Review: WAG/Waiting- includes insights from interview with Grant van Ster
Performers: Grant Van Ster and Shaun Oelf (Figure of 8 Dance Collective), Dustin Jannetjies and Gabriela Dirkse
Set design: Carin Bester – with assistance of Sam Phiri
Lighting design: Benever Arendse
Music and soundscape design: Shaun Oelf
Production manager: Marie Vogts
Producer: Figure of 8 Dance Collective in association with the Baxter Theatre Centre
Show duration: 50 minutes
Dates: November 27 to December 7, 2019. Tuesdays – Fridays: 8.15pm. Saturdays: 4pm and 8.15pm
Tickets: R100 and R80 (students, seniors and groups of 10+)
Booking: Webtickets, https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/default.aspx or at Pick n’ Pay
This is a return season of WAG|Waiting. The piece premiered in July 2019 at the Baxter and captivated audiences and here it is with season 2. It is thrilling dance theatre with exhilarating dance, stirring music and soundscape – framed by an installation of chairs which evokes for me, elements of the surreal and surrealist landscapes.
The chair installation reminds me of the famous 1931 painting by Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory. The Dali painting is studded with clocks- wilting, soft; hard; rooted in the landscape; static, metamorphosing- suggesting that they could become airborne. Clocks are potent images – tick-tock- charting and measuring the passage of time and waiting. In WAG/Waiting; waiting is vividly images through a physically, visually and aurally heightened engagement with the notion of waiting. Chairs are used as multi-nuanced prompts, props and objects. A clock on the wall charges the sense of wait/waiting and that resonates for me against the Dali painting.
The genesis of WAG|Waiting goes back to a short piece that Figure of 8 Dance Collective presented at Darkroom Contemporary in 2016 as part of its Unfinished initiative/platform. Van Ster: “We created a 10 minute piece titled WAG and realised that there is so much more to explore about this theme. We then debuted a full length production this year (2019) in July at the Baxter”.
Van Ster: “Each and every one of us is confronted by the various stages of waiting at some point in our lives. People handle and respond to situations differently. In today’s fast-paced and highly charged world, waiting also teaches us patience and in some cases, tolerance. However, waiting can often lead to stress, a cartwheel of emotions and exhausting situations that we bring upon ourselves. If we stood still for a moment, waiting, we could also find joy.”
It is a theme with which everyone can relate and offers opportunity to explore a variety of emotions that waiting evokes. A narrative is always extremely important to us and the theme WAG also led us to a solid narrative of waiting throughout light and also ensured that we incorporate a bit of other genres into the piece. Hints of acting, there are quite a few comical scenes and the theme just brought out realness and vulnerability.”
Van Ster: “A chair is one of the most obvious items that one relates to the theme of waiting. We had an incredible set designer, Carin Bester, who made an entire chair installation which forms an integral part of the piece. The different chairs gives it character because we find ourselves sitting on different kinds of chairs when we wait and that tells a story already, in a way. Then you add the body on top and you’re sitting with a whole novel.”
In WAG|Waiting, there are those that wait and those that are being watched by those waiting. Plot-spoiler alert: In the opening scene, we see figures – exhibiting jerky gestures. They seem mute. It could possibly be an asylum or jail. The figures could be attempting to be birthed. They are agitated and locked in to the state of waiting for something. The chairs are unoccupied in this segment and I had a sense that the agitated figures were being watched by unidentified people in the chairs – nameless – possibly figures of threat who are voyeurs to the figures in motion. The drama of the opening is offset against humorous and comical interludes – chairs are being flung about and used as platforms by what appears to be a troupe of acrobats, tumblers or clowns. They are having fun and finding joy in the act of waiting.
In a later scene, we have an enactment reminiscent of waiting at Home Affairs in that never ending line. In the fabulous voice over (created by Oelf), we hear grumbles of the fact that this waiting is ridiculous; “been waiting for hours”. This we can laugh at and empathise with and relate to. The scene powerfully conjures up the sense of the long distance trek of waiting – for good, bad, the essential (obtaining an identity book, registering a new baby etc.) and routine (queuing at the supermarket).
WAG|Waiting is a deeply engaging piece- reflective, creepy, elegiac, comical and utterly captivating.
About Figure of 8 Dance Collective
✔ Figure of 8 Dance Collective is based in Cape Town. It was established in 2014, by choreographers and performers. Grant van Ster and Shaun Oelf.
✔ Grant Van Ster and Shaun Oelf are at the core of the company. Other artists are brought on board, on a project-to-project basis. Marie Vogts is company manager. The company is in its 5th year [as of 2019].
✔ The dance company has become known for its signature edgy, creative imagery and physical language vocabulary. Van Ster and Oelf have transcended the concept of choreography as an add-on. They present original dance-theatre- not dance shows. Their dance-theatre pieces are conceptualised around stories, engagement with contemporary issues, concerns and images. Their work is infused with a theatrical and thrilling use of performance space. Design (lighting, sound, set, costume) is an intrinsic and integral to their work and not merely used as a backdrop to the physical movement.
✔ Figure of 8 Dance Collective has worked collectively and independently with renowned and innovative South African and international choreographers/dance theatre companies. They actively work with the language of dance and theatre to inspire youth “to become more self-aware, to rise above and have the freedom to dream.”
✔ Figure of 8 Dance Collective highlights include Infecting the City Public Arts Festival, Afrovibes in Amsterdam, Cape Town Fringe Festival, Vrygrond Festival and US Woordfees. They were involved with The Baxter Theatre Centre collaborations with Swedish company, Scenkonst Sörmland: I Hit the Ground Running in 2013, Struck Silent in 2014 and Adagio For A Hacked Life in 2016.
✔ Figure of 8 Dance Collective has performed at the Baxter’s annual Dance Festival. Oelf was part of the cast of Lara Foot’s award-winning Fishers of Hope and Van Ster was choreographer. In the last two years [2018, 2019]. They have worked as a choreography duo on musicals such as Calling us Home and David Kramer’s Danger in the Dark.
✔ In 2019, Figure of 8 Dance Collective launched its outreach programme FO8 Roots in collaboration with Eerste River High School and also taking part in Kunste Onbeperk’s Teksmark Initiative.
✔ The company’s repertoire includes five touring productions. These shows are very much available for festivals and other theatre and dance events.
✔ Van Ster and Oelf perform and choreograph as solo artists but ultimately their work is bundled under the axis of Figure of 8.
Theatre/travel ✈ advisory- Figure of 8 Dance Collective- 2019/2020
On December 11 and 12, 2019, Figure of 8 Dance Collective is hosting its annual studio concert, Dance Alive at Youngblood Arts and Culture Development, Bree Street, Cape Town https://youngblood-africa.com/
Figure of 8 Dance Collective – end of 2019 and 2020: Marc Lottering’s Aunty Merle: It’s a Girl (Baxter, November 22 2019 to February 1, 2020), David Kramer’s Danger in the Dark (March 2020 at the Baxter).