25 to Watch 2018: Daina Ashbee
Creating dance as a medium for eliminating taboos has been cathartic for radical, riveting Montreal-based dancer and choreographer Daina Ashbee. Her highly physical, personal work dealing with topics such as female sexuality, anorexia, trauma, loss, the menstrual cycle and Indigenous women has garnered accolades: At the prestigious 2016 Prix de la Danse Montreéal, she received both Le Prix Découverte de la Danse (emerging artist award) and the Prix du CALQ for Best Choreographic Work (for When the ice melts, will we drink the water?).
Growing up, Ashbee struggled with an eating disorder and body-image issues. After studies in ballet and jazz, and stints in television and film, life gradually began to shift when she joined, at age 20, the Raven Spirit Dance Society, an all-women contemporary aboriginal dance company in Vancouver. Of Cree Métis and Dutch heritage, she has always embraced her aboriginal legacy. “These women are role models, and gave me another vision of seeing beauty and caring for the body,” says Ashbee.
Transforming pain through dance has been healing, allowing Ashbee to become more confident. This bold, exceptional artist is unafraid of affecting people and, as she says, “hitting them in the gut.”