By Carmen Aguirre. Directed by Brian Quirt. A Nightswimming production. At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Wednesday, February 14. Continues until February 24
After opening night of Broken Tailbone, there needs to be a new collective noun for approximately 100 Vancouverites trying to twerk. A vigour? An effort? A delight? Yes, a delight! Carmen Aguirre’s wildly inventive, thought-provoking, sexy new show pays tribute to Latin-American dance halls everywhere with a 75-minute dance lesson through the movement, music, and history of South American oppression and resistance.
At the start of the show, Aguirre teases that Broken Tailbone isn't just a title, but something she experienced, and we, the audience, need to earn the story. It's amazing, Aguirre's amazing, and to say more would spoil the reveal.
Aguirre has previously drawn on her incredible personal experiences, both on-stage and in print, and in Broken Tailbone, she continues to fuse elements of the biographical with the historical. Aguirre arrived in Vancouver as a child with her parents, all of them Chilean refugees. She recalls how her father managed to bring some of his records with them when they fled, and the makeshift dance halls her family helped re-create in Vancouver. Aguirre, a kid, was basically belly-button height, and would prowl the dance floor, watching hips with careful eyes to figure out which couples were having affairs.
Aguirre spends a substantial amount of Broken Tailbone rhythmically moving on a stage that butts up against the rows of seats where the audience would normally sit. The audience is standing on the makeshift dance floor—there are a few seats along the perimeter for those who need them—and while Aguirre is continuously guiding everybody through the basic moves, she’s also explaining the carefully curated track list. (DJ Don Pedro is also on-stage, played with easy charm by Pedro Chamale.) Each song relates back to the history of different Latin peoples and movements, and she also ensures that everybody understands the sacred roots of many of the dances.
About halfway through the show, Aguirre announces that there will be just one or two more political songs and “then we get to the fucking songs.” Sexuality and sex itself are integral to Broken Tailbone, and every song pulses with life. It’s visceral and sensual, and the rhythm of constant movement, of hips circling and heels digging into the earth, the pelvis as a centre of power—it’s exciting and fun to be engaged mentally and physically in this way.
It’s also thrilling to see a 50-year-old woman—Aguirre deliberately mentions her age several times—make space for her desires and needs, and articulate them so clearly.
Aguirre’s a vibrant, no-nonsense, innovative artist who beautifully and generously demonstrates the power of radical resistance through dance, music, and developing deeper connections to our bodies, broken tailbone and all.