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IU Southeast professor helps bring the light to Louisville Ballet collaboration

Mar. 1, 2017

When the dancers of Louisville Ballet moved through the complex choreography of “Human Abstract," they inhabited a space suggested in large measure by the work of Tiffany Carbonneau, assistant professor of art, digital art and interactive media at IU Southeast. 

Visual artist installing lighting structures

Visual artists install lighting structures that define space on the stage of “Human Abstract” at Louisville Ballet. | PHOTO COURTESY OF TIFFANY CARBONNEAU

Carbonneau and fellow artists Andrew Cozzens and Ezra Kellerman worked alongside the performance group to create a world premiere that lived and breathed with passion and psychological intensity. Experimentation and daring were evident in the workshop.

The production was the brainchild of choreographer Lucas Jervies. It involved seven dancers, a composer (Adam Ster) and three artists from Louisville Visual Art, including Carbonneau.

Louisville Visual Art is a nonprofit that seeks to improve lives in the region through visual art education, community outreach and artist support.

The team of visual artists contributed stage elements that reflected and underscored the production’s thematic dualities of interior and exterior, love and war, freedom and structure.

They constructed frames from LED tubing to represent human-built architecture, fabricated a rectangular dining table and ordered up a large ornate crystal chandelier, both signifying domestic space. These rigid elements played against the movement of the dancers and a stage carpeted in artificial grass that stands for boundless free space.

This was a collaborative work, not something conceived by individuals in isolation and then executed. It literally evolved in concert with all the other pieces of the creative puzzle.

Visual artists took cues from the dance team, and the dance team developed the performance based on the thoughts of the artists.

For example, Carbonneau initially envisioned using projection and video, but the complexity of the choreography required a more minimal yet still powerful environment, hence the LED frames.

Within the groups there was also a good deal of idea-sharing. Carbonneau enjoyed the opportunity to expand her repertoire into the area of dance. She was especially intrigued by the interplay of creative lighting and stage lighting, and she gained a new appreciation for the cueing process and how electronics function in a stage setting with fly-ins.

“As a video projection artist, I have always been enamored by the power of light to change the way an audience experiences and interprets space, and it has been really interesting to work with Michael Ford, the lighting designer, and thinking through his process of lighting a performance,” Carbonneau said.

Tiffany Carbonneau

Tiffany Carbonneau assembles the grand chandelier for the production of “Human Abstract.” | PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW COZZENS 

For Carbonneau, who has projected her work onto levies, container ships and the sides of buildings, working on an enclosed stage, within the confines of a production, was a new experience.

“Theater is magical in the way it creates the illusion of time, site and space, and it has been a positive creative challenge and a very rewarding experience exploring the possibilities and boundaries of ‘the stage,’” Carbonneau said.

Working with live performers was another new challenge for Carbonneau, who is accustomed to projecting moving images on static two-dimensional surfaces. Here, she was called upon to provide solid three-dimensional structures that either facilitate or inhibit the movement of dancers. Learning the choreographer’s unique style of dance, and knowing how to respond, were necessary aspects of her tsk.

"I hoped to learn about choreography as an art form, how the human body moves to create visual and time-based compositions while acting as a moving sculpture in space,” Carbonneau said. “I was excited to create work that the choreograp her and dancers could interact with physically as well as create a dialogue between body and image." 

Carbonneau’s involvement with Louisville Visual Art and the Louisville Ballet are experiences that not only enrich her as a creative professional but also deliver new perspectives to her students.

"In today’s world, it is important to realize and activate the potential of collaborations in professional, creative and academic contexts,” Carbonneau said. “Because each person brings their own unique experience and perspective, successful collaborative projects end up becoming much more than the sum of their parts."

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