New video! Bring On The Lumière! “Behind the Scenes” with director and cast

Bring On The Lumière! “Behind the Scenes” with director and cast
Director Catherine Galasso and performers Christine Bonansea and Marina Fukushima talk about the process and ideas behind Bring On The Lumière! during a post-show talkback at ODC Theater in San Francisco.
All music in this video by composer Michael Galasso.
All footage by Mark McBeth, November 2011
© Catherine Galasso 2013


Return to the cave: writings by Selby Schwartz about Bring On The Lumière!

Marina Fukushima and Christine Bonansea in Bring On The Lumiere!, ODC Theater 2011, video still by Mark McBeth

Marina Fukushima and Christine Bonansea in Bring On The Lumiere!
ODC Theater 2011, video still by Mark McBeth

Below is an excerpt from Selby Schwartz’ piece about Bring on the Lumière!  which will be published in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies (edited by Douglas Rosenberg.) Selby approached me about writing this piece, and we invited her to observe rehearsals for Lumière.  In the process she became integral to the development of the work as an outside eye and sounding board. In general it was a great pleasure to have her around – especially when Christine, Marina and I could make her laugh!

Dancers Leaving the Factory: Catherine Galasso’s Bring on the Lumière

by Dr. Selby Wynn Schwartz


Catherine Galasso’s Bring on the Lumière! (2011) re-animates Auguste and Louis Lumière (who died in 1954 and 1948, respectively), in an elegiac, affectionate, and sometimes uncanny tribute to the origins of film history.  In bringing the Lumière brothers back into life through dance, Galasso asks us to reflect on the relationship between live bodies and the ghostly preservation of those bodies as images on film.  For the Lumière brothers, cinema was the dazzling progeny of photography, and its essential quality was documenting the ephemera of a moving world through technologies of light.  Bodies were a special category of ephemera, and early cinema was particularly attracted to physical activity—dancing, rowing, playing pétanque.  On the surface, this was because images could finally represent live motion; underneath, though, there was a dark hinting at the impermanent material reality of bodies themselves, as they moved through time towards death.
In early cinema’s fascination with mechanical innovation and the rush to document and preserve, it identified with narratives of light: it was miraculously luminous, a repeatable and reproducible beam projected from the past, a bright remainder.  It offered an alluring possibility of casting those precious, evanescent bodies in light and celluloid, where it would keep their images after they had disappeared.  However, cinema is also born of a long history of shadows.  Its roots in the tradition of shadow-theater and shadowgraphy tell a different story, one that relied absolutely on the live presence of physically skilled performers and body-to-body transmission.  In one way, Bring on the Lumière! is about bringing the Lumière brothers back to life as only dance can—by giving them wondrous new bodies to inhabit.  In a deeper way, it is also about restoring a pre-history of early cinema, a narrative that has been obscured by the excitement of industrial light and magic.  This is a dance of Edison bulbs and carnival tricks, and it tells the history of shadows made by real bodies.
The governing metaphor of cinema is Plato’s description of the cave of fantastical shadows that, projected on a wall, create the flickering illusion of reality.(1)  As film theorist Andé Gaudreault points out, from this model we understand that “the film image is a simulacrum of a simulacrum,” because of the double artifice of the projection (From Plato 150).  The philosopher Jean-Claude Dumoncel clarifies the logic behind this claim: “the shadows on the rear wall of the cavern are not shadows of a tree or a bull but rather shadows of statuettes: they are copies of copies” (qtd. in Gaudreault, From Plato 150).  If cinema follows this Platonic model, though, it has a strangely distant relation to bodies, and especially to performing bodies.  It is the technology here that is essential—the statuettes, the firelight, even the chains that bind the audience to a fixed perspective—but there is no place for live performers.
Usually, the tension in the uneasy interdependence between dance and film is attributed to the fact that dance is a live, sweaty, precariously present medium—inadequately rendered by film or video as flat, fixed, repeatable, and coldly distant from kinesthetic experience. (2)  But the early history of cinema, as well as cinema’s ongoing self-identification with the Platonic story of the cave, imply that the issue lies not just with dimensionality and temporality: it is a conflict between a medium at two removes from bodily experience and a medium absolutely centered in the body.  How can dance bring a quality of lived bodily experience back to cinema, when there is clearly an anxiety about the loss that occurs when three-dimensional live dance is filmed in two technologically-framed dimensions? In order to decipher new intermedia performances like Catherine Galasso’s Bring on the Lumière! that integrate live dance and recorded film, we have to return to the cave, and to the pre-history of cinema in Europe—in short, to the realms of shadow theater.  […]

(1) This narrative exerts an almost irresistible attraction; even Susan Sontag, opening her book On Photography with a section titled “In Plato’s Cave,” clearly intends to discuss how photography follows this Platonic model, but is quickly drawn into a statement about how movies “light up walls, flicker, and go out” (3). Her first two examples in this ontology of photography are Godard’s film Les Carbiniers and Chris Marker’s film Si j’avais quatre dromadaires (3, 5).

