J’ai pleuré avec les chiens [Cancelled]
For her first ensemble piece, the extreme choreographer Daina Ashbee celebrates the female body in a ritual composed of minimalist landscapes.
Bodies in synergy merge in a floating garden. Human sculptures make a quiet appeal for meditation. J’ai pleuré avec les chiens (I Cried with the Dogs), the first ensemble piece by the extreme choreographer Daina Ashbee, unfolds like a ritual celebration dedicated to the female body. Quiet contemplation composed of meditative waves and the rustlings and murmurs of nature.
In a minimalist landscape driven by cycles of change, the dancers fluctuate between possibilities: from animal to woman, mundane to spiritual, from pain and sorrow to ecstasy.Renowned for her intimate solos and duos that probe the turmoil of violence, in this piece Daina Ashbee portrays a resurgence of the power to act in a community of five women aged 24 to 58. Down on all fours, they experience the elation of a new harmony and equilibrium but soon are flipped upside down, eluding the weight of gravity. Alone together, they breathe into the wound.
Produced by Daina Ashbee
Choreographed by Daina Ashbee
Performed by Imara Bosco + Francesca Frewer + Areli Moran + Élise Vanderborght + Angélique Willkie
Music Polly Lapkovskaya
Lighting Design and Technical Director Karine Gauthier
Outside Eye Andrew Tay
Production Director André Houle
Rehearsal Directors Areli Moran + Lucie Vigneault
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques + Centre de Création O Vertigo – CCOV + KVS Brussels Stadstheater + Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis + Agora de la danse + Centre national des Arts (Ottawa) + BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen)
Developed with the support of National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund (Ottawa)
Residencies KVS Brussels Stadstheater + Cardiff Festival + Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity + Harbourfront Centre (Toronto) + Agora de la danse + Centre de Création O Vertigo – CCOV
Presented in association with Agora de la danse
Written by Myriam Perraton-Lambert
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 27, 2020
Daina Ashbee (Montréal)
Artist, dancer and choreographer, Daina Ashbee stages bodies as though they were veritable monuments: forms and spaces of meditation, memory and resilience.
Originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia and of Métis-Cree and Dutch heritage, in 2014 she created her first work Unrelated, a lucid but sombre piece that explores an affirmation of Indigenous culture and the many forms of violence that Aboriginal women face, the loss of identity and sense of community. Her portrayal of the feminine in all its vulnerability, cruelty and power met with almost immediate honours. After presenting a second forceful work, at age 26 she received not only the 2015-16 Prix de la danse de Montreal CALQ award for When the ice melts, will we drink the water? but also the Discovery Prize for Unrelated.
The following year she shattered the taboo subject of the menstrual cycle in Pour (FTA, 2017), and she continues to create dance that explores bodies under tension, works where repetition and accumulation act as catalysts. In a style imbued with a minimalist aesthetic, her next dance Serpentine (2017) was a durational solo that pushed to the edge of what is bearable, Areli Moran’s cathartic performance a strongly resonant force. Last October the talented choreographer won the Bessie Award in New York as the outstanding breakout choreographer of the year.
As she approaches age 30, Daina Ashbee will present 5 of her recent works in Montpellier Danse. J’ai pleuré avec les chiens marks the end of that cycle, opening up a new repertoire with an ensemble piece featuring different generations of women.
J’ai pleuré avec les chiens evokes sadness and meditative communion with the pack, but also something light and comical. The title suggests an imaginary world that differs from your previous work, where you explored states of tension and violence in the body. What creative momentum is propelling this piece?
True, the works I created in my twenties had a sharp emphasis on violence. I wanted to ask and answer questions for which there really are no answers. That was why my dance pieces were never finished.
This time I’m venturing along a new path by asking myself the following question: Is it possible to use movement and the body to transform that violent energy into something different?
Cycles of contemplation and transformation have always been part of my practice, but that introspection was always very sombre. I’ve been exploring the inability to connect with oneself and with others, probing uncertainty and tension, the brutality of bodies and our ability to endure that violence.
I believe in the power of the body, in its resilience and in reviving its potential. Now I’m trying to see how that energy can be changed into something lighter, something joyful, a breath of fresh air.
My objective is not to transfer from one pole to another, but to plunge with the performers into that interval where everything is shifting, moving, changing, where creative energy emerges from violence.
If some detect a political nuance in that, so much the better, but my work focuses on the quality of that experience.
Your previous work consisted of solos and duos, but you are now working for the first time with a group of five women aged 24 to 58. How do you see this intergenerational dance?
I’ve worked for the most part with dancers near my age, as my pieces explored my own stories and history.
For this project I wanted to explore new horizons with performers from varied backgrounds. These women have an incredible understanding of their inner lives and its transformational potential. They live to dance, to move, to study and celebrate the body.
When I was quite young I had the opportunity to dance with women who had extensive experience. They embraced me as a fellow performer, an attitude I found to be pivotal and enlightening. I want to rediscover the fervour of that community in this work.
I’m interested in the individuality and synergy of the group, and also the notion of welcoming and support. To a certain extent, for me this piece is a means of giving space to the obstructions, restraints, unpleasantness and resistance within us.
My job is to create that space where it is possible to breathe into the wound, alone or as a group.
How did you make that transformative synergy emerge, where the living body and also the lived body, and solitude and community, are intertwined within a minimalist aesthetic?
The different sections of the piece are inspired by different states of the body that bring to mind the dog: dog, echo dog, silent dog. That work on energies and vibrations is supported by a soundscape of silence, of different cerebral rhythms known as beta waves, of the sounds of nature, creating an ambience that is both natural and synthetic.
It stimulates the imagination at completely different levels. To dig into the themes we did a lot of floor work, playing with inversions and reversals, explorations of the body in suspension.
You never know what will come from a balanced stance or posture, or what repeated movement will lead to. It’s very much alive; anything can be born and die in those floating, fluttering spaces.
The slowness, silence and minimalism in my work allow me to explore a sensual and corporal density that is energizing. This time, in a four-fronted arrangement, I wanted the bodies to become landscapes of humans, of women, of statues and sculptures. In that idea of landscape, knowledge is acquired through collaboration.
In that landscape you feel part of a bigger entity, an ensemble that thrives because each is connected to the others. It involves listening and paying attention at several levels, both inner and outer.
I’m trying to create a sensitive space that gives rise to images by letting the dancers guide the creative process. I always pay attention to what is there, to what exists already, both in the body and in the rehearsal space and the performance space.
“Remarkable […] 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.”
“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.”
“Creating dance as a medium for eliminating taboos has been cathartic for radical, riveting (…) Daina Ashbee […] This bold, exceptional artist is unafraid of affecting people and, as she says, ‘hitting them in the gut.’”
Dance Magazine, 20-12-2017
“[A] remarkable choreography that challenges and inspires the viewer.”
Alttheatre.ca, 15-04-2018, about Pour