Review: Karatara- who by fire and who should we say is calling- Figure Of 8 Dance Collective’s award winning dance theatre production

Karatara– dance theatre- presented by Figure Of 8 Dance Collective

Where: Baxter Golden Arrow Theatre
When: September 20-24, 2022
Cast: Dean Dorvan Balie, Grant Van Ster and Shaun Oelf
Director/designer: Gideon Lombard
Writers: Shaun Oelf and Wilken Calitz

“Dear All…” How does one process and grief and loss? Figure Of 8 Dance Collective’s Karatara is an intense evocation of the devastating fires in 2018 in, Knysna.  There was loss of lives and homes, land. Within the personal and political wreckage, deep ruptures were foregrounded in terms of the racial and social divides in the community. The media fed off the blaze. Fire can be mesmerising, drawing one’s gaze into the flames. People stop and stare.  Karatara is not powered by a blaze or ring of flames. It is shrouded and wrapped in layers of dark, punctuated by shots of light and torch lights, shredded by bits of recordings from the media; knots of words, bodies rolling and somersaulting into each other, piercing and shrieking of whistles. And who should we say is calling? Dear All? Who is listening?

Immersed in the outpouring of outrage and grief as conveyed by the performers, I was reminded of Leonard Cohen’s lament of a song, Who By Fire (off his 1974 album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony). It is Cohen’s riff off the seminal prayer/poem Unetanneh Tokef, chanted on Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement. Unetanneh Tokef,  is a piyut – a Jewish liturgical poem and the translation- Let us speak of the awesomeness– is supposedly meant to signal that no matter what, we should be in awe for a higher power who has a plan. For me, the poem/prayer and Cohen’s take on it heightens the randomness of death and destruction and the unfairness of fire, war, hurricanes, poverty, destruction by acts of nature, wilful destruction and complacency and duplicity by bystanders who could help but don’t; those who walk away and don’t heed the call for help. Who is listening and who should we say is calling, in the desperation and confusion, when one is plunged into darkness – physical and emotional?

Yom Kippur is coming up soon [October 4-5, 2022] and Karatara resonated with me, deeply: The arbitrariness of disasters – like fire- which often strike the most vulnerable – who are may become muted by grief and cannot find words to call out. The performers stumble over sounding out -Karatara. Sounds are muffled and come out as grunts and this amplified by the thumping of the figures in space – and then utter stillness- and silence

Karatara, premiered this year [2022], at the KKNK (Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees) and won the Best Debut Production award. It was nominated for Best Theatre production, Best Director and Best Theatre Design. This powerful piece of dance theatre, has a short run at the Baxter- in the Golden Arrow Studio- until Saturday- September 24.

No words: Karatara– Figure Of 8 Dance Collective’s award winning production. Pics by Lindsey Appolis.

✳ Images by Lindsey Appolis.