(2) As André Lepecki writes, “It is one of dance studies’ major premises to define dance as that which continuously plunges into pastness—even as the dance presents itself to visibility… But there is also an inscription of the dance onto the mnemonic mechanisms of technology, either through photography, film, [etc.]… Between one kind of memory and the other, the question of the presences of the dancing body becomes a matter of delicate excavation” (4). Matthew Reason points out that contemporary high-definition digital recording has not even resolved the issue of representing dance ‘faithfully’ in photography, much less in video or film: “the difficulty of representing movement in still photographs remains a relevant issue in the age of video recording” (45).

Works Cited:

  • Gaudreault, André. From Plato to Lumière: Narration and Monstration in Literature and Cinema. Trans. Timothy Barnard. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.
  • Lepecki, André. “Introduction: Presence and Body in Dance and Performance Theory.” Of the Presence of the Body. Ed. André Lepecki. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2004. 1-9.
  • Reason, Matthew. “Still Moving: The Revelation or Representation of Dance in Still Photography.” Dance Research Journal, 35/36 (Winter, 2003 -Summer, 2004): 43-67.
  • Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

About Selby

Dr. Selby Wynn Schwartz

Dr. Selby Wynn Schwartz

Selby Wynn Schwartz received her PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and is currently a lecturer in Columbia University’s interdisciplinary pilot program in Writing and Gender Studies.  Her articles have appeared in Women and Performance, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Dance Research Journal, Critical Dance/Ballet-Dance Magazine, In Dance, and in the forthcoming issue of Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies: Visual Culture and the Performing Arts.  In 2010, she received the Society of Dance History Scholars’ Lippincott Award for the Best English-language Article in Dance Studies.  In addition to working with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, and Monique Jenkinson, she has taught at UC Berkeley, the LEAP program, and the BFA program at Dominican University of California.  She is presently finishing a book on drag and dance.

Happy Holidays from the “Lumière Brothers” and our next performance on January 13, 2013


– special APAP|NYC performances January 13, 2013 –

– “Izzie” nomination for Music and Sound Design –

As 2012 comes to a close, we have some exciting Lumière news to report:
  • I’m thrilled that Bring On The Lumière! has received a nomination for an “Izzie” Award in San Francisco!This is for the music and score, so I’m especially proud to be nominated with my Dad for this. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on March 25, 2013, at Z Space in San Francisco. The nomination is designated for Michael Galasso (Music) and Catherine Galasso (Sound Design). Check out the other nominees and the full Press Release here.
  • Hey New Yorkers: the Lumière Brothers are back by popular demand for encore performances on the occasion of APAP|NYC, the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. We will be doing three 15-minute performances on Sunday, January 13, in an intimate installation setting at Dance New Amsterdam. The installation and performance excerpts are part of the DNA PRESENTS Spectrum Festival APAP 2013.

More information here!

The “Lumière Brothers” and I would like to wish you a Happy Holidays,
and we thank you for your continued support.


Catherine Galasso, Christine Bonansea, and Marina Fukushima


Dress rehearsal at Cornell University

A short video excerpt from one of my favorite scenes, on the gigantic proscenium stage of the Kiplinger Theater at Cornell.

Behind the scenes: New York tour

NY Times listing… no turning back

The brothers’ first day at Joyce SoHo

Christine Bonansea in the Joyce SoHo dressing room, with photos of the original Lumiere brothers, and our makeup inspiration: John Kelly from his piece Pass The Blutwurst, Bitte

The Joyce SoHo show has closed and we’re getting packed for Cornell University in upstate New York. The whole show fits into 3 suitcases and one cardboard box. And then there were the 8-foot dowels… which would not fit in the bus so we rented an SUV.

with the brothers… driving upstate

Invited to dinner at the home of Joanna Luks in Ithaca!

ahhh… the luxury of performing at universities. 10 student techies hanging lights for Lumiere! At Cornell University, Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts

