Hold On Let Go takes centre stage this January, with contemporary performers tackling issues of technology in a unique and creative way

“This process is like this moving boat; there are pockets of space where we can bring our own stories forward and allow for the synergizing of our own beliefs and stories into the room,” said Natalie Tin Yin Gan, interdisciplinary arts company Hong Kong Exile’s Artistic Lead.

Tin Yin Gan is one of the many performers set to showcase contemporary performances at the Vancouver-based annual festival Hold On Let Go 2024, taking place starting Jan 23, 2024. Formerly branded for fourteen seasons as PushOff, this two-week-long event focuses on showcasing Vancouver and Canadian artists.

From Best Life.

Tin Yan Gan’s piece is called Heaven FM, which follows the concept of how the evolution of funerary practices, care and wellness has shifted with the onset of digitization. With a technologically sophisticated setup, audiences can expect to see performers wearing different types of radios and headlamps strapped onto them as they move about the room.

“From the beginning, there was an interest in the dancers being in control of sound and light where we can bring our own stories forward from the ancestral realm,” said Tin Yin Gan.

During the process of creating the performance, the group suffered the loss of one of the performers in their ensemble. This meant the group had to start from scratch, and proved a challenging reflective moment for a performance that features themes of grief and death.

“I really don’t think we knew how to go forward, but it had been so many years of playing with these headlamps and radios,” said Tin Yin Gan. “There was this volatility to the work, but I actually think [it] was important when I think about the fact that we are tackling themes of the chaoticness of life and the incomprehensibility of grief and loss.”

A history of technology

Another performance, entitled Best Life, by theatre company Theatre Replacement’s artistic director Maiko Yamamoto, incorporates technology in an adventurous way. Her performance is an intimate experience where the audience is invited to participate and interact with various machinery.

“It tells the story of my parents, who immigrated from Japan to Vancouver fifty years ago and had to create the best life for themselves and their family,” explained Yamamoto. “There’s these machines of suburbia, as I call them, that the audience gets paired with, and through a series of instructions, the audience performs the show for each other.”

From Heaven FM.

To construct the text in Best Life, Yamamoto conducted interviews with diverse groups of people living in Vancouver’s suburbs. Through this process, Yamamoto came to learn a lot about the types of technology that various age groups depend on, with coffeemakers proving a common favourite for families.

“I wanted to represent the challenges but also the sacrifices my parents made, as everything they did was for the family,” said Yamamoto. “For my mother, going from walking to the laundromat to having a washing machine was the day that she really celebrated being in a new country.”

As Hold On Let Go nears, Yamamoto and Tin Yin Gan are both excited about what impact Heaven FM and Best Life will have on Vancouver audiences.

“I love the idea that the audience can walk away feeling like themselves and for them to feel joy and grief,” said Tin Yin Gan. “I hope that they can feel our joy and grief too.”

For more information about the event, visit www.holdonletgo.ca