A series to introduce those who work on PPS Danse productions.
Stéphane Ménigot / Lighting designer for Le Trésor
How do you approach your work?
Depending on the project, dance, theater, music, TV shooting or a museum, the approach is slightly different. For dance, I will meet with the choreographer, talk about various subjects, in order to establish a common visual vocabulary, to feel his or her sensitivity. Then come the first rehearsals, I immerse myself like a sponge… Then while talking about the project in progress, I feel the artist’s desire for colors or spaces, the rhythm of the piece, the influences.
After that, I paint the light with specialized software and a graphic tablet, I take the time to react to the multiple inspirations accumulated… then comes the 3D rendering which allows to have a more realistic idea of the possibilities. This ends up with a lighting plan and a technical estimate integrating the different technical and artistic needs.
What are the initial guidelines you are given?
In general, notions of sensitivity. Images, paintings, music, positions allow us to define a “skeleton”, a general universe that will be transformed into flesh, rhythms, intensities and colors as the production progresses. Some choreographers will talk about positions on the stage, others more pictorial or musical references, others leave me free to choose. I like that an artistic complicity is established. The performing arts remains for me a collective art.
Is your work done in stages, in accordance with the other designers?
Yes absolutely, I love to see the costumes, their colors and textures. They help to represent the universe of the play. The scenography or the props also allow you to feel the artistic soul of the project, to feel the spaces to be created, the surface to be lit. The music can represent the sound gestures of the piece. So I move forward in stages, picking up emotions here and there.
Do you make several scenarios before proposing and fixing your ideas?
Yes, often and especially at the beginning, to understand which universe the artist prefers, how the performers might feel in the light. At the beginning of a creative reflection, everything is important, even strange ideas can lead to the final proposal. The space for reflection at the beginning of the conception must be vast and free for me. Afterwards come the realities to which one must know how to adapt.
Is it important for you to attend rehearsals to adjust your work as you go along?
Yes, it is essential. First of all, to understand the way the choreographer or director communicates, to read the general atmosphere, to create a complicity with the dancers. All these elements help me to feel the space in which they will be comfortable (I like to see the light as a dress). The rehearsals also allow me to note the areas that will need special treatment. As a lighting designer, I would be an “informed” spectator, so understanding the sensitivity of the production helps me to build the whole thing later on.
For you, what is the difference in your work between young and adult audiences?
The choice of colors can sometimes be more saturated. The dynamics of rhythm. We can push the poetry of the atmospheres a little more, move away from realism and play more with the lighting props as if the light belonged more to the performers.
Do you rediscover your childlike spirit by working for young audiences?
It is often a magical moment. Young souls who marvel and feel that adults can also marvel. For premieres, I stay focused on the light, but I love to go back to the last performances and take the time to discreetly observe the young (or less young) audience. I sit in the front row in a corner and observe how the audience marvels and lets themselves be carried away by the imaginary created by the show. In these moments, I confess that my “professional protections” fall off. All that remains is the sensitivity that I had as a child…