The American Dance Festival, known for bringing the best dancers in the world to audiences in Durham, hasn’t disappointed this season; and the most recent reason for celebrating the beauty of telling stories through dance is the stunning Company Wang Ramirez. The company stunned audiences last year and were invited back to offer another performance that blends the best of international dance. To say they proved to have a second act is an understatement. DPAC’s audience, primarily made up of dance aficionados, sat on the edges of their seats throughout the performance, and literally held their breath during the thrilling finale.
The show, entitled Borderline, opens with dramatic lighting highlighting a single figure in black walking across the stage to adjust a floating, lighted cube. The audience’s attention is immediately riveted.
Mystery is built, and the beginnings of a story is constructed when two females on tethers stretch toward the box in slow motion. The scene feels very sci-fi, and the struggle to reach the goal becomes a story of partnership and struggle, frustration and determination. Control. They can go just so far on the tethers. But, finally, one of the women makes it into the box and dresses herself in a kimono, taking on the accoutrements of another culture.
The background music by Jean-Philippe Barrios, a.k.a. Lacrymoboy, changes to a chant, and an introductory dance that seems a blend of crump and funk with Japanese metaphors and contemporary overtones begins. It’s a fascinating hybrid that underlines the external struggle becoming the cultural, then turning to the internal. The women’s control is strong, their movements sharp, concise.
Their relationship becomes even more symbiotic when the dance opens up to include two males jointed at the shoulder, relying on each other as they move as one across the stage. Depending on balance and partnership, the dance makes you hear and feel the sounds of wind as if this couple is conducting their strange balancing dance on the roof of a moving train.
Each portion of the performance is a discovery of the talents of the choreographers and dancers that are Wang Ramirez. The international company consists of French dancers Sébastien Ramirez and Mehdi Baki; German dancers Honji Wang, Louis Becker, and rigger Kai Gaedtke; and American dancer Christine Joy Alpuerto Ritter. Though they are all versed in hip hop, each of these world-renowned dancers also has classical training; and it shows on stage.
The production is based on themes of manipulation, constraint, and the meaning of democracy. The material for such a dance of politics is as old as government itself, yet as fresh as though the company listened to the previous evening’s news reports and choreographed them into a brilliant, funny journey of pain and discovery.
One of the lightest periods of the evening came when two females performed a stilted, very-high-heel dance that was often clumsy and awkwardly funny. The audience found great delight in the parody of how women are forced to dress and the resulting damage that’s done to their bodies as a result of the abnormal positions into which their bodies are forced.
The evening is a short one, a performance without intermission, but it’s stellar. Brilliant. Worthy of inspiring every person in the audience who’s ever thought of being a dancer. And even though the evening is short, each of the dancers offers a gift to the audience that showcases his or her own particular talent; and that 10 minutes is worth the price of admission.
Bravo, Wang Ramirez! We hope you return every year to the American Dance Festival.
SECOND OPINION: July 23rd Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: https://thefivepointsstar.com/2016/07/23/adf-puts-company-wang-ramirez-and-its-wow-factor-on-the-big-stage/; July 23rd Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Susan Broili: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/dance-review-company-wang-ramirez-borderline/article_d839727e-510a-11e6-8845-33ccf79acda7.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); and July 20th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Michaela Dwyer: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/company-wang-ramirez/Event?oid=5051035.
COMPANY WANG RAMIREZ (American Dance Festival, July 22 and 23 at the Durham Performing Arts Center).
SHOW: http://www.americandancefestival.org/performance/2016-2/company-wang-ramirez/ and http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/company-wang-ramirez.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://vimeo.com/companywangramirez.
PRESENTER: http://www.americandancefestival.org/, https://www.facebook.com/AmerDanceFest, https://twitter.com/AmerDanceFest, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dance_Festival.
VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
Borderline (2013 dance piece): http://www.wangramirez.com/en/work/borderline (official web page).
Company Wang Ramirez (the dance troupe of Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez): http://www.wangramirez.com/en/news (official website), https://www.facebook.com/WangRamirez (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/wang_ramirez (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Ramirez (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.