majestic atmosphere I wanted for the work.
It was lots of fun working with Mark, who was very welcoming and happy to lead me through the process, answering any questions or thoughts I had. I was really happy with the outcome and extremely grateful for the support from Mark, Déda and the entire team for this learning opportunity which I know will be of great help to me in my future works too.