DANCE EPIDEMIC | CHOREOMANIA or POLITICAL DANCE
- Free entry
On April 13, the conference held by Simona Deaconescu, CNDB associate artist in 2022, takes place at UNATC, within the project “The body in crisis”. The choreographer will hold a conference for the students of the choreography department, and on this occasion, she will present to the students her extensive research on the lesser known historical phenomena, called “choreomanias” or “dance epidemics”. The conference precedes the premiere of her new work, Ramanenjana, on April 14 and 15 at the National Center for Dance Bucharest.
Two years ago, choreographer Simona Deaconescu began researching a series of obscure historical events called “choreomanias”, “dance epidemics,” or “dance mania.”
Studying various archival documents, the choreographer learned that dancing became “a contagious disease” when it was danced by hundreds or thousands of people in the same geographic region, for long periods of time, lasting from several days to a few months. In addition, the “manic dance” had to be involuntary and uncontrollable in nature, causing the dancers to enter a state of deep trance and gain supernatural bodily endurance. In almost all historical accounts, the dancers’ movements are described as acrobatic, in close connection with the music, repetitive and frightening.
In Europe we have information about at least ten such phenomena, which took place between 1100 and 1700. Similar events have occurred in Africa and South America, some of which have sporadic manifestations even today. On closer inspection, these phenomena were in most cases preceded by destabilizing political changes or natural disasters, which caused a massive crisis in the communities in which they occurred. Moreover, epidemics such as the Black Death and the English sweating sickness (Europe) or malaria (Africa) decimated entire communities, especially among the poor.
The consequences of “choreomanias” that came to be categorized as “dance epidemics” have varied in intensity, but in most cases have destabilized social and political hierarchies. Even if they were called mysterious hysteria or frightening demonic possessions, these events can be studied as the “choreographies of unrest” – as Kélina Gotman, a professor of cultural theory, who wrote a book on choreomanias published by Oxford Press, named them in 2018.
During the conference, Simona Deaconescu will talk about “The Dance of Saint John” (Dance Epidemic on the Rhine River, 1374), “The Dance of Saint Vitus” (Dance Epidemic of Strasbourg, 1518) and “Ramanenjana” (Dance Epidemic of Madagascar, 1863). The choreographer will question the similarities and differences between the three events and contextualize how this involuntary mass dance changed the lives of the communities in which it was performed.
Simona Deaconescu’s interest in this subject appeared in 2020, when she created “Choreomaniacs”, a show that humorously combines documentary and fictional elements about the Dance Epidemic in Strabourg. “Choreomaniacs” is part of the Aerowaves Twenty22 program and will be presented in Greece, Croatia and Slovenia.
In 2021, Simona Deaconescu began researching “Ramanenjana”, an alleged “dance mania” performed by over 20,000 people in 1863 and 1896 in several regions of Madagascar. In 2022, she creates a choreographic project with the same name, under the mentorship of Mathilde Monnier, as a Forecast Mentee. In February and March, Simona Deaconescu leaves for Madagascar to connect with the community of Antananarivo and to find out the local story of the event. In April, the choreographer will present “Ramanenjana” at Radialsystem in Berlin and at the National Center for Dance Bucharest, and also in Madagascar, South Africa and Mozambique in the fall.
Also in 2022, Simona Deaconescu becomes a resident of the German program Tanzrecherche NRW, with a scholarship offered by NRW Kultur Sekretariat. Thus, in August, Simona Deaconescu will retrace the route of the dancers of the epidemic around the river Rhine from 1374, in search of new information about one of the biggest events of this type in Europe.
Simona Deaconescu works interdisciplinary, at the border between performance, installation and film, examining social constructs, between fiction and reality, sometimes with irony and black humor.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s studies at the choreography department of the National University of Theater and Film in Bucharest.
She received the danceWEB scholarship in Vienna (2014), the National Center for Dance Bucharest Award (2016), was nominated as an Aerowaves Artist in 2018 and 2022 and as Springboard Danse Montréal Emerging Choreographer in 2019.
For the last two years, she has been a resident artist in the European projects Moving Digits and Biofrictioni, and in 2021 she became Forecast Mentee, under the mentorship of the French choreographer Mathilde Monnier.
Her works have been selected and presented on dance and theater stages, cinemas, galleries, museums and architectural sites, reaching audiences in Europe, North and South America.
In 2014, she founded Tangaj Collective, and since 2015 she has been the co-founder and artistic director of the Bucharest International Dance Film Festival.
DANCE EPIDEMIC | CHOREOMANIA or POLITICAL DANCE is an event organised within the program “Simona Deaconescu – associate artist CNDB”, as part of the project “The body in crisis – research and creation residencies in dance”
Administration of the National Cultural Fund
The project does not necessarily represent the position of The Administration of the National Cultural Fund. The Administration of the National Cultural Fund is not responsible for the content of the project or the manner in which the results of the project may be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the funding recipient.