RAMANENJANA

performance | 60 minutes | 2022
DESCRIPTION

1863. Antananarivo. Thousands of people enter the city dancing in a hallucinatory way to the magnetic music of the drums. They can keep dancing for days without getting tired, in a powerful mental state that is difficult to define, performing impossible acrobatics and tensing their bodies in improvised movements. It is rumored that they have red eyes and that they want to convey the message of a mother to her son through their rigid movements.

In the general agitation, they are labeled sick, possessed, exploited, mad, pathologically empathetic, and unnatural. The dancers are called Ramanenjana and go down in history as a group of people who were part of a choreomania, a mysterious mass dance, often called the «dance epidemic». It is unknown exactly how the disease that causes them to dance is transmitted. It is rumored to be contagious due to superstitions, the sound of music, exaggerated sympathy, or even mosquitoes.

Two months later, the «epidemic» comes to an abrupt halt as the political regime changes and European influence on the island diminishes.

1896. France annexes Madagascar. Ramanenjana floods the city again.

CONCEPT

Ramanenjana is a docufiction performance about a dance that made history, literally. In Malagasy, Ramanenjana means something that makes you rigid, but also something that makes you strong. In southern Madagascar, Ramanenjana can also mean respect for «manenjana», meaning respect for those who dance tensely. The show critically discusses several versions of the same historical event, questioning the role of dance in society. Working closely with ethnomusicologist and musician Olombelo Ricky, choreographers Simona Deaconescu (RO), Gaby Saranouffi (MG/SA), and their team of three performers humorously explore different visions of this complex event, with text, gesture, movement, and sound.

In Ramanenjana, three languages ​​are spoken, and contradictory testimonies about dance, disease, and revolution are commented on. Combining performative and multimedia elements, reality and fiction, archive documents, and contemporary testimonies, the show takes place in a relaxed setting, open to debate and discussion. The process of making the show becomes a subject in itself, inseparably related to the personal experience of its creators.

PROCESS

Ramanenjana is a co-production of Tangaj Collective, Forecast, and CNDB – The National Centre for Dance in Bucharest, produced following the selection of artist Simona Deaconescu as Forecast Mentee, mentored by French choreographer Mathilde Monnier and her nomination as Associate Artist of CNDB in 2022. The show benefited from an artistic residency at PACT Zollverein (Essen, DE) and a work-stay residency in Antananarivo, organized by Forecast in collaboration with the French Institute in Madagascar and the Goethe-Zentrum Madagascar. The Romanian choreographer has invited dance artist and cultural activist Gaby Saranouffi to co-create the show together in 2021.

During their one-year research and investigation, the two makers of Ramanenjana discovered that this phenomenon first took place in 1863 in several regions of Madagascar. This mass dance has been described in historical documents as a “choreomania”, a type of mass hysteria, in which more than 20,000 people danced with supernatural resistance from February to May. Their dance has been characterized as unnatural and dangerous, putting the body under extreme physical and mental stress. The contagious nature of the dance remained an intricate mystery for those who researched it.

Multiple historical sources, mainly from the island’s first colonial missionaries, believe that this mass performative action contributed to the overthrow of the ruling political regime, which was in favor of the European colonization of the island. On the other hand, the same sources state that it is inconceivable for a social rebellion to be the source of mass dancing. Ramanenjana is a phenomenon of astonishing complexity, which brings together the characteristics of an epidemic and the context of a revolution through dance, overlapping and contradicting each other.

In the oral culture of Madagascar, Ramanenjana is considered to be “tsindrimandry” (a premonition that appears in a dream), on the delicate border between a healing ritual (Bilo) and a trance (Tromba). Ramanenjana appeared in southern Madagascar, where it may still be performed today, as an obligation the young generation has in front of their ancestors to defend the island’s independence and autonomy. Simona Deaconescu and Gaby Saranouffi see Ramanenjana as a non-violent political resistance movement with a concrete performative character. For them, Ramanenjana is a most contemporary phenomenon that deserves to be explored in order to better understand the role of art in a society in crisis.

MAKERS

Concept and choreography Simona Deaconescu, Gaby Saranouffi

Dramaturgy Simona Deaconescu

Performers Haja Saranouffi, Simona Dabija, Maria Luiza Dimulescu

Music Olombelo Ricky

Costume design Cristina Milea

Mentor Mathilde Monnier

Video Simona Deaconescu, Cristian Pascariu, Carmen Tofeni

Graphic design Victor Bartis 

Created following discussions with Olombelo Ricky, Michel Razafiarivony, Ray Amandreny Benoit Randrianasolo, Serge Henri Rodin, Domoina Ratsara, Guide Sebastian

Based on fictionalized texts written by Andrew Davidson, William Ellis, Marc Finaz, Andrianjanfy, G. H. Stagg, Pierre de Vaissière

PREMIERE

9 April 2022  -> Radialsystem, Forecast Festival (Berlin, DE)

14,15 April 2022  -> The National Centre for Dance (Bucharest, RO)

PARTNERS AND SPONSORS

Ramanenjana is a cultural project produced by Tangaj Collective Association, in co-production with The National Centre for Dance in Bucharest and Forecast, co-financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund. The project does not necessarily represent the position of the Administration of the National Cultural Fund. AFCN is not responsible for the content of the project or how the results of the project may be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary of the funding.

Ramanenjana is supported by Goethe-Institut Bukarest, The French Institute in Romania, The Romanian Cultural Institute, The French Institute in South Africa, /SAC @ MALMAISON, Grizzly Film, and developed in partnership with The French Institute in Madagascar, Goethe-Zentrum Antananarivo, I’TROTA International Dance Festival, JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. The project is sponsored by AST PANZARIU, GAFCO CONSTRUCT, COSMAN GROUP, MIRA-COM, STRUCTURAL VISION, BIG CONF, BOLD IMPEX, FABIO BEST EASY ENGINEERING, LOZNA CONSTRUCT. 

Ramanenjana beneficiated from a residency at PACT Zollverein.