Tess Martens had the opportunity to chat with dancer, Paige Culley from Daina Ashbee’s POUR. Shows are September 25, 7:30pm and September 26, 9:00pm (60 min) at the Registry Theatre, Downtown Kitchener.
“We come back to this piece and the choreography is the same but we are changing around it and within it.”
Martens: Paige, please talk about how you got involved in Daina Ashbee’s POUR.
Culley: I started working with Daina probably 2012 on one of her works, Unrelated. We met that way. She hadn’t really produced anything yet in Montreal. She had just moved to the city and was at the start of her career. So it was this exciting thing. I didn’t know much about her, she didn’t know much about me had seen me warming up at an event. At the time, I was still dancing full-time in Compagnie Marie Chouinard. So I wasn’t able to be fully invested in the continuation of that work until later. We always kept in touch. Finally what happened was, years later, she came to me again about a solo she had started researching with a couple of interpretes in Montreal. It was something I remembered her talking about years earlier…a piece about menstruation and women’s bodies and ice. Anyways, I was very interested in the project and I had developed a really good artistic relationship with Daina. I appreciated what she was saying about her work, the boldness she was pursuing. It happened right about the time when I decided to leave the company and I had this small opening where I was able to step in and learn the piece and develop it further.
Then we premiered at La Chapelle : Scènes Contemporains, Montréal, Québec - September 26 - 29th, 2016 three years ago. It was this big solo debut for me and a big debut for Daina because she was still kind of new on the scene. She had definitely been recognized at that point but it was so vulnerable and revealing this piece. It was going to be controversial and I was going to be nude. It was very well received. Pretty much been touring ever since. It’s been growing and my body has been changing throughout the years I have been doing it. Daina has been changing as she has been developing her artistic practice. She has been working hard on all these amazing opportunities. We come back to this piece and the choreography is the same but we are changing around it and within it.
Martens: Beautifully said. I am looking forward to seeing POUR. Please talk further about POUR, a little teaser.
Culley: From what I hear from people, it is extremely engaging viscerally. There is something to be said about that. I hear people say they are not completely able to rationalize what they are experiencing but they are feeling a lot. I find within vocal responses to the work there are various degrees to which a person feels they are invited to connect/identify with my body or their body(ies), or perhaps made to feel excluded from or made to objectify or sexualize my body/women’s bodies. It might depend also on the way the piece is introduced, depending on what language appears in promo or programme notes.
Over the years, there has been a focus on aspects of women’s suffering, questions of “male gaze” within the work, pornographic issues, violence triggers, climate crisis. Women’s oppression gets brought up as a topic. However, for me personally, I don’t see it so much as that. For me, it’s a lot about trust, patience and just presence really. The nudity is always an issue. It can be sexualized, it can be violent, it can be objectifying, it can be animalistic, it can be sculptural. The work spans all those visual and visceral suggestions. It goes through all those tones. That is something I really appreciate. I continually work to reclaim my body. I went through dance training, a lot of issues of never feeling like my body was like I wanted it to be. Always, being objectified somehow being a woman; specifically a woman in performance. There are aspects of that reclaiming. It can be looked at and sexualized but never only that and all these different suggestions. Images that may appear violent or objectified but actually living quite freely within that. There is something really powerful about that.
M: Thank you. What have you learned from the experience of touring for POUR?
Culley: I had toured quite a bit but not as a soloist. There is something about the ritual, the preparation and the strain from touring. Especially from going across the ocean. There is strain from traveling, working and jet lag. Through that you need a ritual. What I do is knowing that I have this many hours in the theatre before a show where I can do my meditation. Having that be entirely my responsibility in the privacy of my solitude. Daina is often very supportive, We know each other very well. She knows what I need but at the same time we have been doing it so much now that she doesn’t need to be here right now, she cannot be here now. So it does feel very solitary. There this sort of bravery that I am developing … trusting I will be okay to do this thing. Certain situations, I don’t perform the piece every week. sometimes months pass between the performances. I am sometimes anxious of what it is going to be after you don’t really rehearse the piece. It’s something I know it needs to be performed. There are certain things I can do like training and staying in shape relatively. You cannot really rehearse a piece unless you have an audience. Sort of just going for the show. It is pretty incredible to see how it always somehow creates the same show. You know, it’s never exactly the same but people receive it in a very similar way. There is something really beautiful about no matter where I am in my life, I’m ready to do the piece.
Martens: Yeah! Thank you again. I really look forward to POUR, it sounds like a very powerful piece. Thank you for what you do and your time.
Culley: Thank you!