Two York fine arts professors launch major productions

Fine Arts Professors Holly Small, Department of Dance, and Michael Greyeyes, Department of Theatre, are enriching Toronto’s arts scene this month with major works playing on stages downtown.

Greyeyes directs the legendary drama Almighty Voice and His Wife, penned by York alumnus Daniel David Moses (BA Hons. ’75), for Native Earth Performing Arts at Theatre Passe Muraille. After its Toronto run, which started March 28 and continues to April 12, the play will tour to the Origins Festival of First Nations in London, England.

Right: Michael Greyeyes

The first act of the play tells the story of the accidental martyr, Saskatchewan Cree hunter Almighty Voice, and how his quest for food – a wild cow supposedly grazing on Crown land – turned him into a fugitive, on the run from the Mounties for more than a year. The second act – set in the afterlife and performed in white face – is a macabre re-enactment of how Almighty Voice was subsequently demonized and feminized.

NOW Magazine theatre critic Jon Kaplan gave the production four out of five stars, praising Greyeyes’ emphasis on movement as well as the text, the convincing performances by Derek Garza and Cara Gee in the title roles, and the efforts of the production design team.

Greyeyes began his professional career as a classical dancer with The National Ballet of Canada and with the company of Eliot Feld in New York City. In 1993, he began to choreograph and direct his own work, which has been staged at festivals in Canada and Europe. 

Left: A scene from Almighty Voice and His Wife

Greyeyes’ recent projects include the 2007 short dance film Triptych for Bravo Canada which he wrote, choreographed, co-produced and performed in, and the world premiere of the first ever Cree opera, The Journey (Pimooteewin) that he directed for Soundstreams Canada in 2008. (See YFile,  Feb 15, 2008.) Greyeyes will take Pimooteewin, which features a libretto by Thomson Highway, music by Melissa Hui and a cast of more than 35 dancers, singers and musicians, on a tour of Northern Ontario at the end of this month.

For the performance schedule and tickets for Almighty Voice and His Wife, call Theatre Passe Muraille at 416-504-7529.

Holly Small was commissioned to create a new work for the Dance in Tune: made in canada/fait au Canada series, coordinated by founding artistic director and York dance alumna Yvonne Ng (BFA Spec. Hons. ’87). The result is Radiant, a multimedia work for six dancers featuring video projections and an original score composed by fine arts alumnus John Oswald (BFA ’77), performed live by seven brass players.


Right: Holly Small

Small’s full-length choreographic work runs in a double bill with Winnipeg-based up-and-comer Freya Olafson’s New Icelander under the shared title of evanescence, April 9 to 11 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.

In Radiant, Small seeks to convey the fragile beauty of life, the mystery of death and the visceral feeling we get when something precious is slipping beyond reach. It explores the vivid landscape of her imagination – a preternatural forest, ravaged by time and haunted by wraith-like figures.

Accompanying the dance, Oswald’s video art is projected onto a shifting terrain of scrims and screens devised by theatre designer Emile Morin, while four trombones, two trumpets and a flugelhorn perform Oswald’s evocative sound score.

Radiant grew out of a solo of the same title that Small created for her York colleague, dance faculty member Keiko Kitano (showcased on campus twice last year, at Dance Inside/Out and the York Dance Ensemble show Vivid Variations). In this new, expanded version, Kitano is joined on stage by York alumna Rebecca Mendoza (BFA Spec. Hons. ’00) plus acclaimed independent dancers Johanna Bergfeldt, Michael Caldwell, Louis Laberge-Côté and Jessica Runge (seen earlier this year in Darcey Callison’s (Re)Tracing Fred at York’s Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre).

Left: Small’s Radiant is haunted by wraith-like figures

Small discusses the creation process of Radiant in the National Post’s Diary column this week. She has been choreographing, performing, teaching and writing about dance for more than 25 years, and her work has been featured in festivals and dance series worldwide.

Devoted to interdisciplinary research, her recent works include In the Letters of My Name, a collaboration with cross-cultural choreographer, alumnus Sashar Zarif (MA ’07), which won the 2006 Paula Citron Award. Souls, her full-length work for 46 performers ranging from 10 to 71 years of age, was named "one of the year’s 10 best" in 2001 by both The Globe and Mail and NOW Magazine.

For more information and tickets for evanescence call 416-533-8577.