Tag Archives: Contemporary dance

The Debut of Canada’s RUBBERBANDance Group Brings with it a Unique Blend of Hip Hop and Contemporary Dance Styles

Vic's Mix photo 1 - Credit Bill Hebert

RUBBERBANDance Group in “Vic’s Mix”. Photo by Bill Hebert.

By Steve Sucato

One of the early pioneers of the seamless blending of hip hop dance styles and those of contemporary dance, Victor Quijada’s Montreal-based RUBBERBANDance Group has, the past decade or so, been creating the future of dance while waiting for the dance world to slowly catch up to that future.

Presented by DANCECleveland and Tri-C Performing Arts, the critically acclaimed company will make its Ohio debut on Saturday, November 9 at Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre for one performance only.

Born and raised in Los Angeles to Mexican parents (his father a foundry worker and his mother a factory worker), Quijada found his way to dance at age 8 through b-boying circles and hip-hop clubs. Formal training in other dance styles followed with Quijada becoming a member of LA’s Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble. His career as a professional dancer took off in the late 1990’s when he joined Twyla Tharp’s dance company THARP! and continued in stints with Eliot Feld’s Ballets Tech and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. His choreographic career came with the founding RUBBERBAND in 2002.

In a 2013 article for The Scotsman, Quijada said he is the product of “the culture I grew up in, the respect and wonder I have for art, the professional career I had in those high caliber classical and contemporary dance companies, and the interface between those places… If one of those things had been missing, it wouldn’t have led me here.”

Along with starting RUBBERBAND as an experiment in the movement blending of what he calls “the two poles that inhabit him,” Quijada conceived a technique for dancers he calls the RUBBERBAND Method that “combines the energy of hip hop, the refinement of classical ballet, and the angular quality of contemporary dance.”

Vic's Mix photo 14 - Credit Bill Hebert

RUBBERBANDance Group in “Vic’s Mix”. Photo by Bill Hebert.

That signature technique will be seen in full force in the company’s presentation of Vic’s Mix (2016), a retrospective and remix show that Quijada says he revises and remounts every 5-years and samples some of what he feels is his best bits of choreography from some 40 creations he has made for RUBBERBAND and other dance companies. Saturday’s 75-minute Vic’s Mix program will spans works from 2002-2013.

“It’s a look back on things that are still relevant to me and a chance for me to re-appropriate my own works that I have made for other companies,” said Quijada on the phone from Montreal.

Set to a soundtrack by various composers including original music from longtime company collaborator Jasper Gahunia, Vic’s Mix is delivered in 2 acts. Act 1 covers excerpts from Quijada’s early creations from 2002-2005 performed in sneakers. It will give audiences a taste of Quijada’s evolution as a choreographer and his use of the RUBBERBAND Method. Included in the act will be “The Traviattle” (2003) set to Giuseppe Verdi’s “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from the opera La traviata, a piece Quijada originally choreographed as part of his evening-length work Metabolism that has become an audience favorite.

Act 2 revisits excerpts from works made between 2008-2013 including “Second Coming,” a piece Quijada made for Scottish Dance Theatre in (2012). The aptly named work followed Quijada’s very first commission outside of RUBBERBAND, 2003’s “Self Observation Without Judgement” for Scottish Dance Theatre that earned the United Kingdom’s Peter Darrell Choreographic Award. Also a part of act 2 will be an excerpt from 2008’s Punto Ciego, inspired by the nonlinear approaches of author Milan Kundera and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.

Vic's Mix photo 8 - Credit Bill Hebert

RUBBERBANDance Group in “Vic’s Mix”. Photo by Bill Hebert.

Vic’s Mix will be performed by RUBBERBAND’s 8-member company who are all steeped in the RUBBERBAND Method after intense training.

“Time here with RUBBERBAND kind of passes like dog years,” says Quijada. “The amount of change and growth in one year for a dancer is enough for 7-years.”

And while Saturday’s program will be RUBBERBAND’s area debut, Quijada’s work has been seen here before with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s performance of his “Physikal Linguistiks” in 2010 presented by DANCECleveland.  And the RUBBERBAND Method’s influences were seen recently in former company member James Gregg’s work “éveillé” (2018) for GroundWorks DanceTheater.

With Vic’s Mix Quijada says audiences will experience those things that drove the creation of his works in the first place: “human interactions, intimacy and connection, comedy and the feelings of highs and lows.”

