The Sydney Dance Company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a double bill featuring two starkly different performances, illuminated by lighting designer Ben Cisterne with Martin Professional MAC Encore Wash WRM fixtures.
Established in 1969, the Sydney Dance Company has a broad community beyond the practice and performance of its lead dancers who believe in the universality of dance, and with the largest public dance class program in Australia, they help over 70,000 people a year connect with the grace, strength and creativity.
To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the company performed a short run of special back-to-back performances from Nov. 1–9 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Walsh Bay. The first piece, 6 Breaths, was choreographed by artistic director Rafael Bonachela to an original score for piano and six cellos by Italian composer Ezio Bosso.
Twelve dancers clad in ripped black clothing danced on a dark, smoke-filled stage, with abstract animations projected onto a scrim downstage between movements.
The second piece on the program, Gideon Obarzanek’s Us 50, contrasted the first performance with a bright, open setting and an energetic electronic score by U.K. musician Clark. The piece featured 50 performers, including current and former company dancers as well as members of the community.
Cisterne illuminated the show with Martin Professional MAC Encore Wash WRM fixtures, as recommended by Ian Gerrard from Intense Lighting, to serve the different aesthetics of each performance.
“6 Breaths is a super abstract, really moody piece of work, and everything is about timing and small adjustments,” said Cisterne. “You have to find the nuance in each little movement. Rafael’s work has lots of little sections and you have to create a scene for all of them.
“It really is about each moment, whereas Gideon’s work, Us 50, is more of a grand concept. It’s usually one big design idea,” he said.
Celebrating the Sydney Dance Company
Cisterne selected the MAC Encore Wash WRM, an updated LED replacement for the discontinued MAC TW1, for the Sydney Dance Company to achieve the perfect soft-edged wash lighting with a good amount of flexibility while staying within a budget.
With a 3000K color temperature, the Encore Wash WRM delivered the warm, classic look of a tungsten lamp while allowing Cisterne to easily switch to a daylight look when necessary with its variable CTB. The fixture’s ultra-quiet operation proved indispensable in the intimate setting of a dance performance.
“I had four Encores on either side in a high-side position, and they really are awesome,” said Cisterne. “They have a tungsten feel to them, and it’s like using an old MAC TW1. What’s great is being able to run the CTB wheel in them and it’s like putting Lee 201 in front of tungsten light.
“Plus, it dims like a tungsten light. I love their soft focus and I was a bit shocked at how bright they were. They’re also whisper-quiet, which is obviously great for my work,” he said.
With high CRI, TM-30 and R9 values, the fixture lit the performers’ costumes and skin naturally and without any variation in color temperature when zooming or dimming. And because the Encore Wash WRM is an LED fixture, Cisterne was able to produce effects not possible with tungsten lighting, such as instantly snapping into full intensity.
“There’s one moment where the performers are going crazy onstage, and then we snap straight into the Encores focused in full open warm wash and it’s just like you’ve snapped into tungsten light—except of course you can’t snap quickly with tungsten,” said Cisterne.
“The softness of them on the ground and the softness of them through the air is something you never used to have in moving lights. The essence of tungsten light coming through smoke is such a nostalgic thing, which is the whole point of the evening,” he said.