ELP brings more bling to Blackpool

Friday, 26 November 2010
ELP brings more bling to BlackpoolThe sumptuous interior of Blackpool's Tower Ballroom provides a unique backdrop to this special production.
UK - ELP returned to the tower Ballroom in Blackpool for the fourth Strictly Come Dancing special to come from 'the home of ballroom dancing'. The regular journey north for the contestants, show producers and viewers has gained a special significance, second only to the final itself. Consequently the pressure is on the production team to ensure that this show is every bit as good as the BBC TV Centre output.

So how do they achieve a seamless transition for this one-night-only show? "The first call I make is to ELP," says lighting director Mark Kenyon. "There are certain lights which define the look of the show such as the Clay Paky Alpha Beam 300s with their tight, narrow shafts of light. And I know ELP have the stock levels I require for an OB job of this size. They have all the rigging and trussing ready to go and can provide the complete package." Mark continues "And it's important to have a crew that know the venue inside out. I depend on ELP crew chief Joe Sherno and his team to get everything up in the air with the minimum of fuss."

The next thing that Mark ensures is that the Blackpool show mirrors as closely as possible the current styling being delivered at TV Centre. There is a lot of video being used in the latest series and in order to echo that Mark has brought in a huge video wall supplied by Creative Technology.

"The patterned ballroom floor at the Tower Ballroom is too dark to project directly onto in the same way we do at TV centre," says Mark. "So in order to maintain the 'video heavy' look we brought in the video wall."

The motion graphic designs across the video wall were created by Jane Aspinwall. Jane worked alongside Mark Kenyon and board operator Roger Williams to create a different look for each act.

There was not so much focus this year on the mirror balls as in previous shows but more use of LED lighting, particularly in Tess Daley's interview area, where dancers gather after their performances.

The entire interview booth set structure was transported from London and re-assembled at one end of the ballroom. Simon Deary from LED Poison provided the specialist LED components for this area and also for the stage step edges, entrance door frames, judge's desk and other areas of the set. Simon commented: "We use products like 'X Flex 2' and X Dome LEDs which are easy to work with and transfer smoothly from one location to another."

"But it's not all about replicating TV Centre" says Mark. "Being in this fantastic building with its high ceilings, more space and elaborate architecture gives you the opportunity to push the boat out and do things that you could not achieve back in London.

For example, this year saw a high wire performance from Cirque du Soleil acrobats: the high ceilings gave production the freedom to include this type of performance into the show. The acrobats were flown above the dance floor using two specialist theatre winches and the whole rig needed to be stabilised in order to stop any movement. This was achieved by brailing directly to the structure of the tower.

"No two performances are ever the same," adds Roger Williams. Roger provided both board op duties for the live show and lighting director support for show rehearsals. He continues: "Every show has its own unique elements. The colour looks of each performance are based on the dancers' costumes, so lighting colours are always the opposite or complementary, but never the same. I think in Blackpool the costumes were even more amazing and elaborate to enhance this special, one-off occasion. So if anything, I feel as though we had to step up a notch in Blackpool and make everything extra bling - this is the UK's Las Vegas after all!"

(Lee Baldock)

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