[FRANCE ~ AUSTRALIAN EXCLUSIVE]
Dunstan Playhouse, Fri 11 Jan.
How do you tell a love story that involves two people, four nationalities, and five languages? Through the universal language. Not math, the other one, the older one: dance.
That’s the conceit behind Monchichi, a delightful performance exhibited as part of the 2019 Adelaide French Festival. It’s the true story of boy-meets-girl as told through a series of contemporary dance pieces with a hip-hop flavour, set to a soundtrack of low-fi bedroom pop intercut with a few 1940s dance hall standers and short sketches that blend English, French, German, Korean, and Spanish.
Monchichi opens with a woman (Honji Wang, the German-born daughter of Korean parents) alone on a bare stage dressed in a loose grey tank and grey shorts. Silhouetted against the faint orange glow of the stage-backing, Wang begins to dance; movements both fluid and precise, spare and thoughtful at the centre of the stage. Then, the meet-cute: enter Sébastien Ramirez, French with Spanish origins. We are lead through a first meeting that has the flirtatious push-pull of Katherine Hepburn screwball comedy, the duo’s graceful, poppy choreography speaking as loud as words. Then, Wang dons a blonde wig and a dress and proceeds to pull a Ginger Rogers with Ramirez, who is now in a suit – doing everything that he does, but backwards, and in heels.
These exquisite movement pieces are intercut with brassy sketches of the two dancers bickering, weaving in and out of their shared languages, in the way that only couples who know each other can do. They dance the way they argue, energetic and feisty but in well-rehearsed tandem, slipping fluidly from German to English to French as they throw shoes and orbit around each other in a way that seems almost unconscious, occasionally facing the audience to share anecdotes from their relationship, framed as informative speeches on the differences between France and Germany, Spain and Korea.
The skill on show in Monchichi, in everything from the conception, the choreography, to the performance, is tremendous. Wang and Ramirez truly use their bodies to tell their story in a manner that seems lively, flirtatious, and slick all at the same time. It’s not an easy thing to make a performance as intricate as this seems both easy and charmingly raw, but Wang and Ramirez pull it off. Watching Wang very carefully totter as she puts on high heels I was reminded of how hard it is to make dance not just beautiful but also funny – and Monchichi is funny. It moves quickly, and has the light, bubbly quality of French champagne as drunk in a screwball comedy from the 1930s.
I heard someone say how nice it was to see a performance that was quite short (less than an hour), but one that transported you to another, infinitely more charming place. That’s exactly how I felt leaving the Dunstan Playhouse and walking out into the warm summer evening.
Monchichi continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 7.30pm on Sat 12 Jan.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Cover Image: Morah Geist
Artistic Direction, Conception, Choreography, Dance: Honji Wang & Sébastien Ramirez
Dramaturgy: Vincent Rafis
Composition: Ilia Koutchoukov aka Everydayz /+∞
Light design: Cyril Mulon
Set Design: Ida Ravn
Costumes: Honji Wang
Arrangement: Fabien Biron
Additional Music: Carlos Gardel, Alva Noto, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis