Vancouver's Raven Spirit Dance presents Gathering Light at the 2019 Vancouver International Dance Festival. Photo courtesy Raven Spirit Dance.
Vancouver's Raven Spirit Dance presents Gathering Light at the 2019 Vancouver International Dance Festival. Photo courtesy Raven Spirit Dance.

In Raven Spirit Dance’s Gathering Light, choreographer Michelle Olson and her dancers have created a work that is uncomplicated and beautiful.

The story is simple: the transformation from seed to flower and with it, the impulse to seek light and growth. As with all growth, most of the work happens below the surface, or in this case, on the ground.

A significant amount of the movement is floor work, with the dancers twitching, stretching, and gulping air as they reach down into the soil and up towards the light. They glide across the stage, stretching, opening, and rooting with ease and strength.

The ensemble, made up of Hailey McCloskey, Jeanette Kotowich, Tin Gamboa, and Salome Nieto, were some of the most grounded and present dancers I have ever seen on stage. Their movement was skilled and precise, yet seeped in awareness and rootedness that was hard to turn away from, even to look from one dancer to the next.

A short solo portion performed by Tin Gamboa was so full of joy and hope it brought tears to my eyes as I felt her calling me to grow, risk, change, and join her in the light.

The soundscape, composed by François Houle and vocalized by Michele St. John, was at times equally transporting, creating distinct separations that felt like phases of growth. While the interstitial moments of silence were poignant, the transition from sound into silence was often jarring. It would have been nice, in this otherwise gentle piece, to feel carried along by the sound as well as the movement.

There were multiple moments in the latter half of the piece that felt as though they were signalling an end, and yet, it did not end. Unfortunately, no matter how captivating a piece is, the impression of multiple endings gives a sense of impatience with the piece overall.

An intimate and connected work, Gathering Light provides a sense of communal transformation that you want to take home with you.

Gathering Light continues at the KW Production Studio (111 West Hastings St, Vancouver) as part of the 2019 Vancouver International Dance Festival until March 16. Visit vidf.ca for tickets and information.