The Power of "Light"
If Mozart were working today, he may very well have collaborated on something as wildly creative as the multidisciplinary dance work that opens this year's Mostly Mozart Festival.
Available Light, the product of a 1983 meeting-of-the-minds among choreographer Lucinda Childs, architect Frank Gehry, and composer John Adams, might seem an improbable choice to open a festival named for the 18th century's greatest composer. But for Ehrenkranz Artistic Director Jane Moss, it makes perfect sense: "In his lifetime, Mozart was an incredible innovator who remains a central inspiration for us as we plan programs and introduce more contemporary work to the festival in his spirit."
The three artists behind Available Light were already established stars by the 1980s but had never met. They were brought together by Julie Lazar, then a curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. She was looking for a significant piece of performance art to inaugurate Temporary Contemporary—a 40,000-square-foot warehouse that had been transformed into a museum gallery—and thought of Childs, whose work she had seen in New York. The stunning result was an hour-long, multilayered work that has been called "a landmark of American dance." Moving to Adams's pulsating taped score of brass and synthesizer, twelve dancers dressed in simple black, white, and red costumes quietly form and re-form individually and in pairs, traversing Gehry's two-level set built of industrial platforms and chain-link fencing.
The deceptive simplicity of Available Light reflects Childs's roots as a conceptual artist, whose career began in the 1960s at the Judson Dance Theater, a radical downtown collective devoted to the pure exploration of movement and form. As she told a reporter for the Times (London), she and her colleagues rejected traditional narrative and political agendas: "Dancing in and of itself is beautiful and important. We don't have to tell a story or have an emotion—this is a very appealing idea to someone like myself."
The New York Times review of the work's 1983 East Coast debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music described Available Light as a work of "blazing formal beauty," but it received no further performances.
In 2015, the piece was revived by its collaborators and has since been touring to great acclaim. The current production incorporates the latest lighting and sound technology and a set re-engineered by Gehry to be portable and adaptable to a variety of venues. John Adams has revised his score, and the once-billowy costumes have been re-jiggered by designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone.
After stops in cities throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia, the tour culminates at the Rose Theater on July 12 and 13.
Madeline Rogers is a creative consultant to nonprofits and former director of publications at the New York Philharmonic.
American Express is the lead sponsor of the Mostly Mozart Festival.
The 2018 Mostly Mozart Festival presentation of Available Light is made possible in part by the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust.
Endowment support for the Mostly Mozart Festival presentation of Available Light is provided by Blavatnik Family Foundation Fund for Dance.
For tickets and information, visit MostlyMozart.org.