Friday, March 09, 2007

Theatre: Karibu

created and performed by Teatro del Milenio

I don't usually see shows at 7 Stages, because I'm too busy working, or because I've been burned in the past. But Karibu was one of those shows I just couldn't pass up. An Afro-Peruvian piece of dance theatre, comparable to Stomp but performed in Spanish--how do you say no to that?

The first fifteen minutes or so had me worried that I was about to get burned again. But the cheesy, showboating quality of a show-within-a-show put on in a Peruvian restaurant (think Telemundo, really) only served to make the rest of the performance that much more transcendent. The waitstaff/performers became still, stared off into the distance behind the audience, and the real heart of the piece began.

This heart consisted of traditional dancing, something like what I imagine Peruvian ritual dance to have been like, before the Spaniards arrived. The dancers pounded out the rhythm with bamboo poles, whirling dangerously close to the front row. They shook palm fronds, which shed dust and dry leaf bits all over the stage.

Watching all this from the second row, close enough to smell the plant material, to breathe in the dust kicked up, I couldn't help but think about the movements in relation to the book I'm currently reading, Prayer: A History. This dance had a ritual quality to it; but more than than, it served to move me in a way other spectator events have not. The smell, the taste of the dust, the dangerous and messy quality to the whole thing--it all served to reinforce not only the idea of the dance as a demonstration of prayer, but as a very real form of praying going on at that moment. It's hard to write about, and I'm feeling tripped up in my sentences, but I'll lay it out as simply as I can: those dancers were praying for all of us in the audience, and I prayed right there with them.

My concentration was drawn mostly to the principal female dancer, who had the kind of radiant beauty that makes me think of divinity. She shone like the goddesses. And then she left the stage, reemerging in a traditional shaman outfit with a goat (?) mask. I've never seen a shamanistic dance like that in person--it absolutely blew me away. Tears, joy, the whole range of emotions, all with my heart straining towards something bigger, something beyond.

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