Review: Exhale (Sore for Punching You)

Photo of Julia Sasso, by Lyon Smith.Toronto dance company Sore for Punching You presents Exhale

Allison Cummings’ Exhale presented at DanceMakers Centre for Creation shows the beautiful complexities of communication through breath – reminding us of its vital and universal nature, the rhythm that it holds and the intense emotional effects it presents to others.

The beautiful sound design by Dora Award winner, Lyon Smith, brings in the audience before the show begins. The required silence of the audience, generally communicated by the universal sign of dimming the lights is forgotten, the entire audience is mute long before show time, captivated by the sound of live raindrops surrounding the stage. I could feel an added underlying rumbling sound through my whole body. Smith is present on stage, completely focused on the performers and his soundboard, amplifying the beautiful sounds of their breath with a simple yet effective soundscape.

Inspired by witnessing her mother’s last breath, the piece begins with the horrifying sounds of someone’s final moments – cold, sick, panicking, debilitating and shakey. However, Cummings shows a full cycle of life as it transitions into the beautiful and magical sound of a baby’s first breath. To which, I couldn’t help but smile.

The intergenerational cast worked seamlessly together towards Cummings’ vision. The piece is performed by some of Canada’s most established dancers and choreographers – Bill Coleman, Julia Sasso, Andrya Duff, Jenn Goodwin and Brodie Stevenson. Relationships between the performers were endlessly malleable, as they were all on their own journeys with short but harmonious connections.

Exhale shows a level of communication that we hold through breath, which we often take for granted. We communicate through so many different mediums, however, do not realize the communication of this vital function, generally until it is too late.  I was reminded through this work, that we do not just breathe with our lungs but with our whole bodies and beings.

The importance of sound through the performance is highlighted in its ending when you are left in complete silence as performers, one by one, take there last breath before they leave the stage. The silence creates an overwhelming amount of self-reflection of your own breath in the moment. I found myself holding my breath as not to disrupt the performance.

Exhale excellently illustrates the trajectory of breath from first to last as stated by Cummings. As her first full-length work since the successful ‘Final Savage Land’ (2013/2014), I sincerely hope to see more work from Cummings soon.


Photo of Julia Sasso, by Lyon Smith.