Photos by Mimi Cave, from the World Premiere in San Francisco

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Mixing the Lumiere soundscape

Seriously? No really. Lumiere! has a heck of a lot of sound cues; a combination of music, ambient drones, and foley-sound effects. This is an image of my desktop from when I ran sound for the premiere of Lumiere! at ODC last month.  I’m not a sound designer by any means, but the sound mixes that I create get more and more complicated with every show.  Instead of using Q-Lab application, the industry standard, I used an ad-hoc combination of iTunes and Quicktime files…and arranged them visually so I could move between the two.  Q-Lab would require that the timing of fades be preset in advance, whereas this ad-hoc system allowed me to be more spontaneous with sonic transitions.

It’s important to me to have control over the sound in my shows, because, from the outside, it’s one way for me to control the mood and the flow.  I like to mix from the audience because I can imagine I can get a sense of how the work is being perceived.

However… shifting back and forth between these many windows felt very tenuous, and at any moment I could click on the wrong thing by accident. Stage Manager Matisse convinced me that I would have more peace of mind if I switched to QLab.  There will still be some sense of spontaneity in that I will have full control over WHEN transitions happen, and overall the sound scape will be smoother. So for the next show… the desktop will look more like this:

NEW VIDEO TRAILER for Bring On The Lumiere!

Still photo by Miguel Arzabe
Video footage by Mark McBeth
Edited by Catherine Galasso
© Catherine Galasso 2011

Notes from our Preview Performance at SFMOMA!

On May 26 2011 we presented a 15-minute preview performance of Bring On The Lumière! at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as part of an event entitled Muybridge in Three Movements.  In conjunction with the exhibition Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change, the excerpt was performed alongside a collection of Muybridge-inspired short films chosen by San Francisco Cinematheque’s Steve Polta; and a Muybridge-driven conversation on cinematic space and time led by author Rebecca Solnit.  We were thrilled to be part of such an illustrious program, and especially psyched for the opportunity to try out an important scene for Bring On The Lumière! — a live recreation of the seminal Lumiere film Workers Leaving the Factory.  This scene had been on my mind for quite some time, from when we first sketched a version of it at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in July 2010.

Here are notes from Macklin Kowal, who assisted me with the preview performance as the Production Manager. Macklin did an amazing job organizing and directing the group. We also had amazing support from the SFMOMA staff, especially from dynamite Public Programs assistant Stella Lochman.  Warm thanks to curator Frank Smigiel for inviting us, and to Muybridge-scholar Rebecca Solnit for making it happen.

Philip Huang and Macklin Kowal

Macklin Kowal: I started working as the production manager for Bring on the Lumiere after Catherine and the cast had already committed a year of work to the project. Their research and rehearsals were evident in the first rehearsal I attended. Principal dancers Christine Bonansea and Marina Fukushima moved with seeming ease through complicated phrases of movement that were modeled after pedestrian movement and gesture as captured in the films of the Lumiere brothers. Furthermore, the two performers demonstrated a deep fraternal bond based in historical notions of the Lumiere brothers’ relationship.

Hilary Palanza leading

Some of her experiments for this project, though, have included large groups of performers animating the canon of the Lumiere brothers in live performance. For a performance at SFMOMA presented in conjuction with the museum’s Edweard Muybridge exhibit, she choreographed an intricate rendering of their Workers Leaving the Factory.

Kat directing

More than thirty people billowed across the stage in the  circular patterns through the museum, using the frame of SFMOMA’s loading dock doors to recreate the continuous exiting in the original film. As seemingly effortless as the performance appeared, it demanded a great deal of direction and patience on Catherine’s part, and she succeeded in maintaining the clarity of her vision while motivating the performers to find enjoyment in the work.

Kat’s diagram for the three circular pathways through the loading dock doors

Click here to view photos from the rehearsal at SFMOMA, by Mimi Cave

Videos from our Lumiere Workshop

On April 16, 2011, we held a content-generating workshop at Kunst-Stoff Arts space in downtown San Francisco.  We invited people into our process to brainstorm ideas for group material in Bring On The Lumière. Here are some videos from the day.  The image below (from a Lumiere film of petanque) is the source for the composition of the first video.

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Inspired by Muybridge

In preparation for our show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on May 26, we rehearsed on the SFMOMA stage back in April, and tested out some ideas inspired by the work of Eadweard Muybridge — “best known for his revolutionary studies of human and animal locomotion, which evolved into some of the earliest motion pictures.” (source: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

While our show probably won’t include this little snippet, I wanted to add this video to the blog as a tribute to Muybridge, and I look forward to developing the idea further for the evening-length premiere.

