She is German-Korean and grew up with ballet. He is Franco-Spanish and comes from the world of hip-hop. The result is Wang Ramirez, and the mesmerizing artistic alliance of a team that has been dancing and choreographing together for years. Harnessing their contrasts, the pair has built a bold body of work on a harmonious fusion of styles. Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez talk about the balance they have achieved and how well they complement each other.
The joy and pain of a creating duo
The Wang Ramirez Company they created in 2007 has led them to produce shows like AP15, Borderline, Everyness, mixing hip-hop and other styles. After so many years, the duo is surprisingly candid about the challenges of artists working together. “When it comes to my artistic work Sébastien says, I really enjoy connecting with Honji; I find it much more enriching. We do learn more from one another but it doesn’t mean we do absolutely everything together. Working creatively together can also be challenging because we have different ideas and approaches. Both of us express ourselves differently and there is a need to respect our partner’s vision and give the other the space they need”. Honji agrees. “Indeed, it’s a challenge to keep our own space in this equation. I think we create well together because at the end, we both know when to admit what works best. Our goal is to create emotions and we can feel when something works. I can’t imagine for a single minute working on my own. He brings something else to the table and it creates a momentum in my own creativity. For me, it’s not work, it’s a lifestyle, what we do together is so intense. It has helped us evolve as individuals, artists and as a couple too”.
Balancing personalities and creation
The formula seems to work though and the dancers-choreographers have collected multiple awards from all over the world. They even collaborated with Madonna during her Rebel Hear Tour in 2015, an impressive tour de force that doesn’t seem to faze Sébastien who viewed it more as a competition. Whether they work with musician Nitin Sawhney or create their own show, each holds a particular part in the collaboration. “I rely a lot on feelings and instinct. When we start a project, I can’t plan ahead and I can be very elusive. Honji does a lot of research and she talks a lot about her ideas. I am more pragmatic and she is a dreamer. Yet, when to it comes to our creative process, she is the one who focuses on performance and costume aesthetics. I appreciate her ability to steer people because she has lots of references. I create more in the instinct of the moment. I don’t pay attention to what’s outside; I focus on the inside” explains Sébastien. Honji admits that she is more inspired by “small concepts like playing with a table or bouncing. I also have images in my head. Before I find an idea, I can spend hours talking with a composer. Then I want to share everything with him, but I know it disrupts his creative process. I guess Sébastien is more technical and I am more interested in the stage craft but he searches for emotions too, through the power of movements”.
Sharing the stage
Born in Frankfurt, Honji received classical training at Frankfurt Conservatory before discovering hip-hop then modern dance. Raised in Perpignan in the South of France, Sébastien was France’s break dance champion in 2007. They both share a passion for martial arts but like their creative process, their dancing styles differ. Sébastien points out: “Honji is very animal, feline with a very sharp aesthetic. She is like fire and earth. When I dance with her, her electrical energy is such that it is sometimes hard to manage. I like being calm. Sometimes I try to hold her so she can feel what I want to do but she just goes her own way”. Honji agrees: “On stage, I feel like I’m fighting, I have this urgency to take things as far as I can. Sébastien is like air and water. He embodies poetry in movement and his physicality is always silent. When he dances, he doesn’t make a sound. It gives a magical touch of lightness to his performance ”.
What the future holds
Wang Ramirez keeps dancing around the world and their schedule is filled with exciting projects. “In February, we will dance a duo of principal dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet at the Château de Versailles to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Paris Charter against cancer. In March, we’ll premier our new dance piece with the GöteborgsOperans in Sweden before creating performative installations at the Torinodanza festival in Turin. In any case, we always warn people that we are two brains so we will move into two directions. It’s not always easy to work with us, but that’s what makes us singular”.
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