Press reviews

(ENGLISH)

 

« Provocative, boundary-busting dancer-choreographer Daina Ashbee has been named one of «25 to Watch» in the influential American publication Dance Magazine. »

Janet Smith, January 4, 2018, Straight

 

« Creating dance as a medium for eliminating taboos has been cathartic for radical, riveting Montreal-based dancer and choreographer Daina Ashbee. »

Philip Szporer, December 20, 2017, Dance Magazine

 

« Daina Ashbee, a Montreal choreographer by way of British Columbia, has risen fast since moving here. Certain circles seem to think she could be the next big thing. »

Victor Swoboda, September 23, 2016, The Gazette

 

« Nudity in performance can be a challenge or a provocation. Here, skin is empowering...

This bold and exceptional new work enlivens sensations and provides a moment to recognize one another’s humanity. »

Philip Szporer, The Dance Current, 2016

 

«...the expression of the performer alternates like a hologram between violence and vulnerability. The naked, almost motionless female body seems to be feeling its way towards pockets of pain locked deep inside, chiseling them out and sculpting them into somatic experience. »

Astrid Kaminski, Tanzraumberlin

 

« Pour [...] a choreography that challenges and inspires the viewer. »

Haley Malouin, April 15, 2018, alttheater.ca

 

« Daina Ashbee creates brutal but evocative dance work [...]

She’s really someone to watch [...] »

Jeannette Kelly - CBC

« Ashbee’s work is unafraid, brutally honest, and unequivocally effective. »

Didier Morelli, for ESSE about Daina Ashbee's Serpentine at La MaMa, New York

Daina Ashbee’s retrospective at Usine C in Montreal, Quebec, included three of her most notable pieces. The choreographer’s bold and visceral practice confronts deep-seated settler colonialism, the traces of trauma within the body, and power of slow movement.

« Pour; When the ice melts, will we drink water?; and Unrelated », The Brooklyn Rail, November 2021

« BC-born dance artist Daina Ashbee brings her intense, unflinching vision to her first group work » Stir Arts & Culture, March 7, 202

“Considering themes of female sexuality, trauma, environmentalism, and her Métis identity,

Ashbee generates carefully detailed and affectively charged pieces. As bodies reiterate

gestures, as sounds are re-emitted, and as trajectories are unapologetically revisited within a

single event, Ashbee’s work is unafraid, brutally honest, and unequivocally effective.” -Didier

Morelli ESSE magazine

“Daina Ashbee, who has turned the world dance scene upside down with her unique works with

a refined and formidable aesthetic power, exposed nudity, but never for free, and its symbolic

impact that delves into the memory of violence against women, indigenous peoples, the

dominated subjected to the dominant. Shock pieces, punches from the flesh of the performers.”

1 November 2021, LA METROPOLE - Aline Apolstolska

“Ashbee is no longer a breakout star but an established name in her own right. With

presentations of Pour, When the ice melts, will we drink water?, and Unrelated, Montreal

audiences were treated to the full breadth of Ashbee’s vision and the devastating effects of her

embodied narratives.” - Didier Morelli, Brooklyn Rail, New York City

“Placed at the end of the Ashbee retrospective, Unrelated is a statement about the passivity of

contemporary Canadian society in bearing witness to the impacts of sexual violence and

femicide on Indigenous women. As the choreographer moves toward larger, more ambitious

ensemble works, the potency of her affective landscapes follows suit. Daring her audience to

intervene, edging beyond the limits of discomfort, Ashbee and her dancers ask us why, after all

this horror, we remain seated, fixed, and unwilling to step in.” - Didier Morelli, Brooklyn Rail,

New York City

“When the Ice Melts, Will We Drink the Water? owes its overwhelming effectiveness to the

intelligence of Daina Ashbee for having known how to make the female body work in multiple

areas. By forcing us to passivity before so many efforts exposed to the gaze, the work takes

advantage of the violence of the not-so-simple fact of being naked in front of the world and of

the intrinsic dignity of the body.” March 31st, 2017 - Sébastien Dulude - Magazine-Spirale

«Daina Ashbee creates brutal but evocative dance work [...] She’s really someone to watch [...]»

Jeannette Kelly - CBC

 

Standing in the basement of La MaMa, waiting for Daina Ashbee’s Serpentine, it was

impossible not to share the audience’s sense of anticipation. Like many of the artists invited

to participate in American Realness, the one-month performance festival in New York,

Ashbee pushes the boundaries of live art by attacking the disciplinary norms that govern it.

Known for creating viscerally cathartic work, she uses repetition and slow movement as a

critical lens, shaping narrative arcs in her choreography through accumulations of physical

and temporal fatigue. Considering themes of female sexuality, trauma, environmentalism, and

her Métis identity, Ashbee generates carefully detailed and affectively charged pieces. As

bodies reiterate gestures, as sounds are re-emitted, and as trajectories are unapologetically

revisited within a single event, Ashbee’s work is unafraid, brutally honest, and unequivocally

effective.

Once inside the theatre, we encounter dancer Areli Moran lying naked in a child’s pose with

her arms between her legs, head to the ground. Over the next eighty minutes, to the sound of

a composition for electric organ by Jean-François Blouin, she repeated a sequence of initially

slow and deliberate, but gradually more aggressive movements. Silently shifting her weight

forward across the stage in undulations, the definition of every bone, muscle, and tendon was

enhanced by an oily substance coating her body and the floor. With exacting precision and

skill, Moran allowed her limbs to take on new shapes, extending into the air and pushing

against the floor as she moved forward. Midway across the stage, after fully exploring the

range of the initial motion, the crawling and slithering intensified as she began to execute a

Worm dance that progressively became forceful and violent. Alternating between slapping her

pelvis and chest into the hard floor with intensity, the sound of flopping flesh hitting cold

ground and panting for air rang throughout the space. Moran struggled through the pain and

fought the exhaustion, making indiscernible sounds between each breath. When the

 

sequence ended, she unceremoniously returned to her starting position, performing the series

of actions two more times.

