PuSh 2018: Pour - Daina Ashbee

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Pour | Daina Ashbee | PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and The Dance Centre | Scotiabank Dance Centre | February 1 – 3, 2018

The stage is dark, silent. The audience sits in anticipation. There are shrill notes of urgency coming from dancer Paige Culley. We can sense her pacing in the darkness. Suddenly the lights are blinding and Culley stands at the front of the stage staring directly at us, confronting us in jeans and nothing else.

As Culley slowly takes off the jeans her vulnerability, honesty, courage, and fragility as a woman are on full display. A heavy silence pervades the space as Culley crawls, rolls, and manoeuvers around the floor made of Styrofoam panels. As she makes contact with the surface, she is covered in an oily substance which reduces the friction on her skin.

Choreograher Daina Ashbee took inspiration from the female experience of the menstrual cycle, and an earlier version of the piece featured a bowl of menstrual blood in the performance space. This physical manifestation of the blood is unnecessary, though, as Culley’s movements evoke the outpouring of pain, emotion, love, strength, and power that the blood may represent. Throughout, Culley seems to be resisting and suffering an unseen force. Her struggles are relatable to all women who know the many variations on physical and mental pain of the female experience.

In one scene, Culley lays on her back and repeatedly slaps the back of her arms on the stage, making an ugly slapping sound. Her frustration is palpable. In another powerful moment, she screams. Her guttural cries of anguish, and exasperation were ominous yet familiar.

Brave, bold, and beautiful, Ashbee has created a piece that presents the female body not as an object of sexual desire, but as a site of pain and a repository of countless emotions. The ending came as suddenly and as unexpectedly as the first bright moment of light, leaving us reeling from the intensity of the imagery and emotion Ashbee created.  

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