'París-Santiago:' Oui, Sí, Oui!

Gigi Caciuleanu's affinity for Paris, Santiago and Los Jaivas' phenomenal "trans-continental" music inspired the Chilean choreographer to create the oeuvre "Paris-Santiago," a spectacular modern ballet with live musical accompaniment by the Chilean folk-rock group, which was performed March 27 and 28 in Santiago's Estación Mapocho.

Santiago Chile Paris Santiago
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

The performance (see photos) is a celebration of how dance and music defy borders and illustrates the creative bridge between the two cities. The scenes do not take place literally in Paris or Santiago, as Caciuleanu explains in the playbill, but the piece is a "poetic and imaginary journey" built from "metaphors, sensations and everything that only dance and music can 'say.' "

Santiago Chile Paris Santiago
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

The dance pieces vary in themes, commonly love and humor, and these are what unite the two cities, Caciuleanu says. However, some pieces focus more on sadness or anxiety, such as the dance number composed to the song "Los caminos que se abren" (The paths that open). Three dancers begin the number wearing red schoolbags and dancing joltingly as if in a frantic state. Then a girl with four long braids appears and begins to shake and jitter at the front of the stage. Her shaking turns into a convulsion, like a severe seizure, until she abruptly stops and begins to fix her hair. Next a female dancer in a white nightgown appears and starts a violent pas de deux with a male dancer with incorporated movements that seem to be half dance, half enraged domestic dispute.

Santiago Chile Paris Santiago
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

The two-hour performance felt like watching life unfold, with constant surprises in the various themes of the songs and dance alike. While some moments within the piece display violence and suffering as described, the next moment would expose a mirage of two people in love or sometimes more humorous, surreal images. One dance contains the image of a man endlessly spinning a woman in a long red gown upside-down over his head, and in the next moment people are carried sideways like statues.

Santiago Chile Paris Santiago
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

Many of the dances also use humorous images such as a woman holding a pink plastic ball in her hand, dancing like a temptress, and smiling at the audience as if saying, "Come and get it," or dancers jumping and doing flips over tables as though it were a summertime campsite game. However, plenty of images seem purely dreamlike and abstract, such as when a dancer is raised standing on the shoulders of two other dancers and proceeds to walk on his two human stilts.

Santiago Chile Paris Santiago
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

The audience was most enthusiastic about Los Jaivas, a Chilean group that began its musical journey in 1963 and moved to France for a stretch of time. The performance brought about some of the group's oldest singles, such as "Mira Niñita" (Look, girl) and "Los Caminos que se Abren" (The paths that open), along with the more recent "Hijos de la Tierra" (Children of the earth) and "En el Tren a Paysandú" (On the train to Paysandú). Popular singles began with a small cheer from the audience and only stopped because it may have felt out of context to cheer wholeheartedly at a ballet performance.

Santiago Chile Paris Santiago
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

However, after the first encore at the end of the night the crowd was unleashed and free to dance by the stage or, in one case, attempt to give the members of Los Jaivas an old guitar while they performed a graceful bow with the dancers and Caciuleanu. One man even jumped onstage during the bow in pursuit of what seemed to be an autograph, and was most certainly representative of the unbridled energy and enthusiasm within the crowd.

The only reason there was not a third encore or standing ovation seemed to be for fear that the dancers would pass out from exhaustion after their quivering legs had spectators holding their breath a bit during intricate lifts.

Despite the shaky legs, the dancers expressed the true language of dance and music as though it were pulsing though their veins and keeping them alive.

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