Through repetitive gestures that reveal the vulnerability of bare corporeal contractions and

extensions, Serpentine forces the viewer to think about the violence against women. Most of

the audience members watch the piece from above, standing or seated. From this position of

authority, observing the work at a distance, the blunt force of Moran’s movements are both

alienating and captivating. Spectators hold their breath in response to the vulnerability of each

pose. This is where the more compelling power dynamics lie, as Moran controls the outcome

of her dance with friction and gravity while spectators uneasily reflect on their complicity in

bearing witness to the repeated battering. During the performance, the artist and audience

are engaged in a dance, with issues of control, agency, and self-determination at the

forefront. In a political, social, and cultural context where increased attention is focused on the

continued exploitation of women’s bodies and the systemic oppression and denial of

indigenous rights by patriarchal and colonial structures, Ashbee’s choreography drives these

reflections further with unwavering intensity.

Didier Morelli - 2019, New York City https://esse.ca/en/reviews/daina-ashbee/

https://www.createastir.ca/articles/daina-ashbee-jai-pleure-vidf-dance-centre Janet Smith,

March 2022 - Vancouver

Vancouver International Dance Festival and the Dance Centre present J’ai pleuré avec les

chiens (Time, Creation, Destruction) at the Scotiabank Dance Centre from March 9 to 12.

 

CHOREOGRAPHER DAINA Ashbee’s unflinching, powerful work has brought her wide

international attention, from Brussels to Montpellier and Guadalajara—raising the question: Why

is she still underappreciated in her home province of BC?

Many artists have had to leave town to find acclaim. But could it be in part that Ashbee’s work,

with its naked flesh and wracked bodies, is often described as “extreme” or “radical”?

Possibly, but the modest dance artist laughs when we ask her how she feels about those

descriptives. “I understand it, but it’s just my personality,” the gently soft-spoken artist tells Stir

from Gabriola Island, which she’s been using as a homebase since the pandemic started. “As

an intense person, when I use something, I use it all the way—and in my case, I’m working with

the body.

“When I was 22, making my first piece, it didn't seem extreme or bold; it didn't seem that radical

to me because I was just doing what I was feeling,” she reflects. “I was just doing what was

coming out of me naturally, and I didn’t have a process of schooling or university that taught me

the rules of creation or choreography. I was just learning as I went....I really think I just

approached it from a very natural, deep, subconscious place in myself that didn't ask if people

were going to like it or whether I’d done the right thing.”

Nanaimo-raised, the artist of Cree, Métis, and European ancestry trained here in Vancouver with

Modus Operandi and danced for a while with Raven Spirit Dance. But it was when she moved to

Montreal about a decade ago that she started carving out her own, fearless work and was

instantly embraced—there and then abroad.

 

Her breakout piece was 2014’s Unrelated, a raw, unsettling duet that embodied the suffering of

murdered and missing Indigenous women through flailing hair and crawling bodies. In the

ensuing years, she’s won a coveted Bessie (the New York Dance and Performance Award) for

Outstanding Breakout Choreographer, Montreal’s Prix Découverte de la danse, shown work at

the Venice Biennale, and been named one of 25 talents to watch by Dance Magazine. Last

summer, she was the subject of an entire retrospective at France’s Festival Montpellier Danse.

Locally, she brought her provocative, ritualistic Pour, inspired by the menstrual cycle and

featuring nude dancer Paige Culley dragging through puddles of water on the floor, to the 2017

PuSh International Performing Arts Festival—the same year she was selected for the Dance

Centre’s Yulanda M. Faris Choreographers Program.

Though she saw cancellations of her work abroad during the pandemic in 2020, Ashbee has

been back in full demand around the globe in the past year. She’s taken her intimate solos and

duets to Germany, France, Belgium, Croatia, and Mexico and just returned from Costa Rica.

And here she is, back in BC, on Gabriola, where she spent time growing up. “I feel happy close

to nature,” she tells Stir.

This week, local audiences get to check in with Ashbee again when Vancouver International

Dance Festival and the Dance Centre present her first group piece, J’ai pleuré avec les chiens

(Time, Creation, Destruction). It features openly naked bodies moving sculpturally through

transformation and catharsis, pain and ecstasy.

Despite the viscerality of her work, the piece started—like her other creations—through writing.

“I do long, long meditations, where I’m imagining embodying it, and writing is just a process that

helps me document that meditation,” she explains. “The choreography is in my mind. I imagine it

from the beginning to the end, and what it sounds like and feels like and smells like.”

"I really try hard not to be influenced by dance I’ve seen and I really try to start from a raw place

in my own body."

Ashbee, so known for the intense solos she’s created for other performers, has enjoyed

exploring her ideas with a larger group. In her 20s, she says she was often channeling her own

voice through a single performer who was close to her own age. Now 30, she is ready to push

beyond that—here working with a group of five men and women that range in age from 24 to 58.

She says the larger number of bodies allows her to create a new kind of energy in the room.

“To have so many bodies moving: there’s this partnering and overlapping of rhythms and

different things happening in the space—so much more moving, shifting, shaping, transforming,”

she explains.

