Choreographer Daina Ashbee has presented her work around the world, but she’s never brought one of her professional productions to her hometown until now.
On April 16 and 17, Ashbee, who spent her childhood in Nanaimo and is now based in Montreal, presents her latest piece, Serpentine, at the Port Theatre. She last performed in Nanaimo in 2010 as part of Crimson Coast Dance Society’s Infringing Festival.
Serpentine features Mexican-born dancer Areli Moran, a longtime collaborator of Ashbee’s, and is done completely in the nude with the audience onstage and welcome to move around as the performance unfolds.
“All of my previous pieces were dark and feminine and they dealt with objectification, especially of women, and violence and a lot of repetition, transformation,” Ashbee said. “So this is a piece that’s really smack in-your-face insisting on something, it repeats itself and it’s not necessarily easy to watch.”
Ashbee said she views her work both in a “logical, political” way of wanting to address certain issues, and as an intuitive expression that comes from accessing the “dark places” inside her.
Ashbee said she likes to work with nudity because by discarding distracting frills she is able to better focus on bodily expression and movement. She said nudity brings our vulnerability in both the performer and the audience. Moran said the nature of the work requires that she be naked.
“People don’t realize how often they objectify a woman’s body, but I think through dance they un-objectify it,” Ashbee said. “So sometimes in the beginning they see a sexual body or they just see something sensual, and I feel like through repetition or through the performance they completely lose that lens.”
Crimson Coast artistic director Holly Bright attended a performance of Serpentine in Montreal. She said Ashbee was starting to make a name for herself and Bright was curious to see what’s she’d been up to and left “deeply moved.”
Bright invited Ashbee to bring Serpentine to Nanaimo and Ashbee said it is meaningful to have the opportunity to return and present her work in her hometown.
“I was just a little kid when I was here before and now I have a professional dance career and Areli and I are travelling around the world doing dance shows, so it’s special,” Ashbee said.
WHAT’S ON … Crimson Coast Dance Society presents Serpentine at the Port Theatre on April 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30, $27 for members, $20 for students. Limited seating, full nudity throughout.