Sunday, 12 April 2009


The world premiere of Radiant by Holly Small is an inter-disciplinary collaboration with Toronto-based composer/media artist John Oswald and theatre designer, Emile Morin from Quebec City. Radiant is a 30-minute piece for six dancers, six horn players, a musician performing on laptop computer, and a series of morphing video projections. Small explains: This theme of disappearance is something I have explored in previous works. I am haunted by the disappearance of our most precious resources. People disappear, cultures and languages disappear, species of birds and animals disappear, and whole forests......disappear. The sense of loss overwhelms me. And while this piece is as much concerned with form as it is with "message", I want to leave the audience with a visceral feeling that something precious is slipping beyond our reach.

Approaching death with grace and elegance can be a beautiful process, Holly Small said.

That is the notion and imagery behind the performance piece Radiant by Small who is a choreographer, performer and teacher.

Radiant is one of two pieces performed for the biannual festival of Canadian contemporary dance titled, evanescence: made in canada/fait au canada presented by Princess Productions and artistic director Yvonne Ng.

Rising from the depths and tumbling through dark space, a group of stunning dancers merge with exquisite video projections by iconoclastic artist John Oswald while four trombonists surround the audience with Oswald's evocative sound score.

There's beautiful imagery in the explanation, but Small said the piece goes into some dark territory.

Small's father died last summer and Oswald's father died in the fall.

"I lost my father, but I had the great privilege to be able to care for him in his last year," Small said. "I learned so much more about him. How gracious and elegant he is."

When they encountered this loss the pair had already been exploring the idea of death and wrapping bodies for the afterlife, as would have been done with mummies. At the root of the piece is a sense of loss.

"What is this about this light that you go into," Small said. "How do we die? There is beauty and suffering in it."

The entire piece started with photography. Small and Oswald wrapped a dancer friend in clothes and Oswald photographed her hanging off a catwalk in a studio.

"We didn't even know what we were really doing, we were just going with an idea I had," she said.

Through that, and the process of getting her out of the wrap, they came up with some stunning visual images. From there the piece grew.

Smith lives at Dovercourt and Dundas with Oswald, her partner for more than 20 years.

Oswald is a composer and a musician, and in more recent years a visual and new media artist.

"We have collaborated on lots of projects and we have done lots of things apart from each other as well," Small said.

They made video images and worked with other dancers to create high quality video experiments in Quebec.

From there, she worked with a full cast of six dancers in Toronto to pull all the elements together.

"The whole process is pretty interesting. Working with the person you live with is uniquely challenging, interesting, inspiring, hilarious, exasperating and fun," Small said. "He gets into everything. He changes the choreography and I have a lot to say about the music and how it's placed so we do cross over into each others territory a lot."

Friday, 10 April 2009

Friday, 3 April 2009