In this pandemic era of social distancing, J’ai pleuré avec les chiens has a movement language

that’s bracing in its tactile intimacy. Knees bend onto backs, bare feet press onto stomachs and

torsos to hoist bodies into the air.

As you might expect, Ashbee works hard to build trust in the studio, her creation process

requiring so much literal and figurative exposure from her committed dancers.

Letting them in on her writing and meditations helps create a safe space, she says. “I think

there’s a shared vulnerability transferred from me to them and them to me,” she explains,

adding: “It’s easier now that I have a reputation; they trust my work.”

 

With the new piece, Ashbee continues to push into realms that almost go beyond dance—or at

least dance as we have come to know it.

“I feel like when I’m creating I’m not trying to replicate dance moves or follow any dance that I’ve

learned. I’m trying to create a new way of moving and communicating with the body and its

energy,” Ashbee says. “I really try hard not to be influenced by dance I’ve seen and I really try to

start from a raw place in my own body to generate movement and energy.”

 

In other words, this is a chance for West Coast dance fans who haven't yet checked out

Ashbee's singular voice to see what is earning her fans around the world. As the

good-humoured artist says with another small laugh: "I had a lot of support in Quebec and a lot

in Europe and France, so let's see what happens now that I'm back where I was born."

 

INTERNATIONAL DANCE MAGAZINE - JUNE 2021-By Philip Szporer

https://danceinternational.org/featured-at-montpellier-daina-ashbee-in-powerful-view/

Daina Ashbee is a smart, powerful Montreal-based dance artist with Cree, Métis and Dutch

heritage, gaining significant traction in her career. She’s been building a devoted following,

international touring and accolades, like the 2019 Bessie (a New York Dance and Performance

Award) for Outstanding Breakout Choreographer. This summer, the Festival Montpellier Danse

is bestowing the 30-year-old with a prestigious platform, presenting a slate of five of Ashbee’s

works. When I spoke with Montpellier Danse general director Jean-Paul Montanari, he called

her a “magician,” and said he’s confident this “launchpad” will propel her to further engagements

in Europe. He similarly boosted the trajectory of some now well-known artists such as Boris

Charmatz and Jérôme Bel.

In early May, I reached Ashbee on Zoom in the Mexican jungle, where she was on a residency

retreat. She recalls meeting with Montanari at the 2018 edition of Montreal’s Festival

TransAmériques. At the time, her work was touring extensively, and she was about to be

featured at the Venice Biennale. “I was late and crying and doing too many things. We talked

about our childhoods.” The two met again the next year and plotted to bring her solo works to

the Montpellier festival in 2020. COVID-19 got in the way of that plan, but the Ashbee

retrospective is now on course for this summer’s event, June 23-July16.

Ashbee grew up in her birthplace, Nanaimo, British Columbia, as well as on nearby Gabriola

Island. There, during these formative years, she was surrounded by nature, with sandstone

beaches, craggy cliffs, forest and coastal vistas. She started to rediscover and value her

aboriginal legacy in her teens. Her sculptor father, who created traditional transformation masks,

which bring about healing, made his culture come alive for his daughter.

Eating disorders were also part of her adolescent life. She says she didn’t “want to take up too

much space in the world,” and talks about a desire to heal and care for others after witnessing a

lot of suffering, with alcohol and drugs destroying people’s lives. Against this onslaught of

impermanence and noise, Ashbee saw the value of discipline. She sought out dance. Michael

Jackson was an early inspiration, and she would follow dance steps on MuchMusic videos. “I

didn’t know my left foot from my right,” she laughs.

 

Still she loved singing and dancing and moved to Vancouver at 16 to train at Modus Operandi,

and then danced with Raven Spirit Dance. Yet, because she was extremely shy, she indicates

she felt alone. “I’d never had many opportunities, but I was full of ideas. And full of anger,” she

says, adding, “I had no expectations to fulfill.” Choreography and creation were always on her

mind, but she felt that she “had to be good at dancing first.” Improvising came naturally, and she

never lacked for images playing in her head.

At 21, Ashbee experienced a traumatic event, and fell into a depression. Her body, she says,

was frozen. She couldn’t dance and funneled her creativity through writing in notebooks. She

submitted an arts council grant application, which led to Unrelated (2014). Dreams and images

of working with women were ever-present. By the time she arrived in Montreal, she says, “I

didn’t have a lot of belief in myself... People saw I was doubtful, vulnerable.”

In her adopted city, Ashbee learned French, and got a job teaching yoga. “I began to heal my

relationship with my body through yoga.” Michael Toppings, director of the MAI (Montréal, arts

interculturels), gave her a mentorship technical residency. “Sculpting the space was rewarding,”

she says. Stepping out of the dancing, she discovered she loved directing. Over time, she’s

learned to detach, “to not be lost inside my feelings and to create in the external space outside

of me. To protect myself, I’ve learned to make things more abstract.”

Ashbee reframes indigeneity in her practice, offering intimate performances, where pain,

violence, defiance, strength, vulnerability and transformation manifest in the body. As the

intimacy and mystery of her work intensifies, she trains the eye of the viewer through repetition,

building patience, changing the way that spectators look at dance.

Even though he had seen only one of her works, Montanari reveals that he was intuitively drawn

to Ashbee, and they hit it off immediately. “She is a young artist with a charm, very direct, simple

but demanding.” Ashbee describes herself as “a perfectionist and ambitious,” striving to make a

difference.

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are the subject matter of Unrelated, the

earliest piece in the Ashbee retrospective at Montpellier, in which the aggregate suffering and

darkness in the work is laid bare for audiences. At the time, Ashbee says, “I had this violence

and self-destruction in my body, and this was coming out in the movement. I wanted to put what

was building inside of me out.” Honest and unflinching, at its premiere the work detonated, with

its dancers, nude, providing a vulnerability to sustained sections of violence, achieved through

hitting, falling and slapping.

