When Borderline premiered in France in 2013, the country was on the brink of legalizing same-sex marriage — a move that the minister of justice at the time, Christiane Taubira, hailed as “a reform of society … and civilization.” In the dance world, Company Wang Ramirez was leading a reformation of its own, defying categorization in an effort to distill movement down to a somatic form of activism. Hip-hop, aerial dance, and martial arts intersected in deliberations over societal themes of class and conformity, freedom, and repression.
Five years later, Borderline’s relevance endures, and on Saturday night at The Granada Theater, audiences were treated to the genius of choreographers Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez for the Santa Barbara debut of their international sensation. Through the use of two imposing metal cubes, Wang and Ramirez — along with artists Louis Becker, Johanna Faye, and Saïdo Lehlouh — took turns configuring structural metaphors of isolationism and tribal behavior that echoed a certain F. Scott Fitzgerald novel (“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life”).
When Faye and Wang stepped out in towering heels, their torsos arched back in deliciously absurdist fashion as they knocked out a dazzling hip-hop sequence, their message of adaptation instantly resonating. When moments of weightless clarity were represented through the company’s astute harness work but manipulated by an unconcealed Alister Mazzotti, you believed them just the same. Company Wang Ramirez’s strength lies in its keen ability to make the superhuman at once relatable and motivating, a daunting feat that inspired a standing ovation from a captivated audience.