Light shows are pulling into the Manhattan landmark that made our cover last May. Choreographer Stephen Koplowitz and LD Tony Giovannetti added layers of illumination and energy to the windows of Grand Central Terminal last October with Fenestrations2 (center), a reprise of a work that premiered in 1987. A total of 70 dancers moved fluidly along five levels of walkways behind the massive banks of windows at both ends of the terminal, with a kinetic kaleidoscope of color lighting their way.
To light the dancers, Giovannetti used Lighting & Electronics Mini-Strips with different gels. In the Vanderbilt Avenue windows, he opted for the red of Lee 106, the dark blue of Lee 119, and the yellow of Lee 102. "These are straight major key colors," he points out. In contrast, on the Lexington Avenue side he used softer colors: Rosco 12 (Straw), Lee 128 (Bright Pink), and Lee 180 (Dark Lavender).
"These are more like a minor key," says Giovannetti, who programmed the 12-minute show at home on his Toshiba laptop with Rosco/ET Horizon software, which also ran the show. To get enough frontlight on the dancers, he added L&E Mini-Ten floodlights, hung on the windows. "The dancers are performing in a space 4' wide by 20' long. There is no real room for frontlight. These are not usually used to light people, but the throw was so short I had no other choice." He also convinced them not to wash the windows. "You need enough grime to see the light," he explains. "It doesn't work with clean windows. You lose the colors."
Eight High End Systems Cyberlights(R) (four on a cornice on the north side of the terminal, and four on the ticket booths on the south side) were used to light the floor and ceiling as a preshow preset. When the announcement for the performance was made, the beams moved to light the windows. "It's like raising the curtain," says Giovannetti, who adds that when the site-specific Fenestrations was first performed as part of Dancing in the Streets' Grand Central Dances, Dick Sandhaus provided laser beams to call attention to the windows.
Sandhaus, president of Science Faction, was back in Grand Central in November with a show of his own. Staging a laser show in this particular public entity is never easy, especially with every frame of artwork needing to be scrutinized. Rudolph, Santa, and anything oriented toward religion were out, but the firm managed a festive presentation anyway.
The program, Light Snow Expected (right), consisted of six three-minute shows, shown in rotation every hour from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Toy trains and snowflakes were part of the fun, as were some of the constellation ceiling's "stars": Pegasus got a pair of skates, and the Gemini twins threw snowballs. "Everyone is completely taken by the ceiling, so ignoring its features would be to the detriment of the show," Sandhaus says.
Complicating the creativity was the palette--New York's Landmarks Commission and the Municipal Arts Society wanted a monochrome color that had to match the turquoise of the restored ceiling. But, says Sandhaus, "If you can make a piece that's fun, is logical visually, and has good musical accompaniment, people will watch--even if it is one color." Science Faction used a Spectra Physics large frame laser, 2020 argon type, 20W, split three ways using proprietary SFC-360 projectors. The laser was supplied with water and three-phase 480V service by the MTA Metro-North Railroad and was continuously supervised by a state-licensed operator.
As a result of worldwide media coverage, different shows were combined. Ultimately, two 10-minute shows accompanied by classical music stopped crowds as lasers danced overhead. More Light Snow may be in the forecast for holiday seasons to come.