Live, Loud and Lewd: La Carcelaria, el Sonido de la Jaula

If watching half-naked girls gyrate in a cage is your thing, you’ll know that it normally costs a hell of a lot more than 3,000 pesos. But dance-theatre company Zanda’s production of La Carcelaria, el Sonido de la Jaula, which showed at Centro Cultural Matucana 100 throughout May, was a veritable feast of lace lingerie, lewd longing and lythe limbs at a bargain price.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

Based loosely on the work of Chilean historian Gabriel Salazar and the story of a shooting, the piece sought to depict the lives of the poor who moved to Santiago at the turn of the century in search of a better life. There was the victim, his wife and his lover, along with a host of barflies, who all looked for the answers to their problems at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. The story centered on a brothel/bar and showed the inevitable messy consequences of alcoholism, exploitation and wild love triangles.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

La Carcelaria, el Sonido de la Jaula (see photos) was a frenetic, non-stop riot of colour, noise and movement with a hip-hop soundtrack and gritty live music, performed onstage by Inti Gonzalez of Los Trukeros and Francisca Keller. The choreography was dynamic — performers were literally behind bars, and audio-visuals flickered on screens both on and off stage. However, the show lacked subtlety and a change of pace. It was rather like watching the dance equivalent of heavy metal, with the amps turned to 11 and never letting up.

Despite the chaos, dancer Alexandra Mabes’ performance stood out. Mabes played “La Guacha Rubia” (the blonde chick); an innocent child born into a life of abuse and alcohol who in turn becomes an arrogant and aggressive boss, spitting orders at her staff. Her movements had a fluidity the other dancers lacked and it was only her that truly captured the idea of being trapped within her life, pacing the floor of the cage like an angry lioness holed up in a zoo.

Contemporary dance has to tell its stories through the bodies of the dancers rather than through dialogue. There were moments of brilliance here, particularly from Mabes and Keller, but ultimately the piece failed due to the company’s decision to use actors rather than dancers in some of the roles. Their movements were too stiff and amateurish to be convincing, which detracted from the excellent choreography and design. It’s a shame, because as a piece of theatre this story would have worked a treat.

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