Available Light
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Available Light

Music by John Adams

Choreography by Lucinda Childs

Stage Design by Frank Gehry

Venue

The Drexel University Armory
33rd Street and Lancaster Avenue
Philadelphia,
+ Google Map

55 min.

DescriptionInterviewFurther Reading

“Everything in the space is important. There’s no fixed focus. There will be some solo moments, but for me it’s about space, it’s about time, it’s about interaction with the music.” Lucinda Childs, choreographer

“Not only is Available Light a compelling interplay between dance, music and setting — gorgeous to behold and thrilling to hear — but the work now brilliantly illuminates how three American artists on the cusp of greatness made the momentous leap.” Mark Swed The Los Angeles Times

Experience this rarely seen, monumental work at a scale not seen since its premiere thirty years ago.

Avail lightLucinda Childs, one of the most celebrated choreographers of the modern era, revives her seminal 1983 collaboration with composer John Adams and architect Frank Gehry. Within the large, open confines of the Drexel Armory the Gehry-designed set is built anew, with two industrial platforms for dancers (three on top, eight on the bottom), along with chain link fencing, and a lighting design that plays off the natural surroundings of the space. The music by John Adams was inspired by the variations of natural light on a landscape. Created on synthesizers played by Adams, along with some ghostly horns, the score exists only as a recording (not to be played live) with all its sonic dynamics becoming carefully crafted arrangements.

Available Light is about space, time, and the interaction of dance, light, sound, and architecture. Movements and patterns are exchanged between the dancers of the upper level and the bottom level in a choreography that continually evolves at subtly shifting angles at exquisitely arranged intervals. The full effect is that of a complete work of art, beyond a singular viewpoint, a deeply realized artistic encounter that creates a world of its own and is a joy for the senses.

Available Light was originally commissioned by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1983 as the inaugural event for the museum’s Temporary Contemporary interim exhibition space. Curator Julie Lazar sought to unite visual art with dance “to create a performance that enabled the audience to see the underlying forms of each individual’s work, in the context of a completely integral artwork.”

The 2015 revival of Available Light was produced by Pomegranate Arts.

*September 12, 6pm: Pre-show panel with creator Lucinda Childs, original curator Julie Lazar, and critic and historian Suzanne Carbonneau

Previous Festival show Dance

 

Print

This presentation of Available Light has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Presented in conjunction with the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel Unversity.

 

Festival Co-Producers Gail Harrity, Michael C. Lillys

The 2015 revival of Available Light was commissioned by FringeArts, Philadelphia with the support of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley; Festspielhaus St. Pölten; Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center and The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association; International Summer Festival Kampnagel, Hamburg; Onassis Cultural Centre – Athens; Tanz Im August, Berlin; and Théâtre de la Ville – Paris and Festival d’Automne à Paris.

 Available Light was developed at MASS MoCa (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).


Interview with choreographer Lucinda Childs

Photos above: Tom Vinetz, 1983. Photos below: Julie Lazar. 1983.

Alisa Regas: After Museum of Contemporary Art curator Julie Lazar made this collaborative proposal, how did the initial meetings with John Adams and Frank Gehry go?

Lucinda Childs: John was very interested in the idea of creating a work for a dance company, and we talked about the fact that dancers, my dancers in particular, are used to working with a certain kind of pulse, or a certain kind of rhythmical structure that we can follow. He more or less abided by that with his music, but there are some parts of the music, which actually don’t have a metrical base, but they’re very beautiful passages, so I learned to work with my company in a special way regarding the music. Frank Gehry said, “I really need to meet with you, I really need you to come back out again, we need to talk about this and figure out what we are going to do.” So I came back out to Los Angeles, to his wonderful office in LA, and I said, “I like the idea of something perhaps on another level, perhaps on the sides,” and he liked this idea very much and did some drawings and sketches and we finally decided that this split level would be a lovely idea for the piece.

Alisa Regas: Can you describe the set and the materials used?

