Michelle Olson Shines a Light on How We Grow in “Gathering Light”

A celebration of the natural world, Gathering Light is an intimate quartet dance performance that follows the journey of seed to flower, beginning with the stirrings of consciousness to the full embrace of transformation. The piece takes a deep dive into the impulses rooted in our bodies, impulses that travel through us to find light.

We spoke with Artistic Director Michelle Olson about the work this week. 

SDTC: Talk to us about Gathering Light. Where did the initial inspiration come from, and how has the concept evolved since you initially conceived it

MO: The initial inspiration came from a small flower I came [across] while walking on the hill behind Dawson City in the Yukon. It was white and the petals were so tiny. It was a profound moment for me, to think of something so small having its own life and coming into being. The image from seed to flower was so strong and I went into the rehearsal room with this image. This was over ten years ago. Through workshopping the piece and presenting the work, it has evolved into the telling of women’s transformation as well. The journey we take to find our full bloom.

It’s performed “in the round.” Can you talk to us about what that means, and why you chose this configuration?

The audience surrounds the work on all four sides and the dancers are placed in the centre. This shifts the relationship between the audience and the performer, they are confronted by each other, and there is a negotiation of power and vulnerability.

In the round ties the audience into the work in a new way, and the shared space between audience and performer creates a powerful resonance. I chose this configuration because I wanted the audience to be closer to the work, to sense the movement as well as see it.

Why is it so important for all of us to find (and gather) light in our lives? What does that mean to you personally?

To find and gather light is about seeking truth and illumination. It is the soul’s longing to realize itself in this world, and the struggle that it can be. For me, finding light is about simply recognizing that our life is embedded with moments of illumination in the struggle. That the light and dark dance together, and it is my job to surrender to the rhythms their dance creates.

How have the individual dancers involved helped to shape this work? What did the development process look like?

The piece has been developed over the years by many dancers through three workshops and one premiere and two remounts. Each dancer brought their own story into the journey of this work, and I am so thankful for their offerings because this is how we got this far with the work. The current cast have stepped into this remount and dropped in immediately to its weight and trajectory and have been a vital part in digging for deeper meaning and resonance.

What do you hope audiences take away from this work?

That there is strength in vulnerability and to recognize that we are all soft body creatures longing for the light.

Raven Spirit Dance’s Gathering Light is running February 7-10 at Aki Studio (585 Dundas St E). Get tickets here.

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