The other retrospective works, discussed below, are also radical and riveting, mapping women’s

bodies and issues: female sexuality, anorexia, trauma, violence, loss and menstrual cycles.

Nudity in performance can be a challenge or a provocation; in Ashbee’s work, skin is

empowering. She elevates the body, women’s bodies in particular, in a very physical sense. Her

work is an act of retrieval, replacing what is lost.

2016’s Pour (think the English verb, and not the French “for”) exposes menstruation “in order to

un-censor women’s pain and stories,” Ashbee says. “It’s really scary navigating the world when

 

you’re young and hormonal. You don’t feel free to bleed every month.” In this solo, she connects

the cycles of blood, life and death, ice and water, carefully inscribing what she calls “stillness

and moving energy.”

The urgently titled installation When the ice melts, will we drink the water? (2016) interrogates

“the rape of the world,” she says, the crisis of climate change and its effect on Indigenous

communities. More incisively, Ashbee probes the violence against the environment in relation to

a woman occupying space in society.

Serpentine (2017), a two-hour loop, builds cycles of repetition and literal violence. It is, says

Ashbee, “a brutal, insistent piece about endurance, living every day in a cycle of struggling and

finding a reason to go again.”

Finally, Laborious Song (2020) peels away at human fragility, probing vulnerability and an

exploration of inner sensitivities, through trance and transformation, this time created with a

male interpreter.

Ashbee admits that prior to her career success, she had never really traveled. Acclaim begat

presenting opportunities in Europe but, at first, she says, she was “unable to embrace the old

buildings and colonialization.” Then those thoughts and emotions altered, and “I saw what was

being given was a gift.” Montpellier provides such an opening, with Montanari’s programming

relying on his profound sense about this contemporary Indigenous artist. “I’ve built my career on

intuition and building trust with the artists,” he says.

Ashbee is feeling the transformative effects transmitted through the care and support of people

like Montanari, “and not having to do everything by myself.” It’s made her healthier and stronger.

Looking forward with a newfound certitude, Ashbee says, “I have to trust the universe is in

control. I still go with the flow but, like a surfer, I ride the waves.”

Pour; When the ice melts, will we drink water?; and Unrelated Daina Ashbee’s retrospective at

Usine C in Montreal, Quebec, included three of her most notable pieces. The choreographer’s

bold and visceral practice confronts deep-seated settler colonialism, the traces of trauma within

the body, and power of slow movement. - By Didier Morelli

Even before entering the theater for the performance of Pour, we hear dancer Irene Martinez

scream, a high-pitched blood-curdling sound. As we make our way inside the room and walk

over to our seats, the dancer skirts the edges of the stage in total darkness, dragging her feet to

create a shuffling noise. Sitting down, our eyes adjust to the low light and Martinez’s silhouette

becomes visible. Piercing the cold and empty space, the cries continue and anticipation sets in.

Is this a yell for help or a roar of release?

For choreographer Daina Ashbee, this October’s retrospective at the Usine C in Montreal,

Quebec, symbolizes a homecoming. After months on the road, which included showing five

pieces at the Montpellier Danse Festival during the summer, the dance artist returns to a stage

where she started her career. Part of the 2021–2022 tour de force season at the Usine C, with

notable pillars of Canadian dance like Louise Lecavalier and the Compagnie Marie Chouinard,

 

Ashbee is no longer a breakout star but an established name in her own right. With

presentations of Pour, When the ice melts, will we drink water?, and Unrelated, Montreal

audiences were treated to the full breadth of Ashbee’s vision and the devastating effects of her

embodied narratives.

Ashbee’s showing of Pour, interpreted by Martinez on opening night, provided a formidable

beginning to the three-part retrospective. Delving into the organic rhythms of menstrual cycles,

as well as the internal, somatic pain rooted in everyday life experiences, the work produces an

atmosphere of deep intimacy. After a period of palpable tension in the theater, marked by

extended shrieks and heavy footsteps, a set of bright lights come on to reveal the dancer at

center stage facing the audience, topless but wearing a pair of crisp blue jeans. Returning our

gaze, she slowly touches her pant buttons and zipper, undoing them gradually and slipping

them down her thighs before pulling them back up. She repeatedly undresses herself, turning

toward the audience. Lowering herself to the ground, Martinez then proceeds to work

methodically across the dance floor, which is covered in a viscous oil-like substance that coats

more and more of her skin throughout the evening.

Pour explores corporeal concepts of vulnerability and power. In the program notes, we learn that

the work seeks to demonstrate how pain is absorbed and stored in women’s flesh as a result of

a culture that does not support but rather exploits them. Martinez’s movements resemble those

of a ragdoll: loose, limp, rolling along the slick black floor in sequences that defy gravity as she

reaches for the sky with legs, feet, and extended toes. Finding herself in unnatural positions that

require her to contort her neck, shoulders, and waist, she identifies and holds poses that make

her almost sculptural with precarious stillness, strength, and beauty. These smooth horizontal

movement-phrases along the ground eventually gave way to more forceful, violent actions

during which the performer pounded her triceps, hips, butt, and other body parts against the wet

floor. She cycled through these gestures and worked toward exhaustion.

