Bebe Miller Dance Company's recent run at New York City's Joyce Theater was a study in introspection, featuring Rhythm Studies, a solo work, and Going to the Wall, an ensemble piece with a theatrical look. Longtime LD Michael Mazzola explored a limited palette to create psychological spaces onstage.
Rhythm Studies is a freeform piece with spoken monologues, taking on different emotional tones at each performance. "In our preproduction meetings, everything she alluded to spoke of containment," Mazzola says, "but every time we worked through that idea, Bebe would break out into not-contained areas. Once I got in the groove of her self-contradiction I really got excited about it, the emotional process and the intellectual content was fascinating. Lighting-wise it was pretty simple: one pool from four directions." He used complementary colors, Rosco 355 Pale Violet and R321 Soft Golden Amber, to mirror the contradictions of the piece. There was also a no color gobo wash to create a subtle mosaic on the floor, and shinbusters run at low level softly sculpted Miller when she moved out of the central pool.
Going to the Wall has the feeling of a play. Clusters of people come together to dance in unison for a minute then break away and form new groups, like guests chatting at a party. Gradually, however, these minglings take on a less friendly tone, descending into social meltdown. "There's a falling-apart of identity, a deconstruction so to speak," the LD says, "and the idea is that 'We've got to get it back together; I've got to find myself.' It's a bit about losing yourself within the group, and then through force of will finding yourself again."
As Mazzola watched the dance evolve, he developed three themes: night, flesh, and grit. Night became a high side wash in Lee 200 double CT blue. "Flesh was L238 [CSI to tungsten] in a low side position. I depended on it heavily, in terms of standing on its own two feet and also as a mix, and it worked out beautifully," he notes. "It's a real dirty-looking color, but it is quite magical when put in front of a tungsten unit." Grit was denoted by a central square of L246 quarter plus green. This appeared almost like a boxing ring, to highlight groups in opposition.
Adding to the theatrical flavor of the piece were 11 large practical pendant lights hung around three sides of the space (pictured). Mazzola collaborated with set designer Scott Pask on these. "He made sure they looked the way he needed them to look," the LD explains. "I made sure they did electrically and luminescently what I needed them to do."
These elements were blended very subtly to bring out the subtext of the dance. "Lighting events took place over the course of minutes," Mazzola says. "Things would change slowly and stick to the action in a subliminal way. The palette was very sparse, which I enjoyed. These days I prefer to work on one long piece rather than a series of little rep pieces. I'd rather have a small palette and explore it to the fullest."