The Grand Reopening of Sullivant Hall

The Grand Reopening of Sullivant Hall took place on Sept. 20, 2014. It was a grand occasion marking our return home after two years of displacement. Dave Covey took on the monumental task of moving us out and then moving back in. Now that we are here, Dave shares his experiences as he settles into the new Barnett Theatre, his home away from home.

As we close out another year, and reflect back on all we’ve accomplished, it seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the grand reopening of Sullivant Hall with over 1,000 visitors as they experienced Stephen Koplowitz’s site specific works. My contribution was the lighting for the grid piece in the Barnett Theatre. Though people enjoyed it, I have to admit that simply pointing white light across the grid to illuminate the dancers was not what I had envisioned to unveil our new system of LED lighting technology.

Fast forward to today. After a few configurations of the seating and light plot, through trial and error, I have learned a great deal about this black box space and its ability to showcase movement. It has taken time to adjust to the lack of wings for entrances and exits, and there is no cyclorama for colorful backgrounds, but it provides a wonderfully intimate environment in which to view dance with ample space for movement.

While choreographers and dancers adjusted to working in this environment, I grappled with moving from a (warmer) quartz lighting system with finite color choices, to the (cooler) LED system with virtually endless color choices. Technology forced me to re-examine my aesthetic and approach to design. I often compare lighting design to painting. Lights and gel are my brushes and pigment applied to the moving body, creating environments or landscapes in which the dance is fully realized in a theatrical setting. Though I integrated the old with the new, creating images of “mixed media” as do visual artists, my palette has exploded with the LEDs, and the landscapes I may now paint are infinite in their variation, complexity and subtlety. Gels will soon become a relic of the past. The implications of this for my research and teaching are extremely exciting. The future in our new black box looks very bright indeed.

—David Covey