When the ice melts, will we drink water? more explicitly connects Earth, nature, and women with

the abuses of patriarchal and neo-colonial forces. Created in 2015 at the Musée d’ethnographie

de Genève, this piece highlights the work of the Global Alliance against Female Mutilation. A

series of active rotations and circular motions centered on the performer’s waist, pelvis, and

genitals point toward unwanted sexual encounters and the invasions of women’s privacy, right to

self-determination, and bodies. Dancer Angelica Morga interpreted this solo that occurred

entirely on an elevated rectangular platform that the audience viewed from either side of the

stage. Lying down in a bridge pose, wearing underwear, a tank top, and leather shoes with a

slight heel, the dancer alternates between unhurried clockwise rotations on her back and rapid,

 

forced thrusts of her hips toward the ceiling. Like in Pour, the switch between complete silence,

in which only the performer’s fatigued breathing is audible, and a low rumbling soundtrack

complements each other in building a hyper-sensitive, often overwhelming environment of

kinesthetic empathy.

The final presentation, Unrelated, was a duet between Morga and Martinez that focused on the

legacies and continued abuses of Indigenous women in Canada. Ashbee is of Cree, Métis, and

Dutch ancestry, and the choreographer’s oeuvre is often concerned with the intersections of

colonial violence, patriarchal control, and the extraction of nature by industrial, white, Western

society. While a similar movement vocabulary to the previous two pieces materialized here, a

more elaborate use of props (coat rack, clothes hangers, costumes) and set design (a large

white wall at the back of the stage that the performers throw themselves against) proposed new

possibilities. Instead of isolating her dancers and having them connect solely with the audience,

Ashbee brings them together to develop different dynamics. Morga and Martinez support each

other through solos and synchronized sequences in ways that challenge our relationship to their

nudity, repetitive collapses, and self-destruction.

Placed at the end of the Ashbee retrospective, Unrelated is a statement about the passivity of

contemporary Canadian society in bearing witness to the impacts of sexual violence and

femicide on Indigenous women. As the choreographer moves toward larger, more ambitious

ensemble works, the potency of her affective landscapes follows suit. Daring her audience to

intervene, edging beyond the limits of discomfort, Ashbee and her dancers ask us why, after all

this horror, we remain seated, fixed, and unwilling to step in.

https://cultmtl.com/2019/05/daina-ashbee-pour-3/

New gestures of suffering in Daina Ashbee’s Pour

by Nora Rosenthal A review of a remarkable dance show

As the audience shuffles into their seats before Daina Ashbee’s Pour begins, a presence calls

out from the dark stage in a frightening warbly soprano. We can see, but barely, a naked torso

stretching out in the fuzzy black, and already there is a feeling of great apprehension. Pour is,

after all, an exploration of women’s pain and of the fortitude they possess in enduring it.

Paige Culley, the soloist who emerges, suddenly, in the medical-seeming light, exudes at first a

kind of bored flirtation somehow also on the verge of tears. Her face is ever paradoxical:

suffering and bemused, in howling physical pain but possessive of unnerving charm. To me it

begged a lingering question: why is it that we’re so amazed when a Hollywood starlet can

approximate a pirouette but are so blasé when a dancer can really and truly act?

Some of the dance will be mystifying, as of course anyone else’s suffering can be, but Culley’s

grueling nude progression across the gooey wet floor has a surreal relatability. Her quivering

muscularity, meanwhile, hovering over the ground in a peculiar mixture of desperation and

persistence, brought to sudden mind Arturo Martini’s sculpture The Thirst (La sete).

The most memorable choreographic act was a peculiar arm-thumping that was strangely

triumphant, self-harming and orgasmic all at once, causing mesmerizing slippery reverberations

in Culley’s torso that she herself seemed shocked to observe. The repetition managed to

 

function first as an expression of joy, then as a frightening compulsion, and as in life, that shift

was remarkably ambiguous.

Several times in the piece, Culley’s arms rose above her in a sweetly sloppy balletic fifth: arms

in that oval icon of what a small child believes dance to be. This codified gesture of beauty

served to highlight just how unique many of the other gesticulations really were.

What impressed most throughout Pour was its sheer generative capacity: that Ashbee’s

movements as realized by Culley were trying to invent a new set of gestures. There are, for

instance, gruntingly peculiar pelvic thrusts that are not immediately reducible to sex or to

childbirth. This is an impressive feat when you consider the semiotic rigidity of our movements,

and in particular, those of women.

Throughout, the audience is graced with Culley’s occasional look our way, and it is deeply

affecting. There is an intrinsic alienness to Pour, this wet and shiny body that seems both

trapped and fearsome, but the occasional glance reminds us that what we’ve been invited to

share in is, in fact, awfully human.

Pour provides an intensely discomfiting expression of one woman’s intimate test of endurance.

(FRANCAIS)

« La danse des corps nus de Daina Ashbee, à l’honneur de Montpellier Danse », Rosita Boisseau, Le Monde, June 24, 2021

 

« Daina Ashbee, interprète et chorégraphe de Montréal d’origine néerlandaise, propose 

menstruel douloureux... Serpentine (2017), c’est une performance radicale où Areli

Moran, nue, plaquée au sol, visage écrasé, se déplie, tente d’émerger, se retourne,

ventre gonflé, avant d’impulser des mou vements circulaires à partir du pelvis et de s’engager dans une série d’ondulations fébriles. Elle avance comme une chenille, se soulève par à-coups, cuisses et seins brutalement frappés contre terre. Infernale traversée du plateau. L’huile qui facilite le déplacement laisse une trace sur son passage, sécrétion commune au mollusque et à l’homme. Cela se répète quatre fois, avec une violence accrue. » Muriel Steinmetz, June 28, 2021, L'Humanité

