When designing parties, one size never fits all. I have bullied spaces into what I want, adding trussing and scrims and hiding all sorts of unattractive or inappropriate décor. Many professional event venues use very simple unobtrusive interior designs for that reason: the event venue can be conformed easily to what the client wants. However, most of my clients use the space they own; or they are stuck with the only available and cheapest space they can find. Then, they hand the space to me and tell me to make it magical. Unfortunately, that usually takes a lot of money, aggravation, and creativity to make an impact with the lighting design.

This is not one of those jobs. There are places like the Ballantyne Village Theatre that bring joy to my heart. The theatre is gorgeous. The envy of all other New Years venues, it’s well-designed architectural elements overwhelm the venue. Even a poorly designed lighting design is still going to be cool, but the space cannot help itself. With such quality raw material, designing the space was a snap. I was more afraid that the client didn’t think I put the time necessary for a great party setup.

Six large circular columns stretch nearly forty feet into the air completing half of the circular foyer. Each column secretly asked me for a narrow color-changing fixture to adorn its elegant form. Placing six fixtures at the base of each column, the 12° degree beam angle out of the Colorado 1 scaled the column splashing remnants on the ceiling above. The smooth circular surface shimmered with illumination accenting three stories of glass in-between. The unobstructed view of the starry night, Ballantyne’s pristine landscape, and contemporary architecture was brilliant, framed in the beauty of full color framing.

Although the building is technically only two floors, the cylindrical opening extends all the way into the ceiling three stories high. Half of the circle is a balcony overlooking the foyer and the other half is the round columns framing the windows. With that much space, I had an uncontrollable urge to fill it. Four moving heads were placed on 6.5’ box truss. Above each mover, I placed a 12” mirror ball hanging from a ledge overhead. With the help of a hazer, the beams of light scanned the empty space filling the void with rich colors and shapes. Then, when all the lights were on the mirror balls the room exploded with nearly a thousand tiny dots gliding throughout the room at different speeds and directions.

For my final wow, I placed color changers inside the 6.5’ box truss creating eye line elements to contrast the walls. The color-changing truss also brought the eyes from the ground up and through the movers creating a seamless line of light. It seemed as if the truss focused the light into the moving head, which concentrated the large beam of light into a powerful laser much like a sci-fi movie. Scanning the air, my four Ray Guns raided the atmosphere, creating a visual air show exciting the crowd. Those little details might seem exaggerated and a little pretentious. However, I have noticed that having a purpose for every placement in design creates congruency and connection. Although guest cannot put the meaning into words, purpose driven design makes sense to the viewer. Random design only works when crack is given at the door.

By placing all the fixtures on one side of the room, I created a directional design. All the effects came from one side of the room, suggesting a stage. Guests tend to look for point of origin and in this case, both the dance floor and stage were in front of the columns, bringing everybody’s attention to the correct location. Because of the balcony, the large pallet of glass and columns seemed the most economical and effective place for design, which is why the event planner and I decided to keep focus and budget on those elements. Due to the Ballantyne Village Theatre’s well-designed space, this job was a breeze. All I had to do was recognize the potential and emphasize its naturally dynamic features. Those are the days when I love my job.

Lighting Equipment

4 Chauvet Q-Spot 250
10 Chauvet Colorado 1’s
4 12” Disco Balls
4 Global Truss 12” Box Truss
1 Le Maitre Hazer
1 Martin Light Jockey

Jack Kelly is president of Eye Dialogue based in Charlotte, NC.