Inside Dorian Wood’s 12-hour performance, Canto de Todes

Premiering on Friday, February 3 at REDCAT in Los Angeles, Dorian Wood’s Canto de Todes is a 12-hour composition and installation, inspired by a lyric of the late Chilean singer and songwriter Violeta Parra. The project emphasizes the urgency of folk music as a vessel for social change, inviting the audience to stay for as long as they wish over the course of the performance. 

Wood received the Creative Capital Grant in 2020, which allowed her to find some creative independence while contending with the difficulties of staging an immersive, endurance-based performance work in the midst COVID-19. Read Wood’s Artist Diary below about how it came together, and what they’re looking forward to next!

Dorian Wood sings into a microphone.

Photo by Shawn Poynter.

I’ve been making music since I was four. Since then, I have been guided by the urge to “infect” spaces. These “infections” have taken form as songs, endurance-based performance work, installation, short films, drawings, intimate moments with loved ones, echoes in a train station, and merely sitting still. I dropped out of community college in my early twenties and fell in with the wrong crowd, and now I make art for a living. I’m very grateful to be here. 

Canto de Todes is an ode to the folk music I was brought up listening to. The idea that music could simultaneously provide comfort and inspire social change has always excited me. The connections that artists like Violeta Parra, Victor Jara, Mercedes Sosa and Inti-Illimani made with their communities were crucial in their radical mass uprisings against oppression. Canto de Todes is also a tribute to my Costa Rican-Nicaraguan family’s decades-long history in the U.S. Audiences are invited to remain within the belly of this 12-hour beast for as long as they wish, and hopefully take away something personally fulfilling from this experience.

Dorian Wood sits at a piano in a wood-paneled room.

Photo by Shawn Poynter.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, developing Canto de Todes became very challenging. The idea of developing a 12-hour work frightened me in that it felt like it was a semblance of the infinite that I often associated with death, and since death was on the mind of billions of us around the world at the time, I decided to take extended breaks from Canto de Todes. It helped tremendously to later focus on the intent of processing trauma and activating joy, rather than dwelling in an endless fear trigger. The tricky thing about Canto de Todes is to not lay out personal trauma as a way of strengthening the work. I don’t believe artists should have to drag their emotions through burning coals in order to be taken seriously. Canto de Todes is an invitation for playtime, and I feel we all need places for playtime. 

Dorian Wood wades in a river surrounded by greenery.

Photo by Emmanuel Briseño.

I look forward to being able to travel for pleasure more. As much as I love touring, developing and presenting work, I yearn for a life of not having to hustle constantly. Being out in nature feeds my soul tremendously, be it alone or with loved ones.

Dorian Wood sits at a grand desk.

Photo by Dorian Wood.

Creative Capital helped me focus on a creative independence that I desperately needed to develop not only Canto de Todes but the many other projects I have developed and completed within the past couple of years. I was also able to purchase resources to create a portable recording setup that has allowed me to work from pretty much any environment. 

REDCAT theater.

Photo by Carmina Escobar.

I’m so thrilled to premiere Canto de Todes at REDCAT on February 3rd. They have been so nurturing of my work for several years. The idea of transforming this wonderful venue into an epic sensory experience for hundreds of people is unbelievably exciting, and the fact that I get to do it collaboratively with my fellow creators Carmina Escobar, Roco Córdova, Michael Corwin and Adrián Cortés is one hell of a dream manifested. 

Canto de Todes premieres at REDCAT in Los Angeles, CA, and the performance will last from Friday, February 3, 8:30pm–Saturday, February 4, 8:30am. Tickets and more information here.