Hip-hop in­forms the vis­ually stun­ning dance theatre of the France-based sen­sa­tion Wang Ramirez, along with bal­let, mar­tial arts, and a sense of iden­tity and cul­ture.

The French dance sen­sa­tions use aerial wires to defy grav­ity and ex­plore so­ci­ety’s Border­lines

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Janet Smith

France-based dance sen­sa­tions Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez take the idea of fu­sion much far­ther than just mix­ing styles like hip-hop, bal­let, and mar­tial arts on-stage. They live it and breathe it ev­ery day, with Wang hail­ing from Ger­many with Kore­an­im­mi­grant par­ents, and Ramirez from France, with Span­ish par­ents.

Which lan­guage do the cou­ple speak at their home in Per­pig­nan, the small south­ern town where their red-hot com­pany Wang Ramirez is based? “Fringlish!” the up­beat Ramirez an­swers, laugh­ing.

Iden­tity and cul­ture are al­ways a part of the pair’s vis­ually stun­ning ap­proach, as au­di­ences will see when Dance­house presents their work Bor­der­line here.

And Wang, who’s shar­ing the line with her part­ner in life and work from a tour stop in New York City, says those con­cerns trace back to hiphop—the scene where they first met and that still drives their work to­day.

“Hip-hop is all about ‘Who am I?’ ” Wang says. “So it was al­ways a nat­u­ral thing for us to ques­tion our­selves.”

The two say they met at a Ber­lin train­ing cen­tre for hip-hop and were im­me­di­ately at­tracted to each other’s styles.

“I’d only been do­ing it for three years, but he was al­ready at the high­est level, and it was quite im­pres­sive,” says Wang of Ramirez, a B-boy who was once a fi­nal­ist in the Red Bull BC One world com­pe­ti­tion, one of the pin­na­cles of the form.

“And I was im­pressed to see a girl be­ing so com­fort­able with the floor work, and her aes­thetic lines were in­spir­ing—i could feel some­thing fresh about that,” he adds.

To­gether, they started to cre­ate some­thing new, work that was and still is best de­scribed as dance theatre—not that they were fa­mil­iar with how that term is used in the con­tem­po­rary scene.

“We started do­ing some­thing with­out know­ing what it was; it was just a plat­form with which to ex­press our­selves,” Wang ex­plains.

“When you don’t have bound­aries, you are very free to ex­plore things,” her part­ner adds. “I think if I had known about dance theatre, it would be a very dif­fer­ent cre­ative process. There’s kind of a free­dom we had when we started.”

Bor­der­line was cre­ated with the same kind of out­sider eye, when a stunt rig­ger told Ramirez his way of mov­ing would look cool us­ing aerial wires. Ramirez loved the way it felt, and that sent him on a year and a half of train­ing, af­ter which he brought his ideas and the wires to Wang and their dancers.

He be­came fas­ci­nated with the way he could take his hip-hop–based moves, so grounded in floor work, away from the pull of grav­ity, playing with winches.

“It al­lowed us to craft beau­ti­ful pic­tures. It cre­ates po­etry,” he ex­plains. “From the be­gin­ning, we didn’t want to make magic tricks. We wanted to show the wires.”

Sim­i­larly, they didn’t want to hide the rig­ger, and started to toy with his role on-stage as he hoisted the per­form­ers up and down and sent them tum­bling through the air. And voilà, they stum­bled upon a pro­found metaphor for so­ci­ety, in which higher forces have the power to di­vide us and bring us to­gether; think chil­dren im­pris­oned at bor­der jails in the U.S. or barbed wire block­ing out refugees in Europe.

“He was ma­nip­u­lat­ing us and de­cid­ing if we go up or down,” says Wang. “So we de­cided to just go with it. He’s the pow­er­ful hand.”

Em­bel­lished with the mu­sic of French elec­tro-per­cus­sion artist lacry­moboy and a cage­like cube, sus­pended like the dancers, Bor­der­line be­came an ab­stract ex­plo­ration of im­mi­gra­tion and di­as­poric iden­tity. And like so much of Wang and Ramirez’s work, it comes from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as the chil­dren of im­mi­grants.

“I al­ways felt with my friends there were bor­ders and bound­aries. Peo­ple al­ways pro­tected some­thing, their cul­ture, their lan­guage,” Wang re­calls, in­ti­mat­ing that not speak­ing Ger­man was a huge bar­rier for her par­ents when they im­mi­grated from Korea. “It was the way we grew up, to keep dif­fer­ent cul­tures clean and clear and proper, and now to­day it is just more ex­treme. Our par­ents are work­ing-class,” she con­tin­ues, re­fer­ring to Ramirez’s par­ents as well, “so they im­mi­grated be­cause of the work sit­u­a­tion, not re­ally out of free­dom of choice. They wanted to make sure their kids have a safe sur­round­ing; it was ‘I need to feed my kids and work from morn­ing to evening to do that.’ ”

“We are al­ways aware [of these is­sues] be­cause we were born with these bor­ders around us,” Ramirez stresses.

For the past few years, Wang Ramirez has de­voted it­self to break­ing down those bor­ders. It’s criss­cross­ing the world on tour and it’s in de­mand as a col­lab­o­ra­tor on projects in Europe and Amer­ica—most fa­mously, in 2016, as the handpicked chore­o­graphic team for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour. And it feels like the adren­a­line rush of that megagig has not worn off just yet for this still-young com­pany.

“The scale of it and the pro­duc­tion—ev­ery­thing is huge,” Wang re­mem­bers.

“Ev­ery­thing is faster and big­ger,” Ramirez agrees.

They loved work­ing with the Queen of Pop, but they still feel most at home train­ing and work­ing with wires and what­ever else in­spires them in their Per­pig­nan stu­dio. “It made us re­al­ize we like to take our time,” Wang says. “To live like this I would have a heart at­tack. We re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate what we have.”

In Border­lines, pre­sented here by Dance­house, dy­namic duo Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez meld mar­tial arts, B-boy­ing, bal­let, and aerial work to cre­ate a vis­ually strik­ing piece that draws on their own ex­pe­ri­ences.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.