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Daina Ashbee's POUR: visceral and haunting, a must-see production


POUR official promotional photo, by Daina Ashbee.

Last Thursday marked the Toronto debut of Pour, an award-winning dance production choreographed by Montreal-based artist Daina Ashbee. Performed by Paige Culley, a 2010 alumni of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Pour is a work that “explores the vulnerability and strength of women, uncovering the layers of pain they absorb in their bodies through a society that does not support them,” as described by Now Magazine Toronto.

“It’s very living and raw in a way,” said Culley in an interview after her final performance this Sunday at the Franco Boni Theatre on Queen Street West. “There’s no one iteration of the piece. Through doing that I think it gives more space for people to interpret and experience it for themselves.”

The dance uses many different techniques in tandem to create a visceral reaction in its audience, from vocalizations by Culley herself, to the individual sounds produced by each new movement, and even the use of lighting to convey the difference between scenes of softer or harsher subject matter.

When asked about her experience and interpretation of the performance, fellow audience member Sheri Cohen had her own very personal views.

“It was really quite poignant in many different ways,” said Cohen. “I think it has to do with a history of abuse, and women’s experiences from a deep, somatic, body-centric level about what they experience and what the body remembers in relation to walking their lives, and how violence impacts one’s ability to learn and their relationship to self-care.”

According to an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Pour was inspired by the parallels between the annual ice field seal hunt and the menstrual cycle as an abstract dramatization of “the cycle of pain and blood” endured by women each month.

“The female body has been portrayed nude in various ways, often very sexualized or victimized, often very glamourized, but always in a particular light,” said Culley. “We see the female form in a very particular way in media, and I feel that this piece rides a line between showing things that could reference that exact thing; a glimmer of violence, a glimmer of being objectified. But at the same time, it makes us look past all of it and to think about why we have so many images of sex or violence immediately at hand when we see a naked woman’s body.”

The production originally premiered in Montreal in September of 2016, and was an important factor of both Ashbee and Culley’s Prix Decouverte de la danse laureateship in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

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