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.
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.