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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Carmen Aguirre’s Broken Tailbone opens Boca del Lupo’s new female-led series

Series will also include Donna-Michelle St. Bernard’s Social Docent in April and Michelle Trush’s Inner Elder in May

Over the next three months, multi-disciplinary theatre presenter Boca del Lupo will feature a trio of works by female artists.

“As one of few racialized female presenters in the country, I’m thrilled to be programming our series of remarkable artists, centring women creators from across Canada whose intercultural and Indigenous art engages your mind and opens your heart,” says Boca del Lupo artistic director and series curator Sherry J Yoon in a media release.

In April comes Social Docent, an immersive experience created and moderated by playwright and social activist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Taking place at the Museum of Vancouver, audiences are encouraged to ask a diverse cast of culture guides questions that may “change how we see each other.” 

In May, Michell Trush’s Inner Elder features the Gemini Award-winning Cree artist in a blend of Bouffon and Indigenous clowning. In this one-person show, Trush shares her experiences as a young Indigenous girl navigating a difficult world guided by the spiritual presence of her grandmothers.

Kicking off the series in March though is Carmen Aguirre’s Broken Tailbone. Literally designed to bring audiences to their feet, in Broken Tailbone Aguirre will lead an extended salsa dance lesson interwoven with stories of intimacy, politics, culture and the forgotten origins of the salsa.

In this Q&A with the playwright and performer, we find out more.

This interview has been edited.

Tell us about Broken Tailbone.

Broken Tailbone is an extended Latin American dance lesson. In it, I share fifteen carefully curated songs with the audience. Each song has deep meaning for me and therefore serves as a springboard to tell a story attached to that song.

The show tells the history of Latinx dance halls in Canada, the history of the dances themselves, Latin American geopolitical history through a Marxist lens because I am a leftist, the history of Latinx migration to Canada, and my own personal stories that have happened in the dance halls.

Broken Tailbone is, at the core, about love. Love for community, love for music, love for ourselves and our bodies in motion, love for the dance floor, where anybody and everybody is welcome and accepted and celebrated for who they are and what they bring to the floor.

How has the show evolved since you first workshopped it and how important are public workshops in the creation of a show like this?

It’s safe to say that the show has probably evolved quite a bit since then. Public workshops are crucial for any show, because, as we know, the most important character in a play is the audience. It is imperative to try out each draft with an audience because so much is learned through audience response.

In a case like this one, where the audience is on its feet, learning a dance form while listening to stories, it was really important to get their feedback. The show is structured in such a way that the audience never feels overwhelmed or inadequate with the movement that is being thrown at them. It was key to find that balance through public workshops.

You always seem to be working, including having just finished Anywhere But Here at the Playhouse. How do you do it?

I have a very strong community of friends that have absolutely nothing to do with the theatre. So when I’m on a break, I am truly on a break. I don’t talk theatre with my friends and community, and I consider that part of my life my real life, as opposed to my theatre life. This balance is what keeps me healthy and able to do the work. I also sleep a lot, dance a lot, exercise regularly, and have had a meditation practise for over twenty years.

What does it mean to you to be a part of the three-play series by racialized women?

It means a great deal to be in the company of women I admire so much. As a person who’s been in the business for thirty years and an outspoken advocate for racialized communities within the theatre community, it is always an honour to represent racialized women and to be a part of something that celebrates us.

What do you hope audiences will take away with them after seeing Broken Tailbone?

Fun fun fun! Community community community!

Broken Tailbone plays Performance Works on Granville Island on March 11-14. Social Docent will play the Museum of Vancouver on April 1-4 and Inner Elder returns to Performance Works on April 29-May 2. Visit for tickets and information.

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