Paige Culley performs Daina Ashbee's Pour. Photo by Daina Ashbee & Alejandro Jimenez.
Paige Culley performs Daina Ashbee's Pour. Photo by Daina Ashbee & Alejandro Jimenez.

Pour is only 60 minutes long, but it is a marathon. For both audience and performer.

According to the program notes, choreographer Daina Ashbee seeks to explore the vulnerability and strength of women through this work. To me, it came across more like an exploration of the question, “how slowly can one human move?” Later, it moves on to a second question: “how many times can one person repeat the same motion?”

The majority of the piece had dancer Paige Culley moving in excruciatingly slow motion. It may sound like an exaggeration, but about half of the piece was spent with her rolling from one side of the stage to another, and then to the back of the stage. Once. The fact that Culley was able to maintain such control, moving that slowly for that long, is a huge testament to her skill, strength, and dedication as a performer.

Culley was also naked for almost the entire performance, and this, combined with the slow movement did illicit a reflection on women, our bodies, and how they are perceived in the world. While she was never objectified in a sexual way, I did begin to see her in a more literally objectified way: she was no longer really a person, and was more of a moving object, or even a tool. A tool for what ends, I wasn’t sure.

Culley’s near-stillness changed the way I watched her. It was like watching a statue – I noticed little movements in her skin and the way the light reflected off one spot but not the other. In the absence of anything macro to look at, I paid close attention to the micro.

I also found that, witnessing a piece that moves this slowly gave me time to think and create meaning. From one moment to the next, I saw different meaning in Culley, even though her expression hadn’t changed. Was she reluctant? Inviting? Judging? Challenging? Instead of finding meaning presented to me in the movement, I sought, or planted my own there instead.

Judging from how quickly some audience members leapt to their feet at the curtain call, they got something out of it that I didn’t see. For me, despite Culley’s incredible abilities as a dancer and the intriguing questions I mulled over while watching Pour, at the end of the day, it was very boring.

Pour played as part of the 2018 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. No further performances.