RUBBERBANDance Group performs Vic’s Mix, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, November 9; Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre, 1511 Euclid Ave., Downtown, Cleveland. Tickets are $25-50. For tickets and information visit playhousesquare.org or call (216) 241-6000.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.






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Another strong outing for Point Park’s ‘Contemporary Choreographers’ showcase

Randy Duncan's "Journey". Photo by Jeff Swensen.

Randy Duncan’s “Journey”. Photo by Jeff Swensen.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

One thing I have learned over a decade of reviewing Point Park University‘s Conservatory Dance Company’s shows is that they rarely contain a dull moment. The 2013 version of CDC’s annual Contemporary Choreographers program, this past Saturday, was no different.

Fate brought former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre soloist Terence Marling back to Pittsburgh — or at least the subject did. Of his new work “Fatum Inflictum,” created for the CDC, Marling says: “The basic image to start was a door with Fate on the other side.” Marling fittingly set the comedic contemporary dance work to the first movement of Beethoven’s familiar Symphony No. 5 in C minor (sometimes referred to as “Fate”). Wearing T-shirts, shorts, striped knee socks and Marilyn Manson-style eye makeup, 20 dancers looking like a zombie gym class ran amok. Crouched like wrestlers and ready to foam at the mouth, the wild-eyed dancers stomped about, fell to the floor and, led by dancer Carlos Jimenez, grunted and shouted at each other in some unintelligible language. A raucous romp, Marling’s wonderfully crafted work blended a frat-party spirit with fine acting and dancing.

Pittsburgh native and recent MacArthur “genius award” recipient Kyle Abraham‘s “Continuous Relation” set a different tone. Danced to static-infused electronic music by Finnish duo Pan Sonic, the abstract work for 15 dancers utilized Abraham’s signature fusion of stylized modern dance and hip-hop movement. The latter style looked more comfortable for some CDC dancers than others, but Nile Ruff was one standout; sweeping head moves, the elongating of limbs, and sharp turns flowed nicely from her. Also notable was the intense dancing of Schuyler Whittemore and Kelly Ramis.

Randy Duncan's "Journey". Photo by Jeff Swensen.

Randy Duncan’s “Journey”. Photo by Jeff Swensen.

The evening’s most technically polished and adroitly danced work was Brian Enos’ “Whip.” Set to atmospheric world music, the work began with its six dancers piled atop each other like corpses. The dancers arose one by one to drift into beautifully spaced and sharply interwoven choreography laced with rapid turns, lifts and whipping dance moves. Led by the spitfire solo dancing of Vanessa Guinto, the cast performed exquisitely.

The program closed with Randy Duncan’s “Journey.” The large group work fused traditional African dance movement with contemporary styles in a crowd-pleasing piece that, like Doug Brush’s music for it, built in intensity to a climactic ending.

Conservatory Dance Company’s Contemporary Choreographers continues through Sun., Nov. 24. George Rowland White Performance Studio, 201 Wood St., Downtown. $7-20. 412-392-8000 or pittsburghplayhouse.com

This review originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper November 20, 2013. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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Pittsburgh’s acclaimed newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival Biggest Yet

Choreography by Abigail Zbikowski is featured in the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. Photo by Nick Fancher.

Choreography by Abigail Zbikowski is featured in the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. Photo by Nick Fancher.

By Steve Sucato

When Kelly-Strayhorn Theater Executive Director Janera Solomon was putting together the theater’s inaugural newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, in 2009, few dance artists outside of Pittsburgh had heard of the theater. Now, in its fifth year, the annual festival and the theater are becoming known nationally. That led to a record 40 emerging-choreographer applicants from around the country seeking to take part.

“This was supposed to be the year the festival got smaller,” says Solomon. Instead, this year’s event will be the biggest yet, with nightly performances of works from 18 different dancemakers hailing from Pittsburgh and beyond. There will also be parties, artist talks, workshops and studio visits. Moreover, the theater will co-present the premiere of Nina Sarnelle and Scott Andrews’ interactive theater work group, with two performances on Sat., Oct. 5, at The Alloy Studios in partnership with VIA Festival. The work (which CP previewed in its Sept. 18 issue) draws upon conventions of team-building exercises, self-help seminars and group therapy.

