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Onstage journey in search of identity

A tango-inspired scene from Cram.
A tango-inspired scene from Cram.
A tango-inspired scene from Cram.
By Victoria Eandi
Herald staff

In Cram, music, movement and drama develop simultaneously through improvisation

Before and after shows in Europe, the Kambras company has continued to offer more performances of their latest work in Buenos Aires, Cram, created, directed and produced by Argentine-South African Gonzalo Orihuela.

Kambras was founded in 2005 by Solange Chapperon, Gonzalo Orihuela and Julián Rodríguez Orihuela. They are a group of artists from different fields who use their creations of theatre, dance and video to break with the clichés of tango. Even if this genre is strongly present in their performances, it is not necessarily the central theme.

In the case of Cram, the title speaks for itself if you’re looking for its core focus. In the hand programme, they offer the different meanings of the word “Cram” in different languages. In English: “to retreat into small limited spaces.” In this project, the company gave it the specific connotation of “living in a single geographic space, a single language, a single religion or a single family.” In German, “Krämer” means “a small-time trader,” so they defined themselves as “artists who roam the world ‘selling’ their craft.” In Swedish, “Krama” means “embrace,” and the artists thus outline that “they embrace what they belong to.”

Not only do the cast hail from various artistic background, they’re also of different nationalities and, despite most being Argentine, they speak different languages onstage. The piece is structured into seemingly autonomous scenes that eventually prove to be connected by the same topic — which is the notion of rambling through life looking for one’s own home — or, in other words, searching for one’s own identity. That identity is related to the life of any artist — but also with whom and how the fleeting characters appearing in each scene want to walk their way through life.

The company explains the creative process and the ideas behind Cram: “From musical improvisations, dance and writings have emerged landscapes, sounds, train stations, cities, borders, the desire to change and the desire to remain the same. The doors we never passed through, appeared once again. Habits, lines, and images of the people we never became, all returned. Who are we, if there is such a thing? Walking out into the world of others with their realities hunting us like hounds. Finding ourselves, adapting, wanting to belong, repeating and discovering. The uncertainty along with the ability to rebuild and start again, lives in these characters…dwells in us.”

There are four dancers/musicians onstage — Juan Fossati, Natalia Fures, Pablo Rodríguez (Argentina) and Mayumi Urgino (US-Philippines); a dancer who is also the choreography assistant — Solange Chapperon (Argentina); actor, singer and musical coordinator Julián Rodríguez Orihuela (Argentina), and a guest artist — the bassist Julian Hahn (Germany).

It is worth highlighting that in Cram the music, movement and drama are developed simultaneously through improvisations. And its distinctive feature is that each cast member does not limit his or herself to one role and instead takes on a bit of everything.

Based on the artistic style of the performance, each cast member composes ephemeral characters, uncannily like the people we briefly meet when we ourselves are travelling through life. They stand behind a microphone — not only to sing but also to tell the audience stories about themselves or just share situations or reflections. Those reflections can have a sentimental feel, but are also funny and nonsensical — like a monologue in French that uses the commonplace words Argentine people would usually resort to in order to pretend they are speaking French. What’s more, there are some short non-verbal dramatic situations developed through physical interactions between the performers.

Cram is defined by its creators as a dance-theatre piece. And indeed, the tango choreographies — splendidly performed by the dancers — are interwoven with theatrical touches. There is also a “dialogue” held with pop culture and with contemporary dance, reminiscent of the aesthetics of Pina Bausch’s work. Cram also manages to “cram” in an almightily show of skill involving all the performers as a means of conveying the essence of the life of each and any artist. In fact, the performers go back to the very origins of performing arts, when things were much simpler, and when actors were also dancers, musicians, singers, acrobats and so on. Indeed, since those actors were nomads who earned their living travelling from one town to another; that itinerancy was part of their identity.

The members of the Kambras team describe themselves as “dancers who make music,” as “dancing musicians” and as “musicians who act.” They say call this the show’s “basis.”

“Tango is the cornerstone of the choreography but we also borrow the essence of its origins, which blends the melancholy and sadness experienced by expats anywhere. Cosmopolitan and nomadic, the characters wander into a melange that exists between the mechanical and the fluid. As any dancer who wants to be seen — or as any musician who needs to be heard — the characters will be revealing their colour, their features, demonstrating perhaps a deeper need to belong, to be liked and to be loved as a strategy to avoid loneliness.”

As suggested by a reappearing suitcase and the mobile platform where the show’s musicians are located for the entirety of the performance, Cram is a true journey through beautiful images and sounds, as well as through dreamlike and playful atmospheres which lead the viewers to ponder their own identities, their own personal voyages and their own stories about meeting and sharing experiences with people of other cultures. There are very few performances to go, so don’t miss out!

When and where

Cram is performed on Tuesdays at 8.30pm, at Teatro del Abasto, Humahuaca 3549.

@victoriaeandi

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