Safety Tips for Lighting Movement Artists

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work with many types of movement artists: Dancers, Gymnasts, Aerialists, Hand Balancers, etc.  I find them incredible, hard working people and I admire them.  Over the years, I’ve picked up a few lighting tips to give movement artists what they need to be as safe as possible, and I thought I’d share a few.

Quick note- there is no substitute for communication with the artists you are working with directly.  My suggestions are starting places only and you should always invite your performers to tell you about their needs directly.

Spotting Light

Starting with the most familiar, dancers typically need a spotting light out front.  What is this?  A small bulb, often red, at the center of the balcony that gives them something to focus on to perform turns.  You’ve noticed how dancers delay turning their heads until the last moment?  This is what “spotting” is.  Without the light, it’s easy to become disoriented and not know exactly where front is any more.

Dancers as they age

I’ve worked with a wide age-range of dancers, and one of the things I’ve noticed is sidelight becomes more disorienting as a dancer ages.  Most of the concerns and complaints I’ve received I’ve traced to me making rapid level changes during tech.  In Eos, use your manual fader when you are working with older dancers or dancers with any vision issue.  Having a lighting level raise over a second is a big difference to how they are able to stay safe while dancing.  You could also just go to Setup>User>Manual Control and change the time duration from 0 seconds to 1 second for tech.

If the Sidelight is too much

There are times when the sidelight becomes too bright in contrast to the dance floor for some people to see safely.  This is a huge bummer for me, since I LOVE that look.  What I find is ghosting some light at a low level that specifically hits the floor makes the performer more comfortable, since they never lose sight of the floor.  Remember- how much we love the lighting look is not worth a performer risking injury.


To be honest, I’ve only worked with one school of gymnasts, but the thing I was emphatically told is the floor must always be bright for them.  Always.


Most of the aerialists I’ve lit have been very easy to work with, and they will only start becoming concerned with use of strobes in their eyes.  For context, I typically light aerial keyed from side lighting, like dance (though obviously higher!)  In general, I try to make sure they can always see whatever apparatus they are on as a default.  If the apparatus is very long- like silks, I make sure it’s lit at least four feet below them as well as 2-3 feet above them.  These people change levels FAST so lighting should anticipate their needs.  If a piece feels very moody to me, and I’d like to go “sculptural” or moody or asymmetrical,  I VERY clearly tell them how I’d like to light them and ask they spend a few moments without burden of running the number to explore the space to make sure they feel safe.  Very few have had concerns, but I am deeply invested in not being a safety risk for people.

That’s it for now.  This list is by no means comprehensive, but will hopefully help you start a productive conversation with your artists.  Feel free to comment with other safety tips you’ve learned over the years!

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