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Lucinda Childs: Frank [Gehry] was invited to work on the interim exhibition space [for the then new Museum of Contemporary Art]. It’s a huge place with wonderful skylights, and we thought something that would work in this space—with audience all around—was primarily a wooden structure, a stage area on one level, and then the second level, the split level on another, which is 18 feet deep on one side and 22 feet deep on the other side, so not exactly a symmetrical shape for the upper level. But it’s made of wood, and he also used for the sake of lighting, which was done by Beverly Emmons, this chain link, which worked very, very well in this space. Beverly worked on beaming light through some of the skylight, and putting red gel on some of the skylight so that the light that came in reflected onto the chain link—it was a very beautiful effect.

Alisa Regas: This was your first collaboration with John Adams, whom you’ve worked a lot with over the years.

Model of Frank Gerhy's site-specific design for Available LightLucinda Childs: John’s music had already been published and was already available in the 1980s. I think Available Light has some semi-abstract qualities, almost an emotional quality, so it’s very, very different from Philip [Glass], and very interesting, because it’s still in a minimalist category. The company did a work-in-progress version in France before the set was built, and he came and watched the dancers. I had dealt with some sections where the dancers could easily get lost because there was no metrical structure for them to follow, but they developed a sense of timing, so they were able to very precisely start at a certain place in the music and end the choreography in a certain place in the music, without any kind of pulse to guide them. That worked very well, it was actually a challenge that worked very well.

Alisa Regas: How is Available Light structured dance-wise?

Lucinda Childs: It’s a piece for eleven dancers. Eight dancers normally occupy the stage level, which is the lower level, and three on the upper level. It works for me as a perfect balance between the upper level, which is smaller, and the lower level. The piece is structured very much based on the structure of the music. It’s almost an intuitive process of how the structure for the choreography evolves. Throughout there’s an exchange of the dancers from the upper level to the bottom level, and so you’re always seeing a different arrangement, with the colors especially, to highlight the interactions of the dancers between the two levels.


Further Reading 

Review: After 32 years, ‘Available Light’ brighter than ever by Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

Excerpt: Childs’ reaction to Gehry and Adams was to amplify the complications of duality. On the main stage, varying-sized groups of dancers in red, white or black form fluid pairings, doubled by individual dancers on the smaller upper level. The radical overall effect is that of dance not only as horizontal but vertical geometry. This was precedent to Childs’ dazzling choreography for the 1984 revival of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s “Einstein on the Beach,” and Childs’ company is the same exuberant one that was seen at the Music Center two years ago. Read the full article.

‘Available Light,’ a performance art landmark, makes the leap from 1983 to 2015 by Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times

Excerpt: Childs’s memory of the performance itself is the most clear, largely thanks to sketches she refers to as “scores,” drawings of the dance from an overhead point of view. They map out the progression of the performance, section by section, showing the dancers’ relationship to one another, the space and their assigned movements. Thanks to these documents and a film of the original, Childs says she was able to stay remarkably faithful to what once was. But that doesn’t mean 2015 audiences will perceive it in the same way.

“Audiences then were shocked and had never seen this kind of work before,” Childs says. “I don’t feel that’s the case now.” Read the full article.

A Steady Pulse: Restaging Lucinda Childs, 1963–78

This publication is an excavation and reexamination of Lucinda Childs’s “dances in silence”—those through which she found her compositional voice as a dance artist. It includes video of eight early works, re-performed in Philadelphia and Bronxville, New York, between 2009 and 2013 but dating from 1963 to 1978; a specially commissioned animation of Childs’s 158-page score for Melody Excerpt (1977); newly released essays on the restagings, Judson Dance Theater, and Childs’s “dances in silence,” including two by Childs herself; videotaped readings by Steve Paxton and Yvonne Rainer of letters they wrote to Childs in 1964 and 1968 respectively; and a rich archive of photographs, scores, flyers, and programs.

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