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Nicola Cernovitch

Ailvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Revelations - 1970

Alvin Ailey Light Plot Concepts

as described by Chenault Spence, lighting designer for the company from 1969 - 1984

"With the dark colors, the idea is to keep them as far apart as possible so they mix only at the last minute. The divergent angles allow the colors to be set off against each other. An exception is the red and green back light systems that travel parallel to each other as they are each needed to present this sharp backlight angle. The Amber diagonal backlight then sets off each of these from its different angle. The pipe end dark blue (532) and mauve (526) systems continue the divergent idea wrapped around to high side washes. The most famous of these color pairings are the Blue top of boom system. The medium blue (561) which lights the near side alternates IN THE SAME DIMMER with a warm (542) or a blue-green ((515) from the far side. See focus sketch and hookup for clarification. In order to stay lean for touring there are rarely any specials in this plot. The combination of the Lavender pools and individual circuiting of the back light washes in various colors serves as a flexible system of specials."

Revelations was choreographed in 1958 and during the 60’s was lit by various designers primarily Tom Skelton and Nicola Cernovitch. The essential design was always credited to Nic. When Chenault joined the company there had been a period of some turbulence and difficult touring to Africa and the Soviet Union.
The company traveled with no equipment and did the best they could with local resources. Even traveling in the US there was no tradition for tech riders and advance sending of light plots: the plots were created on yellow pads after walking in the door and counting the units with an eye toward a performance that night. At the same time there were NYC performances in large theatres like BAM and City Center where real light plots were needed. During this period Chenault collected the scraps of paper, put together the stories and the institutional memory to settle the lighting for Revelations and other works in the Ailey repertory. The Nic Cernovitch plot for Revelations was used as the basis for the lighting of all other pieces; added systems expanded the existing lighting ideas and added complimentary colors and angles. Those top of boom Blue side lights stayed connected in the same dimmer for at least the next 20 years. As you compare the 3 plots on the website you will find all the same systems in the 2011 plot. Today the Cinemoid colors are now Lee, the top of boom blue sides are still focused the same way but their Lavender and Blue-green colleagues have their own separate channels, and there are moving lights in the rig to supply specials. Many designers have been invited in to light the new works for the company but Nic’s lighting for Revelations remains the signature work for the company both for the dancers and the lighting.

Big Thanks to Chenault Spence and Al Crawford for getting these papers together for us.