June in Centre National de la Danse Pantin, I enter an empty stage with the audience murmuring on four sides. The intimate ambience bonds us like a family, longing for a blackout moment to travel into gr oo ve, the first creation by Soa Ratsifandrihana. When the light comes back, she debuts in one dim corner. Full silence. Her slow and delicate movements hold our breath even longer.
Her futuristic manga-like dress portrays her like a warrior, and my imagination paints a dark background of midnight forest. She starts practising a few postures, later becoming recurrent, such as “sword” holding, and a double-D backbend. Are these her fighting skills? Gradually, we hear her breath, then radio interference sounds, followed by the music. From then on, beats continue and evolve, every change synchronising with her walk or groove. Side after side she occupies the square, and our heartbeats speed up along with her accelerating moves.
When she removes her black jacket and hands it over to someone in the first row, the audience is tuned into the same wavelength as her bright-coloured T-shirt. Ratsifandrihana invites us to feel the movement with her sincere eye contact and my heart starts rhyming. Music keeps going up and the audience cannot only hear the vibes but also literally feel the shaking floor when she hits it. And her final spinning reminds us of De Keersmaeker, for whom she currently dances.
gr oo ve is contagiously enchanting: a travel tunnel co-created by the choreographer and the two composers, Alban Murenzi and Sylvain Darrifourcq. As we move further into the tunnel, the music becomes closer and the space larger. In this first creation, the intimate ambience and her variety of grooves travels us back to her family’s living room where she initiated her love for dance: jazz, disco, funk, to name a few. I discovered Ratsifandrihana’s spotless technique in the recent revival of De Keersmaeker’s 40-year-old Fase, and in gr oo ve, I discover her energy and soul. It feels like just the start for this talented choreographer.