Here’s the lineup for each of the festival’s three 75-minute main-stage programs:

Program A: Thu., Oct. 3. “I think of the piece as a journey from concealing to revealing the self/identity,” says New York-based Marya Wethers of her latest work, “(w)hole, again” (2013). The 20-minute solo is performed mostly in silence, with Wethers making sounds as she dances.

KST Hear/Now series alum Abigail Zbikowski (Columbus) says of her new eight-minute duet, “Guttural Fling,” that it is “working with a reckless movement vocabulary.” Set to music by The Reatards, the duet taps into a punk aesthetic and seeks to balance extreme physicality with conceptual thinking.

Originally created in 2005, Philadelphia-based Megan Mazarick’s “Love-joy diver” is a duet for her and hip-hop dancer Les Rivera. For newMoves, says Mazarick, the work has been re-imagined to focus “on the intersection of ‘us’ as artists, people, archetypes, and moving bodies.”

Also on the program will be former August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble dancer Annalee Traylor with her duet “Blue,” about emotional loss, and a work-in-progress excerpt from Pittsburgh-based choreographer Staycee Pearl’s hip-hop infused “Encryption Cipher Variations”.

Katie Rose McLaughlin's "Fun Molly"  highlights Program B of  the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. Photo by Matia Baranova.

Katie Rose McLaughlin’s “Fun Molly” highlights Program B on Fri., Oct. 4 as part of the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. Photo by Matia Baranova.

Program B: Fri., Oct. 4. A 2011 festival participant, New York-based choreographer Katie Rose McLaughlin, returns with her new duet, “Fun Molly.” Named after a friend’s poodle, the 15-minute work-in-progress set to toe-tapping pop music “is an exploration of the casual, non-performative action of being extremely virtuosic at something commonplace (think bartender, butcher),” says McLaughlin.

Also returning from 2011 is New York-based dancer/choreographer Mana Kawamura with the premiere of her seven-minute duet “Cloud,” which revisits childhood imaginings about clouds.

Rounding out the program are an excerpt from Pittsburgher Shana Simmons’ “Dancing Solo,” with clarinet music by Libby Larsen; an excerpt from State College-based Pennsylvania Dance Theatre director Andre Koslowski’s “Wiegenlied” (lullaby), a work about loneliness and decay; Gia Cacalano — a recent “Brazzy” Award-winner as outstanding Pittsburgh dancer — in her new solo, “Still Life 2013,” performed in the theater’s lobby; and New York choreographer Samantha Speis’ “The Way It Was and Now,” about internalized racial oppression.

Program C: Sat., Oct. 5. In “Connotations: unknown, Part one” (excerpt), emerging choreographer Alexandra Bodnarchuk, of Pittsburgh, draws on experiences gleaned as a performer in Bricolage Productions’ 2012 theater piece Strata, in which she portrayed “the last girl left at prom” in brief, partly improvised one-on-one encounters with a stream of audience members. Five dancers seek to recapture the visual aesthetic of that experience, as they are briefly glimpsed dancing in and out of spotlights.

In New York-based dancer/choreographer Gierre Godley’s seven-minute male duet “3 breaths,” Godley touches on personal experiences dealing with love, birth and death.

Set to an original score by Los Angeles composer Jules Gimbrone, “This room this braid,” from New York-based Devynn Emory, is a 15-minute work-in-progress duet influenced by the history of set design in dance.

Dancer/Choreographer Samantha Spies will perform "The Way It Was and Now" on Fri., Oct. 4 as part of Program B of the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Dancer/Choreographer Samantha Spies will perform “The Way It Was and Now” on Fri., Oct. 4 as part of Program B of the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Also on the program are “Back to Black,” a work by Pittsburgh-based Anthony Williams, inspired by his personal experiences with identity, color and the human condition; Pittsburgh-based Jasmine Hearn’s ritualistic solo “mama, am I clean yet?”; and newly formed Pittsburgh troupe Reed Dance in “Chaos,” a work inspired by the 13th-century Latin hymn the “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath).

newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival – 7:30 p.m. nightly, Thu., Oct. 3; Fri., Oct. 4; and Sat., Oct 5., (Pre-show mixers 6:30-7:30 p.m. nightly); Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $10-20 (festival pass: $45). 412-363-3000 or kelly-strayhorn.org.

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper October 2, 2013. Copyright Steve Sucato

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