« Pour » de Daina Ashbee - 41e édition de Montpellier Danse

de Philippe Verrièle, danser canal historique, July 1, 2021

« Unrelated » de Daina Ashbee - 41e édition de Montpellier Danse

de Philippe Verrièle, danser canal historique, June 28, 2021

« Laborious Song » de Daina Ashbee - 41e édition de Montpellier Danse

de Philippe Verrièle, danser canal historique, July 3, 2021

« Serpentine » de Daina Ashbee - 41e édition de Montpellier Danse

de Philippe Verrièle, danser canal historique, July 3, 2021

« Questionnaire de Proust : Daina Ashbee » - 41e édition de Montpellier Danse

danser canal historique, July 3, 2021

« Daina Ashbee, étoile filante et vibrante de Montpellier danse », l'oeil d'olivier, June 13, 2021

« Serpentine, la danse repentante de Daina Ashbee », l'oeil d'olivier, June 27, 2021

« Daina Ashbee, la délicatesse tout en force – Fraîcheur et moiteur à Montpellier Danse », Jean-Paul Guarino, Offshore Revue, June 30, 2021

« Laborious Song / Daina Ashbee », Marie Reverdy, Spintica, July 6, 2021

« When the ice melts, will we drink the water? / Daina Ashbee », Marie Reverdy, Spintica, July 9, 2021

« When the ice melts, will we drink the water ? La danse clouée au sol de Daina Ashbee », Amelie Blaustein Niddam, Toute la Culture, July 8, 2021

« Pour : Rencontre avec Daina Ashbee, étoile montante de la danse contemporaine », lesartzse, April 26, 2019

« La vraie révélation de ce début de festival, c’est Daina Ashbee. La Canadienne, qui est cris

(peuple autochtone de ce pays), signe des performances. Jean-Paul Montanari, fondateur et

directeur de Montpellier Danse, les a tant aimées qu’il n’a pas su choisir entre elles. Il les a

toutes programmées. Serpentine est un bijou. Une femme nue, enduite d’huile, est repliée sur

elle-même au bout d’un rectangle de quinze mètres de long. Les spectateurs sont assis en U

tout près d’elle. Elle ne bouge pas. Sa tresse coule sur son dos. On distingue un tatouage de

chat sur sa hanche gauche et des taches de panthère sur l’épaule droite. Elle se déplie

lentement dans une pénombre de miel, les jambes d’abord puis se tourne, respire, gonfle son

ventre. En une demi-heure, d’abord sur une musique d’orgue, qui souligne la force du souffle,

elle remontera le rectangle dans une lente reptation, dont les ondulations claquant sur le sol

imprimeront à sa performance le rythme du désir. Son parcours achevé, la jeune femme revient

à son point de départ, se déplie et recommence, la même chose exactement, qui bien sûr ne se

donne pas comme tout à fait la même à mesure qu’on la voit rejouée. Nul voyeurisme, juste le

fil des sensations et la puissance de ce qui fait mouvoir un corps horizontal. C’est fascinant. Il

faudra suivre encore et encore cette artiste. »

Ariane Bavelier, Le Figaro, June 29, 2021

“Daina Ashbee donne à voir de façon frontale et sans ménager le public la violence contenue

des femmes. À voir mais surtout finalement à entendre. La pièce date de 2016, un an avant que

les invisibles ne cessent de l’être. C’est autant une archive qu’un manifeste.” - Amelie

Blaustein Niddam, toutelaculture.com

 

“Daina Ashbee ne revendique rien, pas directement. Elle provoque des remous intérieurs, des

fracas des plaques tectoniques intimes. Elle donne à vivre en soir le féminin meurtri, irrespecté,

éternellement en danger. Qu’on soit homme ou femme, ça vous frappe là où ça fait mal.” Aline

Apostolska - La Métropole

 

"En proposant cinq pièces de Daina Ashbee, le festival Montpellier Danse permet de façon

tout-à-fait inédite de découvrir les lignes de force et la cohérence interne de la démarche

créative d'une artiste dont l'univers se révèle particulièrement singulier.

Après ces pièces en forme de manifeste féminin, (lire nos critiques : Unrelated et Pour) il était

intrigant de savoir ce que Daina Ashbee pourrait proposer à un homme. Si tout ce qui fait le «

style » de la chorégraphe s'y retrouve –la nudité, la répétition jusqu'à l'épuisement, l'intensité,

le silence, la lumière, etc – la pièce ouvre d'autres perspectives.

Il y a d'abord le dispositif. Le choix d'une installation bi-frontale renforce la théâtralité du

propos. Tant Unrelated que Pour se déroulaient en configuration traditionnelle par une manière

de convention. Cela n'avait pas d'importance sinon qu'il fallait que le public soit proche pour

capter l’ intensité de l'accroche du regard. L'une des interprètes confiait que c'était le moyen le

plus efficace pour dépasser toute gêne face à la dimension incontournablement sexuelle des

propositions. Ici, le choix signifie que le regard du spectateur importe et, de fait, l'impeccable

 

Benjamin Kamino cherche peu, contrairement à ses consœurs, la confrontation avec les yeux

qui pèsent sur lui. Il est dans la lutte avec l'espace qui se dessine entre les deux gradins.

