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Creating A Day of Light with Hanna Kiel

CCDT is honoured this fall to have Dora Award-winning choreographer Hanna Kiel create A Day of Light, a world premiere for WinterSong 2018. Her second commission for CCDT since 2016's The Gift, Hanna spoke to us about finding inspiration in both the winter solstice theme and our company dancers, plus insight into her movement-crafting process alongside the creation of an original score composed by Greg Harrison and Frances Miller.

Photo by Shy Alter

CCDT: What is your take on WinterSong's winter solstice theme for this piece?

HK: My take on the winter solstice theme is about how precious the daylight can seem when we have only a few hours of it. Rather than focusing on how long the darkness we experience is, I wanted to focus on how we can celebrate the brightness in this theme.

CCDT: This is your second creation for CCDT in the past two years. What gets you excited about working with these young dancers time and time again?

HK: The dancers at CCDT are some of the most hard working professional dancers I know. It's always inspiring to be in the studio with these young, open, and highly dedicated dancers. Especially with my process I need dancers who can collaborate in the choreography, and their openness and generosity always helps my vision come alive.

CCDT: What was your creative process like in making this work?

HK: I began by giving each dancer different tasks to generate movement material. These tasks could be to create the shapes of the movements, gestures, footsteps, or poses. This is the most important part in my process because I get to learn about the dancers and also start to make decisions about which material can be used where in the piece, and by which dancers. Then I developed these materials into more 'dance movement' and used them to create solos, duets, small groups, and full cast sections.

Once the materials were developed enough I put compositional structure to the phrases. In this process, I try many different ways until it gets closer to my vision. After the work is structured, I continue to reshuffle the phrases until everything makes sense to both me and the dancers. After that, we clean the work, polish it, and continue to reshuffle if we have to.

From left: Makenna Martinez, Jaedyn Richards, and Jeffrey Lapira in rehearsal.

CCDT: Tell us about your relationship with composer Greg Harrison, and what you asked of him (and his musical partner Frances Miller) in creating the music for the piece.

HK: This is my fifth collaboration with Greg Harrison. As a choreographer I always like to challenge myself to create something very different every time and I know that Greg enjoys the same kind of challenge in music. We also have very similar ideas of how the relationship between music and dance should work. When I decided to create a folk dance inspired piece I knew he would be up for this challenge. We both wanted a singing voice in this work and he brought Frances Miller, a wonderful singer and collaborator, to the project.

CCDT: Were there any standout moments in this creative process that inspired or affected you? Did anything surprise you in the evolution of this piece, versus what you had first planned or envisioned it would be?

HK: It's always the dancers. It's so inspiring and satisfying to see when dancers surprise you in a positive way and to watch them grow so quickly in the process. My creativity gets stronger when these things happen.

Click play to watch the teaser video for A Day of Light.

CCDT: What's next for you?

HK: I will create a new work for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre in Spring 2019. Additionally, my company Human Body Expression will perform our most recent full-length work Chasing The Path again in May 2019 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, followed by a tour of the piece to Korea in June 2019. HBE also will present a new full-length work called Resonance in September 2019 with 12 dancers and 3 musicians performing live.


Hanna Kiel's A Day of Light also features lighting design by Arun Srinivasan and costumes by Krista Dowson. Don't miss its world premiere this year at WinterSong - dances for a sacred season, December 14 & 15, 2018 at the Fleck Dance Theatre. Click here for info and tickets.

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