Tag Archives: Jasper Gahunia

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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For Pittsburgh Debut, LA’s BODYTRAFFIC Presents a Program of Distinct Choreographic Voices


BODYTRAFFIC by Rory Doyle-8

BODYTRAFFIC dancer. Photo by Rory Doyle

By Steve Sucato

Now a decade in, Los Angeles-based BODYTRAFFIC continues to make in-roads to becoming one of nation’s premiere contemporary dance companies.  While still not a household name even among dance aficionados, the company’s growing success has company co-founder/artistic director Tina Finkelman Berkett feeling a bit more added pressure because of that success.

“You wish for success, then success comes and everyone has this idea that it comes easy,” says Finkelman Berkett. “But it just keeps getting harder and harder because you have to keep living up to new demands and expectations.”

A full-time company dancer, BODYTRAFFIC’s head of development as well as its co-artistic director, Finkelman Berkett wears a lot of hats which she says these days can be a bit daunting but stimulating. “I think part of why I love our company so much because it continues to be challenging for me and I get to rise to those occasions. The ups and downs “are like this sick beautiful cycle.”

As part of the company’s current busy tour schedule, BODYTRAFFIC will make is Pittsburgh debut to close out the Pittsburgh Dance Council‘s 2017-18 season this Saturday, April 14 at Downtown’s Byham Theater. The company will present four repertory works beginning with Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s “Dust”(2015).

BODYTRAFFIC Dust-461-Photo-Sharen Bradford

BODYTRAFFIC in Hofesh Shechter’s “Dust”. Photo by Sharen Bradford.

Described as “a dark look at the power and commercialism that steer today’s society,” the 22-minute multimedia work set to a subliminal-message-infused score by Shechter says Finkelman Berkett “Is built on a number of concepts that have to do with cult-like behavior. You see us doing sometimes ritualistic movements and standing in formations that convey that we are being driven by a force that is greater than our own minds.”

In choosing choreographers to work with the company such as Shechter, Finkelman Berkett’s counterpart Lillian Rose Barbeito said in an article in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, “We scour the world, looking for distinct voices.”

Some of those other distinct choreographic voices that have made works for the company include Andrea Miller, Barak Marshall, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano and Pittsburgh-native Kyle Abraham.

“Lillian and I really didn’t know each other when we started BODYTRAFFIC,” Finkelman Berkett. “We basically were two dancers that wanted to present a certain kind of work in LA [Los Angeles].  We joke now that it is unbelievable how lucky we are that all these years later we pretty much have always agreed on dancers and choreographers; we have such similar tastes.”

Where the two differ however is Finkelman Berkett, a former competition dancer in Long Island, grew-up “really liking the light, comedic stuff” where Barbeito likes to “push audiences more” says Finkelman Berkett. “There is a certain part of me that just loves to offer the audience something that they can really walk out smiling with.” Choreographer Richard Siegal’s “o2Joy” (2012) is one of those works.  The 17-minute lighthearted and playful work is an expression of exuberance set to an American jazz score featuring music by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.  Describing it as bordering on being cheesy, Finkelman Berkett says one can’t deny how physically challenging and interesting “o2Joy” is.

ChristopherDuggan-Gotham-BODYTRAFFIC-o2Joy 1

Richard Siegal’s “o2Joy”. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Also on the program will be Joshua L. Peugh’s 15-minute “A Trick of the Light” (2015) inspired by the rare “green flash” phenomenon that occurs just before the sun disappears from view at sunset, and Victor Quijada’s 2014 work “Once Again Before You Go.”  (Side Note: Point Park’s Conservatory Dance Company will premiere Peugh’s new “Black Balloons,” April 19-22 at the University’s George Rowland White Performance Studio)

To teach BODYTRAFFIC’s dancers his very specific “RUBBERBAND Method” of moving which combines urban, contemporary and classical principles, Quijada came a month prior to creating the work. The resulting 20-minute piece set to original music by film composer Jasper Gahunia says Finkelman Berkett, is about a woman (danced by her) that is being pursued by several individuals and ends up connecting with one in a duet that ends the piece.

BODYTRAFFIC performs 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14 at the Byham Theater, 101 6th St., $10-60, (412) 456-6666 or trustarts.org. 

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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