Interview: Alan Dawson, Lighting Designer/ Technician for James Wilton Dance

Meet Alan Dawson, lighting designer/technician for LEVIATHAN.

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James Wilton Dance’s LEVIATHAN, based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, heads out on the road this Autumn. Ahead of the show’s tour coming to Gulbenkian, Canterbury, check out our interview with lighting designer/technician, Alan Dawson.

How did you get into theatre?

Entirely by accident! – I had been working as a location lighting rigger in film/ TV  with a colleague who was also working as a freelance technician for the lighting department at Leeds Grand theatre who offered me some work there de-rigging a large touring show – I loved it and within a couple of months was fortunate enough to be offered a full- time position as an Electrics Dayman.

What training was involved?

All my training has been on the job,working different roles within technical theatre lighting and observing and learning from more experienced colleagues – all the way from basic theatre rigging skills through lighting board programming/ production lighting and operation to lighting design and production management.

What does your job entail ? 

Initially, the creation of a lighting rig plan based on observing rehearsals of the piece and from talking with the choreographer about  the work, followed by lighting the piece in collaboration with the choreographer for the premiere, followed by touring the piece and re- lighting/designing the lights to make it work in the different venues across the tour.

Why light dance?

I enjoy the challenge of creating a lighting design purely for movement on a stage with generally no set or any dialog – the choices you make in lighting for dance are fundamentally different to lighting for anything else.

What has been your favourite moment of your career so far?

Taking JWD’s Last Man Standing piece to the annual the Tanz Ist festival in Dornbirn, Austria last year – the audience gave the company an amazing standing ovation then the next morning an enormous Condor flew right past my hotel window.

Any advice for young technicians / designers?

Get as much experience as you can even it if means working on a voluntary basis at first, you’ll pick up other skills and make contacts which will lead to other work.

Be prepared to take on any of the different roles from lighting board programming  to followspot operation as they’ll all teach you something about design.

Check out other lighting designers and start building your own lighting palette.


You can catch LEVIATHAN at Gulbenkian, Fri 21 Oct, 7.30pm. Tickets are available here.

Got more questions about the show and it’s development? We’re holding a post-show conversation after the performance! Email us your questions in advance, to