DANCE MEETS IMPROV IN NEW AGUIRRE SHOW
Broken Tailbone brings politics and history onto the floor as well
Carmen Aguirre’s latest show is built around a dance lesson. In collaboration with Toronto dramaturge company Nightswimming, the Vancouver-based writer/performer takes audiences on a hipswaying journey that includes historical context, geopolitical lessons, personal anecdotes (including an NSFW story involving the title injury) and dance moves. Postmedia News talked to Aguirre about the show. Q: Did you have to do any research for Broken Tailbone? A: I know all of this because I’ve been dancing salsa since I was a kid. My parents were the ones who started the first Latinx (a non-gender-specific term instead of Latino or Latina) dance hall in 1974. So it’s part of my life basically. During the ’70s, every month there would be a Latinx dance there to raise funds for political prisoners and disappeared people in Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship. We would play cumbia, a type of dance from Colombia, and after speeches and documentaries it would turn into an actual dance hall even though we weren’t calling it that at the time. Q: So there’s no script, but story points that you hit on in each show? A: Basically we know exactly what we want to hit with every song. The part that’s improv is that I’m actually teaching a dance lesson. I use the audience as much as I can. I’m going into the audience and interacting with them. So depending on what they do, what they say, how they interact with me, that is all improvised. Q: You’ve taken this show to Los Angeles. What was that like? A: The audience was completely different than the audience we’ll have in Canada. There’s a lot of political content in the show. My work is unabashedly left wing. Sometimes in the audience there were, for example, Cuban-Americans who had a problem with my political opinion. Because the audience can talk to me, they would talk back. They would question what I was saying. It was exciting. As a performer, it keeps you on your toes. Q: Have you been surprised or impressed by the audience’s ability to learn these steps? A: It’s always very moving to me when people are willing to make themselves vulnerable. Most people don’t know how to do these dances and they’re willing to stand there on the dance floor and go for it and risk perhaps looking silly. Audiences are willing to go wherever you lead them if they feel safe. People who have come and who had promised themselves they weren’t going to dance, they danced. The feedback we’ve gotten has been that it’s very different to listen to stories when you are actually standing there and moving your body. You take in the story in a very different way than if you were sitting in an audience and just listening to someone. Q: Had you ever taught salsa before this? A: No. But I’m an actor. Lots of actor training is movement based. You are the instrument, your body is the instrument to tell a story. I know how to teach because I taught acting for many years. So it’s not that I don’t know how to impart information and teach people something, I do have that skill.