The Work-Stay: Antananarivo and Bucharest

Simona Deaconescu Traces a Dance Epidemic

Choreographer Simona Deaconescu and her mentor Mathilde Monnier got together in Bucharest in late March to finetune the performance Ramanenjana, which explores the 1863 “dance epidemic“ in Madagascar. Before meeting in Bucharest, Deaconescu and her dancers spent a nearly month-long work-stay in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

There, in addition to rehearsing the performance and presenting a work in progress to a Malagasy audience, Deaconescu also delved deeper into additional research. She interviewed artists, historians, and ethnomusicologists, including Ray Amandreny Benoit Randrianasolo and Olombelo Ricky, on the origins and meaning of Ramanenjana, historically and in today's cultural tradition.

The performance Ramanenjana, developed in collaboration with Malagasy choreographer and activist Gaby Saranouffi, melds historical and contemporary testimonies and embodied gestures, overlaying Western and local narratives to address biased history-telling.

Simona Deaconescu with Ray Amandreny Benoit Randrianasolo. Photo: TangalaMamy, ©Forecast 2022

Described by colonial missionaries as a contagious disease that affected thousands and ended the reign of King Radama II, Ramanenjana, according to Malagasy oral history, started as a spiritual pilgrimage aimed to send an alarming message to the king from his late queen mother. It was the rebellious outcome of a political crisis caused by the spread of Christianity. The piece recontextualizes dance as a means of peaceful protest, reclaiming identity, and finding healing as a community.

The work will be performed at the Forecast Festival on Saturday, April 9.

On April 8, Deaconescu will give a guided improvisation workshop based on her practice of deconstructing rhythms. As a warm-up for her piece Ramanenjana, the session will be enhanced by the sonic universe of Malagasy music guru Olombelo Ricky, introducing fast-paced rhythms from different regions in Madagascar.

Editing: Hannah Dörr, Sound Mix: Simon Peter. ©Forecast 2022

The work-stay in Madagascar took place in collaboration with Goethe-Zentrum Antananarivo/CGM and the Institut Français de Madagascar

The work-stay in Bucharest took place in collaboration with National Center of Dance Bucharest (CNDB) and Institut Français de Roumanie, and was also supported by Institut Français de Roumanie