Canadian Tango 09

A new couple, in their thirties, struggle with cultural differences in this two-hander that mixes text with tango to tell the story of a critical time in the life of fiery Graciela, an Argentinian art curator, and John, a coolly-contained Canadian bureaucrat. Set in present-day Victoria BC, we wonder if Graciela and John will make it through their struggles. Tango, with its passionate music and intricate moves, provides the perfect metaphor for the battle of the sexes.

Starring Una Memisevic and Joel Sturrock. Written by Carmen Aguirre, directed by Lina de Guevara, and choreographed by Lynda Raino, Canadian Tango 09 was an exciting workshop production of the first draft of a play dealing with a dilemma faced by many of today’s couples.


The first “Canadian tango” was produced by PUENTE in 1991. It told the story of what happened to Latin American couples when they became immigrants in Canada. Latin American ballroom dancing: tango, bolero, mambo, waltz, mapalé, etc. was used as a metaphor of marriage. In 2009 we decided to produce “Canadian Tango 09”, a play about inter racial and intercultural relationships. We focused on Tango to express the complexities and challenges of these relationships.
The project went through the following stages:

1-     Research:
 The artistic director trained eight researchers  to conduct interviews in the community on the theme of couples in inter racial relationships. An appropriate questionnaire was devised. Eighty people were interviewed over a period of three months. The answers to the questionnaire were compiled and sent to writer Carmen Aguirre.

2-     Workshops
We conducted three workshops:  Playback, Image Theatre and Tango DemonstrationThe public who attended these workshops was aware the purpose of these events was to provide opportunity for them to participate in the development and creation of the play “Canadian Tango 09”.  Writer Carmen Aguirre was present in these occasions, observing and taking notes. An artist/photographer  documented  every occasion with photos and sketches.
12 actors (from diverse cultural backgrounds) and one musician were trained in Playback improvisation techniques by the artistic director. In a Playback presentation the audience is prompted by the facilitator to tell stories about their own experiences on the different aspects of intercultural and inter racial relationships; the actors recreate them through music, movement and improvisation.This event was well attended and appreciated by the audience as it brought out some of the  moving and humouristic aspects of these relationships.
PUENTE actors and members of the public participated in an Image Theatre workshop where images of intercultural/racial relationships where sculpted. These images lead to detailed discussions of all aspects of them.
Tango Demonstration   Participants in all the previous activities (interviews, workshops) were invited to this celebration where members of Victoria Tango community taught basic steps and demonstrated their skills.
These activities encouraged community participation and sharing of experiences. Those who took part felt invested in the process of play creation. All were invited to attend a free performance of the play.

3-     Rehearsals and production of “Canadian Tango 09”.
Writer Carmen Aguirre completed a first draft of the play. We called for auditions, gathered a production team and the play went into rehearsal. The author attended some of the rehearsals and consulted with the director and choreographer.

4-     Exhibition:
We prepared an exhibition in the lobby of the Theatre with all the materials gathered during the research process as well as photos and drawings from the workshops. Folders with the compilations of the answers to the interviews were made available, and the questionnaires, for those interested in answering them.

5-     Performances:
The performances started with an introduction by the artistic director where the process of creation of the play was explained. It was described as an Artist in the Community Collaboration process. The public was invited to further their participation by sending us feedback, by looking at the lobby exhibit and by answering the questionnaire.

This project successfully fulfilled the requirements of an Artist and  Community  Collaboration project. Because of the nature of the questionnaire and the workshops, the community participated using theatrical means, such as movement, storytelling, creation of images and metaphors, etc.  Their input was artistic and effective.
The author and other members of the creative team received from the community inspiration, information and support, as well as artistic freedom. There was no interference with their work.
After every performance a dialogue was established, and we received valuable feedback A compilation was sent to the author, director and choreographer, which they may incorporate into further versions of the play.
Mixing the story of an intercultural romantic relationship with the music and dance of tango proved to be very attractive to the audience, and an effective way of portraying the drama of a the relationship through dance as well as through acting. We noticed many young people in the audience, as well as dance practitioners and people working in multiculturalism and immigrant services. This project greatly diversified PUENTE’s public.