Dansce Dialogues 2013 – Jamie’s Blog

Our Light Designer Jamie Smith together with a choreographer Jane Castree  participated in  Dansce Dialogues project in Cherbourg, France. During 5 days Jamie and  Jane Castree had a great opportunity of meeting world-known professionals and exploring new ways for creative collaboration  between choreography and light design. Undoubtedly, this workshop was also a good way to get inspiration and new ideas for Jamie’s technical course for young people, starting this autumn.

Let’s have a look at Jamie’s diary!

Read Jamie’s Profile to find out how he became a lighting designer

Dansce Dialogues 2013  – 29th – 6th April

Lighting design Laboratory with Russell Maliphant and Michael Hulls

Jamie Smith – Lighting Designer and Jane Castree – Choreographer

Le Trident theater Cherbourg France

Diary Blog By Jamie Smith


Day 1 Friday  29th March 29, 2013

The journey to France had begun at 2pm today leaving Plymouth behind and now 3 trains later Jane and are in Poole. We have a night over before jumping aboard a large white ferry to cross the (I’m expecting quite choppy) English Channel to Cherbourg by early afternoon. Although sitting on trains and watching the day go by can be quite a laborious pain, its been quite stress free (makes a change national rail!) and we are both armed with many creative ideas for us to experiment with during the week and a clear plan on how we might be able to start to execute these in the theatre. I’m just very excited now, it has suddenly sunk in that its actually happening and that this great experience is going to happen.


 Day 2 Saturday 30th March 2013

I can sum up the crossing in one word. ‘Rough’.  And after the worst replica English breakfast in my life onboard eventually after 4.5hrs we had made it to Cherbourg.

Jane and I decided to check out the town center and find the Theatre de Trident. Wow! What a magnificent building! It is very old and has some amazing architecture inside and out.

Now we were very excited to check out the stage as theatres of this scale and ‘Grandeur’ are typically even more so in the auditorium.

The remainder of the day was spent meeting the other participants –

From Brittany: Le Pole – Léonard Rainis and Nicolas BazogFrom South East England: Company Zoielogic – Zoie Golding and Luke Hornbuckle

From Normandy: Company Ventura – Anna Ventura and Oliver Shober.

We had dinner together which was really nice and were also able to meet Russell Maliphent, Michael Hulls and his dancer Cery’s Sutton and their technical manager Mike Lindsey.

The meal was very tasty and the conversations went long into the night.

Day 3 Sunday 31st March 2013 (Easter Sunday)

Today is the first day of the Lab and had involved me getting to know the space that we would be working in during the week. Russell was going to perform some extracts from his work along side Cery’s. So for this Michael had all of the LD participants helping rig and focus during the morning whist the Choreographers were working with Russell in a studio space.

It was quite quickly established that the French speaking LD’s would be able to work more effectively with the local stage crew and the English speaking with the UK tech crew. My role was mainly to help mark out the stage. It’s nothing new to me though having the experience in a full flying rig venue was great and a good challenge.

During the afternoon there was a good opportunity to meet up with Jane and discuss some of our lighting concepts that we would like to try out the following day. We have started to generate loads of ideas many of them quite achievable here and others that we would really need more space and time for once were back in the UK.

The showing was at 7.30 and it was fantastic to watch, we all felt very privileged to have this private showing. The lighting was beautifully simple and had me burning to ask Michael his processes to achieve what we had just seen on stage.

Following the show there was a meal out at a restaurant called La Cale with everyone.


 Day 4 Monday  1st April  (Fools day)

Being April fools day you can only expect the worse, so then when a small practical joke appears it’s really not an issue. Though it would seem this year I have been lucky as the so called never appeared, unlike Jane’s phone which had woken her up an hour early!

The day started by meeting on the stage at 10am and we had a small amount of re-focusing to do before commencing a master class of traversing light by Michael hulls and Russell Maliphent, we looked at the specific lighting techniques used in the previous nights lighting and were we were able to try out the light on our own body’s and experiment on the way in which the lighting was affecting the dark space as well as the lit areas. This for me was very fascinating and for which I will definitely take and use in every lighting state I ever produce. We had also been fortunate to see how the lighting for the piece “shift” was created. Again I was fascinated in the process and have grown many ideas for future projects.

Afternoon using the set lights we were able to try out our own choreography and play around with what worked the best. Then we all had the chance to use choreography from our own specific projects and try out the set lights on those. We could experiment with fade speeds and intensities and positions, what was great for me was the chance to try out all of this without any pressure of time or a show, and I would certainly like to have the chance to experiment in this R&D style soon. All these exercises were giving us ground for tomorrow when we have the chance to rig lanterns specifically for our pieces.

