Company Wang Ramirez leaped across Berkeley Saturday evening with their in-the-buzz style of dance and livewire troupe. Its choreographers, Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez have risen to prominence for their unique approach to dance theater and because of their personal and creative relationship that embraces and transcends differences in ethnicity, nationality and artistic training. Wang was born in Frankfurt, Germany of Korean heritage. Her movement vernacular is an abstraction of hip hop dance influenced by martial arts and ballet training.
Ramirez was born in the south of France of Spanish heritage, to a father who had been a circus athlete in his youth. At the age of 13 Sébastien came to dance by way of gymnastics, sports, and capoeira starting his dance career as a b-boy. He is a winner of the edgy break dancing competition, Red Bull BC ONE. In 2015 Madonna indirectly helped propel their careers into the global stratosphere when Ramirez choreographed two songs for her 10th world tour, “Rebel Heart Tour.”
“Borderline” is their cross-fertilization of hip hop/breakdancing and aerial work that elevates street dance into dance theater. At times it incorporates Greek and Korean symbolism and mythology for visual metaphor to juxtapose its innovative forms of movement. Five agile performers take turns being hoisted by an aerial rigging system in various forms of rubber band movement, that lets them fly or jerk towards or away from their trajectory. When dressed in white traditional Korean gowns known as “hanbok” their movement is reminiscent of the way the martial artists of “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” sailed across rooftops and fought single combat on swaying bamboo trees. Only in “Borderline” they fly, descend, ascend or walk around an enormous see-through cube that is also at times hoisted, at others pushed, crawled up or tumbled across the dimly lit stage.
Jean-Philippe Barrios’ (aka Lacrymoboy) original and mellow, mostly acoustic score propels this hybrid dance theater that sometimes is fun and spellbinding but at other times loses steam in the transition from one part to the next. Its vocabulary and rich imagery become quickly established and effort to sustain an evening length work. This is unfortunate because it has all the right ingredients; the dancers are great at what they do, in particular Ramirez who has a glow and nimbleness to him. Fortunately, “Borderlines” ends with a beautiful romantic duet between Wang and Ramirez, as Wang floats ghostlike in her white “hanbok” around a shirtless Ramirez, dressed in street pants, after walking up the side of his body defying gravity. It is both dramatic and mythic, leaving an overall lasting and positive impression. As does the company’s curtain call, which is a no-holds-barred pure breakdancing exhibition.
David E. Moreno