Tout le début de la pièce repose d'ailleurs sur un arpentage du pourtour de l'espace scénique,

en pas chassés marqués d'arrêts, puis de reprises. Quelque chose d'affecté dans le naturel

rappelle la performance de Bruce Nauman, Walking in an Exaggerated Manner (1967-68) mais

en version plus athlétique. Car si Benjamin Kamino arpente, c'est aussi en forçant les pas, les

traits, les efforts. Au bout d'un quart d'heure à ce rythme, la fatigue se fait sentir. Il va alors

poursuivre sa mesure du sol, mais de tout son long, par un jeu de chutes suivi d'un

balancement spectaculaire qui répond comme un écho à la violence de l'écrasement au sol. Le

bruit mat de chair nue heurtant le tapis possède une force dramatique douloureuse. Cela dure,

sans trêve sinon un court répit quand il change de côté. Près de vingt minutes de ce traitement

contre le sol : l'harassement monte et une empathie profonde gagne l'assistance. Si l'on prête

attention au souffle des autres spectateurs, une légère apnée d'appréhension précède chaque

nouvelle chute, chaque nouvelle épreuve physique. On finirait par en oublier qu'il s'est mis à

pleuvoir, ou plutôt que le bruit de la pluie a envahi la salle. Chose rare chez Daina Ashbee, le

son est là, présent, et sa fonction dramaturgique évidente. Un bruit de pluie intense, puis de

tempête torrentielle, un déluge dont la puissance sonore finit par couvrir les hurlements

douloureux du danseur confronté à la dureté de son arpentage sans fin. Le déluge couvre tout.

Puis le noir et le silence. Mais la lumière revient brièvement avec les chants des oiseaux sur la

scène vide et paisible.

Pas d'affirmation féminine, pas de mise en évidence du charnel. Contrairement aux

propositions précédentes la nudité possède ici ce quelque chose de naturiste qui fait le charme

de l'innocence : le corps masculin ne revendique pas –en aurait-il besoin–, il n'est que l'outil

d'une tentative de conquête de l'espace, il arpente et s'échine, voire échoue, dans cette

mesure du monde à laquelle il s'est aventuré ; et cette confrontation échoue, malgré tous ses

efforts face aux forces de la nature qui le balaient. On a le droit d'y lire jusqu’à une métaphore,

même inquiétante !

Alors, série en cours dirait un commentateur sportif... Si ce cycle Daina Ashbee devait

n'apporter qu'une seule information ce serait : à suivre absolument. Rarement en effet une si

jeune chorégraphe, elle a un peu plus de trente ans, témoigne d'une telle cohérence formelle. Il

y a d'emblée un style Ashbee, dans l'austérité radicale de l'approche scénographique, dans le

traitement des éléments systémiques de la création (son, lumière, costume où plutôt absence

d'icelui) mais encore dans la qualité de mouvement autant que les processus de composition

reposant largement sur la répétition. Sans se répéter jamais, dans chaque pièce, Ashbee fait

du Ashbee. Or – et une conversation avec les interprètes de ces nouvelles distributions en

témoigne assez rapidement– tout ceci relève d'un projet esthétique médité, maîtrisé et qu'elle

sait partager avec ses interprètes.

Reste à voir la suite. Il semble que l'esprit de cette recherche artistique corresponde plus au

mode de production et de création français qu’à ceux en cours au Canada. Les directeurs en

recherche d'artistes résidents serait bien inspirés de jeter un œil...

Philippe Verrièle -Vu au Festival Montpellier Danse, Hangar Théâtre, le 3 juillet 2021

 

Un début de festivités peut-être emblématique. L’affiche l’annonçait, c’était supposé danser à

Montpellier, même si on n’y est pas farouchement attaché. Ces premiers jours donc, pour

commencer, quelques spectacles mais qui s’oublient d’eux-mêmes.

L’un moralisateur hyper esthétisant, à l’abri de la bien-pensance, ne travaillant que la culpabilité

via seuls mots et images et finissant grotesque et d’autres qui se contredisent entre eux, à ne

pas faire danser certains, sportifs, qui ne savent pas, ou à en faire danser d’autres, amateurs,

qui ne savent pas non plus, et quand ça danse, comme l’autre soir à l’Opéra, devenu temple «

camp » deux heures durant, ça ne s’arrête plus et si on y est presque, on n’y est pas quand

même – quelque chose d’une décadence institutionnelle.

Déboule alors une canadienne. Peut-être que là, déjà, tout est dit, une artiste à plus de 5000

kilomètres de nos travers franchouillards. Elle est là et elle ne l’est pas, cette Daina Ashbee,

lors de « Serpentine », première de ses 5 pièces qui seront montrées lors du festival.

C’était vendredi 25 juin, on entre dans l’intime Studio Cunningham et on prend place, assis sur

une chaise ou accroupi ou en tailleur par terre, à même le plateau où un corps est déjà là, nu,

immobile, en position mi animale mi fœtale, comme épousant le sol. Elle et nous, tous sur le

même plan.

Et elle ce n’est pas elle. Ce n’est pas Daina Ashbee mais Areli Moran, son interprète, et ce,

nous l’apprendrons plus tard, ce qui confirmera un de nos troubles de spectateur.

On ne peut plus lentement, le corps s’éveille, se délie en poses sculpturales de torrides

statuettes guatémaltèques ou picassiennes, entre art et tribal et on en connaît les porosités, sur

de longues notes d’orgue, basses, venant comme en écho de loin ou d’un profond. Ce corps,

en pleine indigènité, se déploie alors, tutoyant notre imaginaire et nos savoirs, révélant même

une vision de louve mythologique avant, face et corps au sol, en communion avec sa mémoire,

de se mouvoir, ramper telle une pénitente, progresser, tout en force et en troublante douleur, en

Serpentine.

Si ce titre, en anglais comme en français, nomme la ligne d’ondulations reptiliennes, il se réfère

aussi à la figura serpentinata du style maniériste des études de nus académiques.

