La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines, one of Montreal’s foremost spaces for experimental and multidisciplinary performing arts creations, plunges deep into its new season with the world premiere of Pour by scenographer and choreographer Daina Ashbee. A contemporary dance work performed by Paige Culley, the all-exposing Pour explores women’s strengths and sufferings, corporealizing the pains of the menstrual cycle through sound, light, and movement.
To bleed without a wound is a paradoxical phenomenon: nothing feels quite as vulnerable as surrendering to ebb and flow, and yet, there is a rush of energy that surges from the experience of a spontaneous outpouring. Peace and panic are intermittent; you wish to trust nature’s rhyme and reason, all the while feeling violated. Relinquishing control can be just as crippling as it is empowering.
Pour, in all its twisting, turning, moaning, and beating, is a poetic outcry over the recurring agonies of the menses, the destruction of cycles, and the tortuous relationship of women with their bodies. In a melodic work that plays with pattern, cadency, and repetition, sole dancer Paige Culley echoes the phases of physical and psychological torment (and eventual cathartic relief) of menstruation through abstract movement, summoning audiences to tap into their own vivid experiences (or fertile imaginings).
Pour is, at times, unbearable to watch and listen to – in the most eulogistic sense. What begins in pitch blackness and silence, ends in constant encouragement and persistence to push the boundaries of what to express audio-visually – to be more graphic, more disturbing, more unflinching (a nod here to Hugo Dalphond’s immersive lighting and Jean-François Blouin’s sensation-heightening music). As the discharge act takes on a more animalistic form, the continual buildup of pounding and pulsing put you in a hypnotic trance of sorts. (Certain sequences felt diluted by excessive repetition, however – as is the risk with any lengthy loop of actions – but we acknowledge that this is a deliberate creative decision).
At its gut, Pour is an intimate, dark piece that exposes the trials of life’s cyclical and transformative nature as well as the complexity and the beauty of the human body. Culley, under Daina Ashbee’s direction, gives a chilling performance of blood, sweat, and tears, most commendable for its vulnerability and stamina. Ashbee, in turn, effectively challenges us to connect to our own beings. And, dutifully so, La Chapelle has once again acted as a fearless catalyst for contemporary creation, providing a platform for an intrepid new work by a promising young ensemble of artists.
Pour plays for three more performances at La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines (3700 St-Dominique, Montreal, H2X 2X7) on Sept. 27, 29, and 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.50-33.50 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at (514) 843-7738. For more information, visit the La Chapelle website.
Approximate running time: 60 minutes
For adult audiences