The Factory Theatre Studio is transformed into a Latinx dance hall for Carmen Aguirre’s sensual and immersive Broken Tailbone. This show is both a history lesson and a dance class, held firmly together by Aguirre’s warmth and charisma. As the audience learns to salsa, she shares her own personal connection to dance, socialist resistance and sexuality.
Aguirre delves into her personal family history, her connection to political activism and to the music that holds the varied pieces of her Latin American identity together, giving them a tangible, visceral expression. She’s a fierce, carnal, charming presence. Introducing herself as la jefa (the boss), she lets us know that we are in firm, competent, and loving hands.
The dance moves she teaches the audience are simple enough. The point isn’t to make us competent dancers, but to keep us moving with focused energy and enthusiasm. There are some bursts of more intense physical activity, but they are brief and spread out between more steady, simple and soothing gyrations. As you lose yourself in the rhythm, you will sweat, I promise you. Any self-consciousness I came in with quickly dissipated in that hot, dark, vibrant space.
The physical exertion and proximity becomes intoxicating. There is a very palpable sense of the individual and communal power of shared movement. The people and places of her life become a visceral reality as we inhabit, with her, the spaces she describes. Even when Aguirre reveals painful memories, there is a fluidity and kinetic momentum that carries us through.
Aguirre and her side-kick, DJ Don Pedro, have a fun and familiar dynamic that invites you into their judgement-free atmosphere. Aguirre makes a point of letting us know that she is in her 50s, very active, proudly sexual and outspoken. She explains that the words she uses to describe people from her life—like “fat” or “black”—are not meant to be derogatory. They are terms of endearment—descriptive and celebratory.
While there are chairs off to the side for those with mobility issues, Broken Tailbone is an experience that is most fully appreciated on your feet and in constant, sweaty movement with strangers. It is certainly exhausting, but it is also transformative, using dance to tear down your defences and open you up to an informative, moving and sensual experience.
And it’s worth it, even if just to finally hear how she broke that tailbone.