If you think back to grade-school music class, you may remember a few musical terms: rhythm, tempo, syncopation. If you kept up with musical interests, you may even have a few fancier terms at the ready: baroque, pianissimo, moderato. But for the sake of this article, what I’m hoping you remember are two terms that are often introduced as opposites: legato and staccato. Legato describes music that is flowing, smooth, and all the notes are connected almost without breath. On the far end of the spectrum, staccato music is percussive, characterized by short, separated notes that almost feel pointed to the ear.
If you are a fan of dance, it may be quite easy for you to take things a step further and associate the graceful moves of a prima ballerina with legato, and the quick, separate, popping movements of a breakdancer with staccato. Nothing in life is so rigidly defined, of course; ballet movements have plenty of staccato sections, allowing for fast, disjointed dances, and hip-hop can be quite musical, with connected moves like the worm, and even headspins. RUBBERBANDance Group (RBDG) blends these two opposites together in a truly unique experience that will be demonstrated tomorrow night at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Victor Quijada, co-founder of RBDG and innovator of the RUBBERBAND Method, realized (with help) that opposites don’t have to sit at two separate ends of a linear string. Quijada had been living what he considered an almost “splintered identity” while he was training for classical ballet in Montreal – mornings in the studio and late nights at hip-hop spots b-boying – until he was prompted by a peer to tie together the two ends of the wick he was burning at each. As an interview with Pentacle.org reports, Anne Plamondon, a trained dancer who sought to learn hip-hop’s movement, could tell that there were differences between Quijada’s style and her own, but needed help perfecting the movement. It was her demand to be taught, her need for the information, which led directly to the formation of the RBDG and development of Quijada’s Method, “as a bridge to connect diverse movement styles”. She was quickly named Artistic co-director.
In addition to his focus on movement, Victor Quijada considers his voice primarily a theatric one. His interest in dance was fueled by his time at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where he began by studying theatre. While he found himself drawn to hip-hop culture, the work that grew out of it is characterized by a desire to communicate about humanity and its most personal stories. In most of his work, the physicality of the dancers exaggerates emotions and emotional responses, showing how these actions can forge, shift, and break bonds and impact relationships. Plamondon has also pursued more theatricality since joining RDBG, helping to create work for the cirque nouveau troupe 7 doigts de la main, co-created the full-length film Les mêmes yeux que toi (The Same Eyes) which explores mental illness.
Perhaps it is this preoccupation with story and theatre of both the artistic directors that has prompted the company’s side-interest in filmmaking. Over the past 15 years, RDBG has created and performed dozens of works, many of which have been made into short films with titles as traditional as Red Shoes or as intriguing as Small Explosions That Are Yours To Keep. They have won awards, like Hasta La Próxima, which was a finalist at the American Choreography Awards, and Gravity of Center, below, which captured two awards at the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival. While the film is a little hard to follow narratively, there’s a moment (around 6:30) where the soloist transitions a fuette into a windmill that I think perfectly illustrates just how beautifully these two dance styles can be combined.
Since 2017 does mark the company’s 15th anniversary, Quijada has choreographed a celebratory retrospective, Vic’s Mix, which debuted just three months ago at the Festival DansEncore in Trois-Riviéres, Quebec. It is the troupe’s touring work for the 2016-17 season, and what we’ll be treated to here at the Colwell Playhouse in KCPA. The work re-creates several of the choreographer’s most successful moments, and highlights his many styles and influences. Aside from the breakdancing and ballet, Quijada has created work for cirque nouveau, film, television, music video and theatre, as choreographer, director, and dramaturge. It’s certain that this new work comprised of his best past moments will be a wonderful introduction to the company’s unique style, and a perfect way for our local dance enthusiasts to get a taste for what RUBBERBANDance has to offer. If you’re already curious, the company has recently posted a trailer for the new work.
Vic’s Mix as performed by the RUBBERBANDance Group will be performed one night only: tomorrow, Tuesday, September 13th in the Colwell Playhouse at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available online or by calling the Ticket Office between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at 217-333-6280. Ticket prices start at $34 with the usual matrix of discounts, and as always, university student tickets are only $10. See the website for full pricing details.
Banner image by Go-xplore, provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Other images from RDBG website.