Creating an organic space and interpreting nature
Designer Gringo Cardia drew inspiration from the structures that certain species of insect create when they establish nests and colonies.
Gringo has worked closely on many dance productions with OVO’s director Deborah Colker and they are used to a cross-pollination of ideas. He has contributed content to the show and she has brought ideas to the set design—neither approaches their role in isolation.
The overall setting of OVO is a stylized habitat that is home to the insects. At times it is a forest, at other times, a cave—or it could even be a house. Gringo’s objective was to create an organic environment that could lead to many other places.
The set elements: giant objects in a minuscule world
The show starts with a gigantic Egg on stage, obscuring much of the performance space from view. The mysterious object from the outside world is an inexplicable enigma in the eyes of the insects (and a nod to the monolith from the Kubrick film 2001). This timeless symbol of fertility and regeneration reappears in other forms later in the show, laid by the insects.
The largest set element is the Wall, which is set against the rear of the stage. The performers climb on it, disappear into it and use it as a stage, a platform and a launching pad.
At first, the Wall is concealed by three enormous “Skins” designed to create a sense of depth, and, through holes and openings, to reveal its secret life as a home to the insects as each of the Skins are removed in turn.
Art imitating life
There are almost no straight lines to be found anywhere in the set. True to the organic inspiration of the show, the Wall is curved, and so is the stage. But there is one exception: the Spider’s Web. Real spiders’ webs are made up of straight lines, so this is a case where art imitates life with a nod towards geometry. It is made of strong woven synthetic straps.
Giant props that evoke nature
An enormous 20-ft mechanical Flower appears on stage. The Flower blooms and becomes much more than an overscale prop, it’s a character in the show. Part sculpture, part puppet, part robot, it is seen from the insects’ point of view as a towering, inspiring (and carnivorous!) feature of their environment.
Three tall Poles rising high above the insect world represent the stems of dandelions. The spines on the stems enable the performing artists to climb them like ladders and appear at various levels above the stage, and there are human-powered, self-propelled seeds that move around the stage.
- The Wall measures 60 ft wide by 20 ft tall and is made of just two moveable components. It is supported only on the sides to allow a floor with built-in trampolines to slide in and out like an enormous drawer.
- The larger of the two Skins covering the world of OVO measures 75 ft wide by 50 ft tall.
- Three long Poles weighing 80 lb evoke dandelion stalks. Their spines allow artists to climb them like ladders.
- The Waterfall uses dry ice to recreate water and the morning dew.
- The Egg, which is inflatable, measures 28 ft wide by 22 ft tall.