Re: dancers and fog

Russell Sandifer (
Wed, 3 Dec 1997 09:46:16 -0500

There is a very short and basic pamphlet put out by Entertainment Services
& Technology Association (ESTA) that covers most of your question called
"Introduction to Modern Atmospheric Effects." It is published by:

(212) 244-1505

It is available from:

Broadway Press
(800) 869-6372

I use glycol here at Florida State and have no problems with the audience
or dancers. In addition I use liquid nitrogen, CO2, and a cracked oil
hazer with Seaside Music Theatre in Daytona Beach. I would never use any
of these in a concert dance situation. The hazer leaves an oily residue,
and the liquid nitrogen and CO2 will leave water or even ice on your floor.

I would agree with everything stated by Richard Grever's posting. Control
of the distribution and air currents will be your biggest problem.

If you want a curtain of fog to project your image onto, theme parks have
made fog curtains for years. CO2 fog produced from vents ABOVE the stage
would naturally fall straight down but forms a much more delineated
"curtain" with some type of vacuum system in the floor to pull the fog
straight down.

I have almost perfect control over airflow in our main performance space.
In that space I have been able to turn off the air handlers 5 minutes or so
before a piece to still the air. I could then walk around the stage and
place smoke from my smoke machine where I wanted it, and it stayed there
until the dancers moved through it. I have projected THROUGH it with gobos
with colorizers, and even a video projector for moving effects.

It sounds like what you may want though is a detailed but translucent
image. This could be a problem. Light from the projector will reflect off
of all of the infinite layers of the smoke and even pass through the smoke
to what ever is behind it and you will not get a clear image.

You might want to try to project onto clear plastic film or scrim and add
smoke for effect. I have heat welded very thin clear plastic painter's
drop cloths together to form drops and once as a tent over the stage and
projected onto them. Again, light will also pass through this clear film
and strike whatever else is behind it, but you will have a flat surface and
get a clear (but dim) image.

I would also stay away from any scented smoke. The scent will drift into
the audience and the smell of bubble gum or coconut may not fit the dance.

Hope this helps,

>Hello friends,
>I want to un-lurk for a moment to ask if people could relate their experiences
>with dancers and theatrical fog effects. Most people I know hate dancing in
>theatrical fog, but we're still willing to try it. Specifically, I'd like to
>get a partially-translucent projection onto the fog from a white-light
>projector (non-laser).
>The types of effect I'm considering are dry-ice fog, atomized glycol fog
>("chemical fog"), and theatrical "haze" which is similar to the older "cracked
>oil" type of effect. My preference is for the atomized glycol. This is what
>you normally see with the dissappearing witch on stage or in haunted houses or
>I'd be interested to hear from anyone with production experience with dancing
>in chemical fog, especially in a touring environment. Were there health
>issues? Safety issues? Audience problems? Tales of great success?
>The last show I did with chemical fog didn't bother the dancers much (they
>complained of reduced visibility). The chemists tell me that the atmoized
>glycol mixtures don't have anything in them that is bad for us, but that they
>do suck moisture and oxygen from the air. I've noticed they also smell
>terrible, but some companies claim to have flavored additives that solve this
>What do you think?
>Thank you for your help,

J. Russell Sandifer
Department of Dance voice: (904) 644-9973
Florida State University fax: (904) 644-1277
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2012