Day 5 Tuesday 2nd April , 2013

Today the lighting ideas really stepped up to the next level as we were able to select and focus our own lights and experiment with them. I had an idea in my head that was grown from before we came to France and following the workshop on Monday I knew I wanted to try it out here.  The concepts I wanted to carry through Jane’s piece are breaking light membranes, using lighting to highlight individual body parts and to use lighting in an unconventional way. Then I had came up with the idea of making a strip of light that would cross the width of the stage but would be invisible, almost like a pane of glass (it is not lighting the floor, more the walls opposite) this made it very interesting because with it on a very low level it is almost impossible to know its there until one of the performers brake the light membrane with their body part.

I set this idea up along the mid stage area using 4 profiles (2 as shins, 2 as heads).

As we were looking at two different parts of this piece we also had rigged a top down rectangle, which was very soft, and a backlight into the same area.

I also helped the other LD’s throughout the morning to help them achieve their ideas and we then again took it in turns to experiment with what we had designed.

It became apparent that the ‘wall of light’ was going to be quite successful as soon as Jane had the dancers starting to interact with it. I played with the levels and became happy with the level at around 40% intensity. This enabled the dancers to be hidden behind the light to increase the effect.

The next process I wanted to explore was a transition to this light and also out of it where the dancers would open up into the space. Michael helped us here and had suggested using a wider backlight that was filling the space directly behind the wall. Once this light was on, it revealed the whole body of each dancer and once set at a low level it was a very aesthetically and interesting image, which now had depth and form.

We then continued and attempted to transition this image to the center down spot, trying the transition with different movements and speeds of the dancers and also with the light coming up on them and also appearing before they get there.

We now had lots to think about and had the chance to make some changes to experiment more the next day. The obvious thing for me was to move the wall of light diagonally across the stage to add further interest in the space.  So just before leaving the theatre we all help each other make the changes we wanted before going out to eat.


Day 6 Wednesday 3rd April 2013

Today we continued the explorations of the lighting we had tried to manipulate yesterday. We wanted to expand and progress on the idea of the line of invisible lite but us it in a way that was using the space more dynamically. With the showing on Thursday morning in mind I had thoughts on trying to join up and transition the sections together, and thinking about how do we use the dancers to effectively us the frame of the light and the pace of the performance so we can start to understand how long each lighting design concept can be sustained for.

We started the beginning of our time with using the line of light on the diagonal apposed to horizontal as like before. This did in fact add the dimension we were looking for. The dancers then did as they did before but Jane had instructed them to spread over a wider distance and progress the speed of the movements. At which point this time using lights, which covered the whole space, we revealed them in the space. Once again they built up their pace and at a crescendo of movement the center down light was reveled upon them standing beneath it. The ‘head’ section was then performed again using a crescendo I slowly faded this light then at the point of almost complete darkness I used an overlaying larger pool, which opens up as they drop to the floor. The large pool of light then slowly disappears once the last dancer has rolled out of the light.



Day 7 Thursday 4th April 2013

Today was all about sharing the work we had all produced to Michael and Russell. As their train was early afternoon we had little time to set-up and run each persons piece. Jane and I went last and I made a few tweaks to the lighting plot, which included, using back light on the diagonal line which would be used to revel the dances after the diagonal line light was established. We had also decided to remove the large pool of light because it wasn’t adding any interesting dynamics to the space and we had also decided to use the lines of light from the front more at the end of the piece and instructed the dancers better to explore the properties of the light further. Once the sharing was over Michael and Russell gave us very positive feedback and some further suggestions on improving the lighting when we next get chance to. It was also very good to see how all the there groups had progressed over the week and it was been a very useful to be working alongside them all for the support and knowledge we have all shared.

Once Russell and Michael had left for their train we had the chance to continue further until 7pm to work on our ideas or use the time however we wanted, before we all left the theatre.

Jane and I decided to run our piece again so we could film it as best we could and I also wanted to try and add a couple of lights at the up stage center position focused into a tiny square. This was to enhance the lines state with the center dancer now going to this position and working the lights here.  This worked really well and was please with how this looked and we both felt it was a good addition to this section.

All of the participants helped each other during the afternoon and we then all had a meal together before we all made our journeys home the next day.


Sounds like a great adventure full of challenges, don’t you agree? Make sure you follow Jamie’s and The Barbican Theatre’s profile so you don’t miss the uptodate information about Jamie’s new technical course for young people!