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reading light / illuminating texts

Choreography : John Utans
Lighting :
David Whitworth
Lighting design
realised by :
Jason Organ
Music : John Cage and
Lamb arranged by Brett Collery
Performed by : Fiona Malone
Tim Davey
Delia Silvan.
December 1999.

This work was funded by Queensland University of Technology Creative Arts and Design Grant.

reading Light / illuminating texts
Devised and directed by John Utans.
The Gardens Theatre, QUT Brisbane.
November 1999.
Reviewed by Shaaron Boughen, The Australian.

This work has two major themes. Firstly to collaborate, from inception with a lighting designer. David Whitworth and I had worked together on numerous occasions in the standard practice of the designer coming to the work towards the end of a rehearsal process and simply lighting what has been created.

We worked together by David describing what he wanted to explore and I then worked around that. The piece was made up of 10 five-minute scenes, or 'chapters'. We alternated in who started out with the idea for each chapter.

The other theme was one of 'interpretation'. A constant thread throughout all my work. Playing with ideas of making dance without a story but knowing that the audience will mostly want to read into it, to find the narrative, the meaning. I attempted to highten that experience by constantly juxtaposing some very 'loaded' images throughout the work and placing titles to the chapters. (The projected text into the space) All in all, I was exploring structures and patterns in movement and the dancers relationships to the light or the lack of it, the space and the music.

Sharron Boughen

The Australian, November 1999.

"There are no facts, only interpretations" is blazoned across the sidewall in the auditorium. John Utans revels in ambiguity and he challenges us immediately with this declaration. At the risk of denying the director his opening gambit, I am going to assert a number of facts about reading light.

Fact 1: There are many performers in this work, a lighting tower, a film clip, 2 slide projectors, 2 technical crew, 3 dancers and 200 lights - all visible on the open stage. Lighting designer David Whitworth not only creates a playground for the performance of bodies in the space, but proudly exposes his lanterns and flaunts their brilliance. They turn from beacons into landing lights, from searchlights on a tower to washes of liquid honey. They cage the dancers, trapping them with cool, clean, clinical precision then they release them as light spills out and into the auditorium.

Fact 2: The dancers Tim Davey, Fiona Malone and Delia Silvan are all stunning - articulate, in control, quietly flamboyant, masters in their language. Malone has a mature elegance in her performance, moulding the light and shifting the density of the air whilst Davey is naked and restrained and Silvan defined and explicit. Utans like to play with movement like a child with Leggo, in this instance Cunningham's reference library of isolated body moves and unusual co-ordination of body parts. Phrases are fluid or broken, or repeated and reconstructed into another moment, forcing attention to the quality and shape of the movement. The more dance literate you are, the more layers of subtlety emerge.

Fact 3: John Cage is alive and well and still working after all these years - at least his music is! Brett Collery has arranged a large selection of Cage's repertoire with touches of Lamb and Gorecki thrown in for good measure. The kissing of lips reflects in hips, keeping the dialogue alive between the sound, the body and the light.

Fact 4: Utans and his collaborators have created a microcosm of life through a wandering indeterminate narrative. Text is projected as chapter headings which punctuate the space and leave us with tantalising crumbs of information - he entered the room and left an impression or it appeared to disappear. The material, so abstract in form becomes a fractured moment of a displaced memory or a silent clap to a failed relationship.

But then none of these might be facts at all. Perhaps, if Utans is right, they are only interpretations…


This work is available for future performances. For further information, publicity, development and technical details please contact John Utans.

Featured Dancers
Delia Silvan
Tim Davey
Fiona Malone