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Comparing The Physical Setting of Two Scenes From ‘Still life at the Penguin Cafe’ Essay Sample

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Comparing The Physical Setting of Two Scenes From ‘Still life at the Penguin Cafe’ Essay Sample

The two scenes I have chosen are the first and last ones we looked at, as I thought that these were the two that were the most different in both scenery and lighting around the stage also they are the beginning and end of the set work. The two I have chosen are the Penguin cafe itself and the southern cape zebra.

I am going to show the relationships and differences between these two scenes in 4 different areas: Set design, Lighting, props and dance content.

Set Design:

The set between all of the scenes is based partly on the colonial caf and there is a projection of their usual habitat shown in an arch on the backdrop at the beginning. This is just an abstract focal point for the audience as the dancer begins in front of the image and so looks as though they are put of it but then the dancer or dancers begin to move out and this is when the backdrop begins to become less of a focal point as it is not always a specific part of the dance.

This projection of the creatures habitat is very different between these two scenes as firstly, in the penguin caf scene the habitat is of Antarctica and so the colours used are mainly blues and whites in the projection, to show the image of snow and ice and to give the general idea of the climate. As the arch moves away the backdrop becomes a colonial style caf lit with a dim pink wash to emphasise the features, the only disadvantage of this is that it draws the attention away from the realistic form of the penguin itself and makes them less like the actual creatures and gives them a presence of a person rather than an animal.

Although the title specifies ‘The penguin caf’, I still think there should be a small point made about the penguins environment as this is the only scene were the caf is shown during a dance as a main part, all of the other dances stay with the animals surroundings across the back drop and do not change. However the Southern cape Zebra is a prime example of this as the backdrop remains the main focus point for the audience throughout the entire dance, the backdrop or scenery does not change at all apart from a few minor changes in lighting. The backdrop for the zebra is of an African plain the dance begins with the lighting beginning as a sunrise but as the dance progresses the lighting dims until eventually it ends on a blackout. The backdrop lighting is important to the dance as this lighting tells the story as the lighting begins to dim as the zebra’s territory is being damaged and eventually results in a blackout when poachers for peoples modelling careers finally kill the zebra.

These two set designs are different in many ways such as their regions the animals are from, the title and the role it plays in the penguins dance and the way the set does and does not change. These two dances were the two most different dance scenes that we looked at in our set work and as I have proved the settings are very different but they still cover animals, their habitats and their movement.


The lighting in these two scenes were very different although the same techniques and lights were used, the main lighting differences were the colours and number of lights used.

In the penguin caf There was a full wash across the backdrop as there is in all of the other dances but to create the effect of the cold a plain light was used, to emphasise the dancers against the backdrop three follow spotlights were used. When the backdrop scenery changes to the caf the full wash is changed to a dim pink wash rather than a colourless wash, this use of colour wash although not bright still emphasises the features of the caf and the fact that there is a new focal point for the audience. The follow spots remain on the dancers as they travel around the stage, but towards the end of the dance the spots become larger as more dancers are introduced. To highlight the edges and centre of the stage Yellow spots are used this is the only fixed stage lighting used on the stage.

In the southern cape zebra scene the dancer is covered by three different styles of lights a full colourless wash, a central spotlight or for a brief time a follow spotlight. The backdrop is lit by a pink / purple wash to create the effect of a sunrise, as the dance progresses the backdrop light gradually dims and eventually at the end of the dance a blackout is used. At the beginning to separate the dancer from the backdrop a central spotlight is used because at the beginning the main focal point is the African plain backdrop, because the zebra does not appear predominantly in the beginning as his starting position is on the floor. The central spotlight is used to allow the audience to focus on one specific dancer, separating him from other dancers, the backdrop and other areas of the stage. A full wash is used to highlight the stage area, but it is a dashed lighting effect at the very beginning to create the image of the zebras print.

The lighting used in these is different because of the set and dancers because different lighting is used for more dancers and coloured lighting would have to be used if the set is specific to make the image more predominant to the dance e.g. the African plain or the colonial caf.


The title of the Dance emphasises the fact that these are not normal animals; the main motif of the title is of a penguin waiter. These two dance scenes both include props to create the effect of the movement and behaviour of the animal.

In the penguin caf scene the penguin waiters although wearing the costume of the penguin the accessories included were a tray with drinks on and a hand towel these are not used but are kept throughout the dance as an effective focal point and this separates the dancers from any normal penguin. The title motif is of a penguin waiter with the tray on one hand and the hand towel held on one arm, the other arm is raised both the scenes beginning and ending positions are this same motif.

The Southern cape zebra uses the props (tassels), to create the effect of the zebra’s tail. The prop is used in connection with other parts of the body and other movements to allow an image of an alert zebra aware of its surroundings, the tassels are held in the dancers hands and act as an effective focal point for the audience. The other dancers featured in this dance scene are 10 dancers used to show models that are playing their part to the decrease in the animal population by contributing to the skin trade, unaware to the fact that they are making a creature extinct. The accessories used by theses ‘model’ dancers are a skull of a zebra worn as hat and other zebra skin items worn as fashion accessories, a zebra would have had to have been killed to have enabled these ‘models’ to wear these accessories.

These two dances show positive and negative props as the tray, hand towel and tassels are positive but the skulls and skin trade items are negative props. All of these props provide focal points for the audience so the dancers can be separated from any different dancers and they are all individual.

Dance content:

All of the dance scenes in this show are based around animals and the problems created for them. These two animals are from completely different places in the world but are both faced with extinction and this dance is to show the effects of peoples actions.

The penguin caf uses light, soft expanded movements to express their lifestyle and how they are not vicious or harmful but are graceful and comfortable in their surroundings. Their care – free attitude shows how unaware they are of how under threat they are. The penguin dancers are wearing trousers low down to give the effect of the restricted leg movement of the penguin and their technique of travel. Unlike the care – free moves and attitude of the penguin the zebras movements are very abrupt, the dancer gives the impression that the zebra is aware that he is under threat and that he always has to be alert no matter what activity they are doing.

The sharp head movements used give this impression, they play an important part in this scene, as this is one of the repeated movement used to create the realistic effect of the zebra reacting to its surroundings. The zebra uses expansive movements rather than the restricted movements of the penguin, the dancer uses all parts of the body to produce the movements so that the reach of the movements is more extended than that of a typical body form. The two specific body part used were the head and the spine, this was used to create the image of the zebra travelling but the dancer still remained in the same place and did not move when producing these movements.

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