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UCSD Student Designers Illuminate Winter Works Dance Production With Elation

Lighting design students explore the dynamic interplay of movement and light using Proteus Lucius and Fuze luminaires.

Three lighting design students from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) recently had the opportunity to use Elation's Proteus Lucius and Fuze Wash Z350 moving head luminaires on Winter Works, which is produced yearly by the school’s Theatre & Dance Department and specializes in dance repertory productions.

This year, students Taylor Olson, Elba Emicente S, and Vida Huang collaborated with choreographers Kara Mack, Ana María Álvarez, and Dr. Grace Shinhae Jun, respectively, on the performances. The productions, which involved a large cast of student performers, were showcased from March 15-17 at the 400-seat Mandell Weiss Forum on the UCSD campus.

Olson, an MFA Lighting Designer at UCSD, who lit the Kara Mack piece “Open Your Eyes,” contacted Elation Product Application and Customer Experience Specialist Nick Saiki to discuss the project and eventually decided that Proteus Lucius and Fuze Wash Z350 fixtures would provide the versatile lighting needed for the diverse performances showcased in Winter Works. Aspect Lighting supplied the lights for the performances.

“Open Your Eyes”

Working with choreographer and creative director Kara Mack, “Open Your Eyes” explored themes of strength and resilience inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final speech just a day before his assassination. “For me, the piece was about exploring how I would have responded to the speech,” Olson stated. “Through the dynamic interplay of bodies and light on stage, where each movement bends, adapts, and transforms under the subtle nuances of illumination, I sought to interpret through light this revolutionary moment in history.

Proteus Lucius

Olson consistently utilized the Proteus Lucius LED profile fixtures as both a backlight and side light throughout the performance, experimenting with beam shaping and color to enhance the choreography, including one representing the historic Jericho Road.

“I used the Lucius as a back diagonal light with a sharp shutter cut on the floor to create a rectangle path, then used the Fuze Wash as front light to fill the space,” she explained. “I was interested in the warmer colors—ambers, yellows, and reds—and was able to use all three colors in one by adjusting the iris and focus for a more diffused look.” She says it was an impactful scene, and although she had never used a moving light with framing shutters before, having them in the Lucius proved to be very useful.

Working with other moving lights, the designer explored matching color tones across fixtures while experimenting with texture. In particular, she praises the versatility of Lucius’s three sets of gobos and explains how she used the ‘dots’ gobo to a significant effect.

“We were exploring in time with all the dancers moving and the idea of lighting within those liminal spaces,” she shares. Bodies in the dark would walk into the light and then back into darkness. It was a lot of playing with light, space, and bodies, just exploring within darkness and then coming into passages with light. With the zoom capabilities and the spread, I was able to get texture on the floor and the upstage, all with only a few lights.”


For ¡Azúcar!, an immersive dance piece choreographed by Ana María Álvarez, MFA Lighting Designer Elba Emicente Sanchez explored what she called “…the essence of this grain's history and everything it represents in human culture, to carefully elevate each movement and moment through my lighting design.”

One critical element of her design was the integration of three Proteus Lucius fixtures. “These versatile Elation LED profile fixtures played a role in transforming three blue tarp scenic elements into real moon rocks with eroded formations. By strategically placing and selecting the perfect gobo, I was able to permeate each rock with a texture that spoke volumes and boosted the visual narrative of the piece.”

Fuze Wash Z350

Sanchez also incorporated the Fuze Wash Z350 PAR moving heads into the piece as a primary side light source, strategically placing them on either side of the voms. “This decision not only gave me extensive dynamic pan and tilt capabilities but also allowed me to paint the artists with a rich color palette,” she said.

Sanchez expressed that one of the most memorable moments of the choreography was when the artists manipulated a blue tarp from top to bottom, simulating the fluidity of water. “It was here that every Fuze Wash truly shined, fusing its lavender and cool white with the deep blue atmosphere coming from above, surrounding the performers in an aquatic environment but highlighting their white vaporous costumes.”

As the piece ended, Sanchez isolated a single Fuze Wash as the sole light source for the cue before the blackout. She says the decision brought a sense of intimacy and warmth, bathing the artist's rested bodies in a comforting glow, symbolizing the culmination of their journey.

Olson also employed the Fuze Wash fixtures in “Open Your Eyes” to provide front diagonal and front side light, with additional fixtures hung high on a catwalk. “With dance, you need direct side light, so you get more illumination on the body and bring more dimension to the space,” she said. “We used the Fuze as a diagonal light to give versatility within upstage to downstage, and they worked out well.”

Colorwise, the designer used warmer colors, ambers, and reds and created sharp shadows to emphasize movement and space. She explains, “There is a moment where I wanted to emphasize the shadows of dancers on stage in order to convey more bodies in space and time, and I used the Fuze to create those shadows.”

“Open Your Eyes” was followed by “¡Azúcar!” and “Can We Kick It?”, a high-energy hip-hop performance with lighting design by Vida Huang. All three incorporated the Elation lights. Olson concluded, “With Winter Works, what really made the Elation lights so wonderful to have was how versatile the fixtures were in lighting three very diverse pieces.”

Book a demo for yourself to see how Elation’s Proteus and Fuze series transform stages into works of light.


Lighting Designer, “Open Your Eyes”:  Taylor Olson

Lighting Designer, “¡Azúcar!”:  Elba Emicente Sanchez

Lighting Designer, “Can We Kick It?”:  Vida Huang

Assistant Lighting Designer:  Stephaney Knapp

Moving Lights Programmer:  Alexander Deviataikin


Photos:  Doug McMinimy, Erik Jepsen/ UC San Diego Communications, and Vida Huang


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