RAMANENJANA – from research to the stage
- Lecture and talk with Simona Deaconescu and Mathilde Monnier
- Free entry
For a month, choreographer Simona Deaconescu researched the Ramanenjana phenomenon in Antananarivo, Madagascar, during a work-stay supported by Forecast Berlin, in partnership with the French Institute Madagascar and the Goethe-Zentrum Antananarivo. Returning to Bucharest, Simona Deaconescu works under the mentorship of French choreographer Mathilde Monnier at CNDB – The National Centre for Dance in Bucharest for the creation of a new show which will premiere on April 9th, at radyalsistem in Berlin, and on April 14th and 15th, the CNDB.
The choreographer’s project addresses a little-known event that began in 1863 in southern Madagascar, spreading like a pilgrimage or procession to Antananarivo. Ramanenjana has been described in historical documents as a “choreomania” or “dance epidemic” in which more than 20,000 people danced with supernatural resistance from February to May. Their dance has been described as unnatural and dangerous, putting the body in a state of extreme physical and mental strain.
The contagious nature of the dance remained a mystery to those who researched it. The spread of this dance is explained either by the relationship of interdependence with music, by a pathological empathy between dancers, or as a moral contagion animated by superstitions. On the other hand, some researchers explain the dance and the contamination process based on biological factors such as vitamin and mineral deficiency, malaria-carrying parasites, or a type of nervous system disease.
Wanting to discover the local history of the event, during her stay in Madagascar, Simona Deaconescu conducted a series of interviews with ethnomusicologist Olombelo Ricky, anthropologist Michel Razafiarivony, professors Ray Amandreny Benoit Randrianasolo and Serge Henri Rodin, cultural journalist Domoina Ratsara, and other people she met during her residency. She learned that talking about Ramanenjana in Madagascar nowadays is a challenge.
For much of the Malagasy people, Ramanenjana is a tsindrimandry – a premonition, state of mind, and rare ritual. Placed somewhere in the middle between Bilo (healing ritual) and Tromba (trance), Ramanejana is an obligation through which the ancestors ask the new generations to defend the country’s independence. Ramanenjana appeared in the history of Madagascar when the country’s autonomy was threatened as a form of non-violent resistance with a solid performative character.
During the lecture, Simona Deaconescu, accompanied by her mentor Mathilde Monnier, will discuss Ramanenjana as an event in which dance and music were used as a means of resistance against the island’s colonization. In this sense, the two artists will approach the Ramanenajana phenomenon as a possible way to study politically and socially engaged dance and the challenges of exploring such a subject on stage in the current international context. Also, Simona Deaconescu and Mathilde Monnier will talk about how the mentoring process developed the project in unexpected directions – from the discovery of new research paths in archival documents to the exploration of a type of language developed under the umbrella “Unlimited Gestures”, the category mentored by Mathilde Monnier within Forecast, at the staging of Simona Deaconescu’s artistic and research approaches.
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.
Mathilde Monnier is a choreographer, dancer and performer, an artist that occupies a referential place in the landscape of French and international contemporary dance. With each of her creations she defies audience expectations through a continuous renewal of aesthetic and artistic means.
She has created over 40 choreographic pieces performed on major international stages, from the Festival d’Avignon to the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, passing through New York, Vienna, Berlin, London and has received several awards for his work (Ministry of Culture Award , SACD Grand Prize).
Mathilde Monnier has collaborated in her artistic projects with many personalities such as the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, the writer Christine Angot, the performer La Ribot, the composer and conductor Heiner Goebbels.
In parallel with her artistic activity, Mathilde Monnier coordinated, for 30 years, some of the most important structures dedicated to dance in France: the National Choreographic Center of Montpellier between 1994 and 2013 (currently Institut Choregraphique International-Center Choregraphique National, and since 2014 CN D – National Dance Center Pantin / Paris.
In 2019, the song Please Please Please, created by Mathide Monnier in collaboration with La Ribot & Tiago Rodiguez, marks her return to artistic activity, dedicating herself entirely to it. Since 2020 Mathilde Monnier has been living with her company at Halle Tropisme in Montpellier.
Mathide Monnier was part of the artistic cooperation program La danse en Voyage – held in Romania between 1990-1991 -, through which performances were presented, workshops were organized for young Romanian choreographers and offered artistic residencies in France, the program having an extremely important impact in coagulating contemporary dance scenes from Romania.
In 2012 Mathilde Monner returns to Romania with the show Gustavia, created and performed together with La Ribot, a show presented in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca.
Tangaj Collective Association, in co-production with the National Centre for Dance in Bucharest and Forecast
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.
An event organized with the support of The French Institute in Bucharest.
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.
Participation in the event is free and based on the registration in this form.
The event will take place in English.