Big news for Lumiere: 2011 Headlands Residency

Bring On The Lumière will have its final phase of development at the Headlands Center for the Arts in August 2011.  Marina, Christine and myself will be hard at work drafting the evening-length version of Bring On The Lumière in preparation for our San Francisco premiere at ODC Theater in November 2011.  Elaine Buckholtz will also be joining us for part of the time to provoke us with her lighting ideas.  Lighting design is a central component to this work, and will manifest in performer-operated light-instruments, video projections, and possibly even a 16-mm projector.  I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work with Elaine and the two performers in this experimental way before getting into the theater.

Christine Bonansea and I made some amazing progress on Lumière last summer during our three weeks at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where we were both  choreographers-in-residence.  When you’re living outside of your regular routine, it’s possible to focus on, and become more subsumed by the life of a work.

About Headlands Center for the Arts

Headlands Center for the Arts’ Artist in Residence Program has earned international renown for bringing together pioneering artists and arts professionals in all disciplines—visual, performance, writing, interdisciplinary, music, composition, sound, film, video, and new media—from throughout the U.S. and the world. The program provides a supportive working environment that allows time for artists to experiment, reflect and grow, both individually and collectively during their stay. Through the support of generous donations, live-in AIRs are provided with a studio, shared housing and five meals a week. Headlands Center for the Arts is located in the beautiful Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Fort Barry in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco.  Headlands’ is housed in a cluster of nine historic, 1907-era military buildings that were artistically renovated by world-reknown artists such as Ann Hamilton and David Ireland.

Lumiere Brothers compete at The A.W.A.R.D. Show! San Francisco on Jan 12

The time has come for us to pull out all the stops…

We are competing in The A.W.A.R.D. Show! semifinals on Wednesday, January 12th in San Francisco — a choreography competition in which the audience vote will determine who goes on to the final round.  The prize is $10,000.

Christine and Marina and I will perform an excerpt of Bring On The Lumiere! and we are spending the next 5 days crafting a perfect nugget of a piece.  In order to win, I believe the piece has to be a mix of virtuosity, humor, and smarts.  I know that Marina and Christine will blow the audience away — my main preoccupation is with the structure.  How do you build an entire journey into 10 minutes?  We have so much material at this point — it’s just a matter of selecting a few different ideas and getting them to flow naturally together.  I have to keep reminding myself to keep it simple… I tend to get carried away with too many ideas.  The audience doesn’t need to know who the characters are based on, but I want them to care, and laugh, and be moved, and not want it to be over while at the same time feel some sort of resolution.

Click here for tickets to and more info about The A.W.A.R.D. Show!

First Lumiere photo shoot!

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We did our first photo shoot during our Lumiere rehearsal intensive in November. It came about spontaneously as Christine and Marina were experimenting with these battery powered light instruments that my collaborator Elaine gave us. There were some really beautiful silhouettes that appeared when the girls shined the lights at the wall, so I had to capture them with the camera frame. These experiments led to my favorite new segment of the piece that takes place against the wall (see video below.)
What I also love about these photos is that the “characterization” of the Lumiere Brothers is rather understated. There is something so beautiful to me about the Brothers being women — and women of completely different ethnic backgrounds. I do see them as looking very similar — but maybe that’s just me?
We didn’t plan a photo shoot — but I am so glad to have these. At some point we will do a professional shoot for marketing purposes. In the meantime it’s helpful to have something to promote the piece with.

November 2010 Rehearsal Intensive

We are in the middle of a week-long rehearsal intensive at ODC in San Francisco.  It’s the first time that I’ve been able to work on a piece with this kind of regularity, and it’s really exciting.  Christine, Marina and I are meeting every day for 3 hours — each day building on the next and the material is getting more and more interesting.  We are mostly meet in the brand new ODC Theater building, but we also worked one night in Rebecca Solnit’s apartment, which was awesome.

At the culmination of the week long intensive, we’re going to have an open rehearsal this Tuesday night November 23rd to share what we’ve been working on to friends and supporters of the work.  I’m looking forward to getting feedback at this super early stage in the process, when everything is still so raw, and I’m not yet attached to any one thing.  It’s a great time for input, because the work is still wide open, and yet the aesthetic is really clear.  We are building a world.