En bout de calvaire, l’ascète s’arrête, se lève ou se relève, retourne à son point de départ, se

recoiffant, se retrouvant, refaisant corps avant de recommencer, refaire son parcours, le corps

oint aussi de sa propre sueur, et cela sera encore revécu et encore répété.

Interprétée par l’autrice, c’est une performance cérémoniale cathartique où son héritage

archaïque croise une liberté des plus contemporaines avec répétition de l’épreuve pour

exutoire. Jouée par une autre, la pièce devient solo, autobiographie par procuration ou fiction, et

la répétition de l’épreuve travaille alors tant l’interprétation et ses limites que notre regard et son

éventuelle acuité.

Dans un cas comme l’autre ou dans les deux, comme on le souhaite, de troubles en émotions,

on reçoit, on ressent, on partage, ce que l’on pourrait appréhender comme une expérience

personnelle et pourquoi pas intime.

Cet air d’outre-Atlantique, violent et frais à la fois, souffle comme exotique sur les souffrances

vécues par les interprètes, et les spectateurs aussi, lors des performances surjouées trop

habituellement subies sur notre vieux continent.

 

On en redemande et on en a eu. Quelques jours plus tard avec « Unrelated » et d’autres à venir

mais pas vus encore, « Pour », « Laborious Song » où, au centre, ce sera un corps d’homme

cette fois-ci et « When the ice melts, will we drink the water ? ». Jusqu’à la lie !

Jean-Paul Guarino

http://offshore-revue.fr/site/daina-ashbee-la-delicatesse-tout-en-force-fraicheur-et-moiteur-a-mo

ntpellier-danse/

 

Gilles Brechet, November 2018, Bruxelles

https://www.bruzz.be/fr/podium/daina-ashbee-ceci-est-mon-sang-2018-10-25

 

When the ice melts, will we drink the water? de Daina Ashbee à l’Usine C

Sur une scène rectangulaire surélevée, une femme rousse, frêle et seule, belles chaussures

fines à talon aux pieds, simple camisole sur le torse, simple culotte qui lui rentre dans le minou

et le dessine. Elle fait le pont, soulève ses reins cambrés puis les plaque au sol, violemment, de

plus en plus violemment. Molle puis soudain tendue, arquée, bras tendus dans un geste de

défense, vain, regard embué perdu dans le vide de la salle qui autour d’elle ose à peine respirer

devant cette cérémonie d’offrande, de sacrifice. C’est une femme offerte aux regards, offerte

tout court. Une femme à la merci, offerte sans merci et sans en être remerciée. Lentement,

entre tensions extrêmes et relâchements, tout le mouvement est concentré sur ses reins, ses

hanches, elle ne quittera pas le sol, plaquée sur le dos. Lentement, elle amorce un mouvement

circulaire, jambes ouvertes, exposant aux regards de tous son intimité sans protection, son

entre-jambes précisément. Tout le drame du monde depuis toujours se joue dans l’entre-jambes

des femmes. Pouvoir immense qui appelle à toutes les violences, les plus extrêmes. Fragilité

absolue qui nécessite une infinie force de survie. Elle tourne sur son bassin, métronome du

Temps. Du vivant. Vie et mort, Éros et Thanatos à jamais emmêlés dans cette blessure creusée

au plus tendre et au plus intime. En cela tient tout le féminin, toute la condition féminine.

Soulèvements du bassin, placages violents au sol dur, cercles lents, entrejambes ouvert,

résistance, renoncement, résistance, tentative de protection, blessure. Résistante, rompue.

Cassée, plaquée au sol dur sur le dos. Ça dure quarante-cinq minutes, une éternité. Cette

histoire se répète sans fin depuis les siècles des siècles. Toutes les femmes la connaissent. Le

malaise prend, non pas à la gorge, mais là, précisément là, dans l’entrejambe.

Reconnaissance. Ça a bien dû m’arriver, au moins une fois, la peur, la force, le renoncement, la

lutte, la souffrance, la honte. Et puis soudain le noir total, des cris et des hurlements, un rythme

saccadé, précipité, qui s’accélère dans des gémissements de bête traquée, de biche forcée

avant l’estocade finale, dans une musique à dresser les poils du pubis. Elle se relève dans la

lumière qui revient. Serre les lèvres, replace ses cheveux. Remballe son pelvis, s’en va, même

pas titubante. Jusqu’à la prochaine fois, le prochain assaut mortifère, un peu plus mortifère à

chaque fois et inscrit dans ses chairs de toute éternité.

 

L’Usine C a eu la belle idée de proposer en octobre une rétrospective de la jeune chorégraphe

hollandaise et métis Daina Ashbee qui a bouleversé la scène de la danse mondiale avec ses

œuvres uniques à la puissance esthétique épurée et redoutable, la nudité exposée, mais jamais

gratuitement, et son impact symbolique qui fouille la mémoire des violences faites aux femmes,

aux peuples autochtones, aux dominés soumis aux dominants. Des pièces choc, coups de

poing venus des chairs des interprètes, homme ou femme en solo, aux chairs des spectateurs.

Cette fois-ci à l’Usine C, cette seconde œuvre sur les trois présentées, When the ice melts, will

we drink the water, était interprétée par Angelica Morga sur une fulgurante musique interprétée

live par Jean François Blouin. Inoubliable. Si on ne connait pas le travail de Daina Ashbee, il

faut le découvrir.

On s’interroge sur le titre, qui est fait pour ça. Et quand les glaciers auront fondu, boirons-nous

la tasse ? Et quand on aura détruit le féminin, qu’arrivera-t-il à l’humanité ? Irrémédiable.

Aline Apostolska - La Metropole