This production of Available Light (1983) housed in the grandiose Walt Disney Concert Hall a highly functional music hall, known for its design and acoustics was not fully realized. The Lucinda Child Dance Company performers were stellar, and the music by John Adams (Light Over Water, 1983) was as expected; however, the set design by Frank Gehry was naively conceived for this venue. This production revealed that some art works transcend the test of time, but not that of space. The design, originally conceived to camouflage with a raw warehouse, conspicuously cried out as a symbol of gentrification and pretentiousness, an uncomfortable incongruity. Available Light here lost some of its meaning and purpose because the original warehouse venue, Temporary Contemporary, had been supplanted by grandeur. Draping a huge, chain-link fence in front of the cathedral-sized organ in the Walt Disney Concert Hall emphasized the ill-paired elements. The sightlines in the Hall reduced the effectiveness of Gehry’s split-level stage by forcing many viewers to observe the stage from an angle that made the upper level seem unnecessary.

© Beatriz Schiller
© Beatriz Schiller

The Lucinda Child Dance Company generously provided focused dancing of Childs’ layers of textures, facings, jumps, and pathways. Childs’ choreography requires clarity of purpose for each and every movement. The dancers (Ty Boomershine, Katie Dorn, Katherine Helen Fisher, Sarah Hillman, Anne Lewis, Sharon Milanese, Patrick John O’Neill, Matt Pardo, Lonnie Poupard Jr., Caitlin Scranton, and Shakirah Stewart ) achieved the complex subleties of layers of repeated phrases and actions using the requisite buoyancy supported with core-distal connectivity and clarity of attention to space.

The 55-minute ballet used similar elements throughout, yet the journey of noticing the variations is what delights the viewer. The dancers, while together, were entities among themselves, interweaving in patterns that never met others’. The first part revealed many light, quick, jumping patterns including a mixture of piqué, passé, sauté, sissone, foueté, and battements coordinated together with facing changes and diagonal pathways. The underlying use of the body shape and line seemed balletic, but the intermingling of complex layers of repetition and subtle rhythm revealed the modernist approach to the balletic framework of the body design.

Clean simplicity of use of the upper body was contrasted with complex layers of repetition and patterns of footwork, jumps, and facings. The upper and lower body shared a few moments of relationship, mainly engaging in turning in attitude, chaînes, and fouettés. Dancers locomoted through, or variously alighted on, discrete, organized areas and points in space. A variety of leg movements were used to get the calm upper body to face a new direction. The introduction of the forced arch in a wide second-position was the only instance in which the dancers claimed their space with sustained weight, showing attainment of their physical presence in place.

The natural lighting, skillfully designed by Beverly Emmons and John Torres, shifted to a deep red color, and the dancers costumed in red seemed to become translucent. This section revealed well-crafted patterns in space, walking in relevé, and use of simplicity of line and facing. The return to natural lighting revealed a clear focus on counts. Body-part leading into turns and pathways was subtly introduced. Dancers alternately traveled on pathways past each other using a 6-count gallop phrase on diagonals, mixed with a quick, light pas de bourrée to change facing and to assume a new direction.

White shafts of light appeared strongly on a diagonal. Dancers explored this new environment with balances on relevé using brushes, leg swings, and stag leaps in a circle. The tempo increased slightly in this section, and dancers completed the dance by briefly performing in unison—a small relief. The details in the choreography and lightness in the movement contrasted with the music and set, as if the dance was light that comes through windows and sparkles on the floor and walls in patterns that repeat and shift and repeat again, naturally, over and over.

The costumes by Kasia Walicka Maimone were a reductionist reflection upon the more flowing pants and long sleeved tops designed by Ronaldus Shamask for the 1983 production. Maimone’s design reiterated the black, red, and white color scheme, but replaced the sleeves and pant legs with a swash of charmeuse with top and trunks. This reduction better revealed the physical technique of Childs’ choreography, but reduced the opportunity for fabric to reveal visual trails of the body in space.

The 1983 collaboration was diminished by the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I feel as if I experienced a collaboration between a choreographer and a composer, but in the wrong theatre with someone else’s set.