Jo Tomalin

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Cal Performances Wang Ramirez 5 Frank Szafinski E1519613460782

Company Wang Ramirez: Borderline – Vibrant Fusion!

Above: Pictured: Company Wang Ramirez performs Borderline Saturday–Sunday, February 24–25, 2018 in Zellerbach Hall. (credit: Frank Szafinski)

Pictured: Company Wang Ramirez performs Borderline Saturday–Sunday, February 24–25, 2018 in Zellerbach Hall.
(credit: Frank Szafinski)

Review by Jo Tomalin

Vibrant Fusion of Hip-hop and Aerial Dance!

Award winning international dance troupe, Company Wang Ramirez, presented Borderline, produced by Cal Performances, February 24-25, 2018 at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, as part of the innovative Berkeley RADICAL Blurring Boundaries programming strand. Company Wang Ramirez is co-directed and co-choreographed by Korean-German dancer Honji Wang, influenced by hip-hop, ballet and martial arts, and French-Spanish dancer Sébastien Ramirez, influenced by hip-hop and specializes in aerial work and choreographic rigging.

Five performers move and dance quickly changing shapes and places based on choreography of abstract break dance with aerial lifts and creative use of rigging.  It’s intriguing visual and physical storytelling influenced by Greek and Korean Mythology and includes spoken testimonies set to fascinating electronic music.

First, the clever use of rigging and bungees to fly, pull and contort the humans into super humans as they do remarkable things in space, within, on and around a cube, which becomes magical, defying gravity. Next, several sections of solos, duos and trios include understated choreography, which build into outstanding visceral, innovative movement. A female dancer does a robotic dance with fluid joints, two dancers lean on each other, counterbalance and turn slowly. Two other dancers bounce on bungees, change places, always in contact with hand, shoulder or back. A solo expresses struggle, quirky extended movement with deep backward leaning and nervous quick emotive moves. Conflict arises when ownership of a newly created space is fought over. The movement quality of all dancers is outstanding.

A powerful voiceover by Sébastien Ramirez, the father of co-choreographer Ramirez, speaks about democracy and society, while dancers move, bounce, interact dynamically and then the mood becomes playful and forgiving. Through conflict, fascinating and unpredictable situations Borderline is a melting pot of humanity.

The set design by Paul Bauer comprises a large tubular cube suspended in the air and lowered manually in sight of the audience – by a performer in a black suit, like a mysterious puppet master – it’s very creative in its simplicity, but interesting and complex in use. Later there are two cubes, which are moved around the stage and become different locations – urban, social and ethereal.

Rhythmic electronic music composed by percussionist Jean-Philippe Barrios aka lacrymoboy, is vital to create this other world inhabited by the company. The stage is often in dramatic muted tones or pin point lighting on one person, with light design by Cyril Mulon. With costume realization by Anna Ramirez.

Borderline is an exciting performance combining dance, theatre, abstracted break dance, music, artistic aerial choreography and meaningful text about community, conflict and freedom.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
Member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
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