Our Executive Director Mirna Zagar talks about the work of Daina Ashbee, whose powerful work Pour can be seen February 1-3 as part of our Global Dance Connections series, and our annual partnership with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival:
When did you first meet Daina Ashbee?
I met Daina when she was graduating from Modus Operandi, the renowned alternative dance training program operated here in Vancouver by dance power duo David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen. At the time she was also starting her professional career by dancing with local aboriginal and contemporary companies. We reconnected in 2014 when she had relocated to Montreal, when I saw her work Unrelated. I was simply blown away by how boldly she tackled complex questions, and how her work was uniquely personal yet carried such global resonance.
How would you describe how her career has progressed?
In a very short period of time – barely three years - Daina has propelled herself into the limelight of the international world of dance. In 2017 alone she has toured across Canada and to Germany, Italy, France, and Finland. She was named by two of the world’s most influential dance publications – Dance Magazine and TANZ magazine – as an artist to watch. For any young creator this is a wonderful situation, however it can also bring challenges, and the world of dance is full of unpredictable turns too. So I am very pleased to see that she has been able to work within structures that can provide her with support, such as her residency at Agora de la Danse in Montreal, and her position as associate artist of Centre de Creation O Vertigo (also in Montreal). In addition, a team of international curators selected her as one of the participating artists in the Yulanda M Faris Choreographers Program which The Dance Centre initiated last year. It is very important for an artist experiencing such dynamic growth to be able to work within a structure that enables them to focus on developing artistically but also to grow their career and build the capacity to sustain this growth pattern.
How would you describe Daina’s work?
Daina’s work is highly physical, intelligent, and very personal, dealing with complex topics such as female sexuality, climate change, and Indigenous identity. She is fearless in tackling taboos – Pour was inspired by very intimate, personal observation of her own body, inspired by the traditional seal hunt, reference to blood (including menstrual cycle) is at the core of the work – as she questions the world around us. There is pain but also a powerful sense of catharsis in her work. Choreographically she often makes use of repetition and multiple variations on a gesture to build momentum. Her movement solutions come equally from the consciousness and sub-conscious self, and a strong intent to engage and transform: she is intent on not losing sight of the spiritual aspect of dance. While her work comes from the point of pain, it is ultimately about healing, both her own and the community’s. I see in Daina’s work a desire to offer a stronger voice to the female body, the Indigenous body, for those who have lost – or never had - their means of expression.
Tell us about Daina’s upcoming show Pour.
Pour explores both the strength and the vulnerability of women, boldly tackling themes such as the loss of control, femininity, blood and pain. Its imagery draws upon the secular tradition of the seal hunt – the dancer (the extraordinary Paige Culley, who gives a courageous performance) is naked for most of the piece, and uses her body and voice to convey an unflinching message of suffering and catharsis.
From this you would expect violence, blood on the stage: none of this actually happens, yet it is there – all our pain. Daina’s work often features nudity: it empowers the body to speak, the flesh, the bones, the spirit, the breath, the voice; celebrating the capacity of the body to transform, and allowing us through this vulnerability to recognize one another’s humanity.
The power and intelligence of the work, the splendid performance of the dancer, the currency of the issues considered: for all these reasons it is timely that this work is presented in Vancouver, and that we continue to speak about openly in our society about the issues that are here and of concern to society, and that are brought forward by Daina and artists like her.
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections series:
Daina Ashbee: Pour
February 1-3, 2018 at 8pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre, Vancouver
Presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival