Hip-Hop Plus Classical Equals Elastic Dance

MDC Live Arts closes out their season on Saturday with the RUBBERBANDance Group, a Montreal-based dance company that seamlessly fuses hip hop and ballet aesthetics to create a unique movement experience. Speaking from his hotel room during a Philadelphia tour stop, company founder Victor Quijada speaks more like a scientist than a choreographer, noting the unique physics of movement in both theory and practice. “Someone said that dance is falling. I don’t believe that,” he says. “Dance is floating against what gravity wants us to do. Somehow, we slow or accelerate time, never quite allowing momentum or inertia to take over.”

RUBBERBANDance is an amalgamation of Quijada’s background as a hip-hop street dancer growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s and his later classical training with Judson Church and Twyla Tharp in New York.

Named in honor of his b-boy nickname and signature flexibility, he has crafted vocabulary of movement that is a study of dancers in perpetual motion and kinetic energy. Though seemingly dichotomous, hip hop and classical dance forms share many basic tenants, from isolations, precision of movement, fluidity and agility. Quijada’s Rubberband method is a signature fusion of the different forms, decades in the making.

Also a decade in the making was Quijada’s goal for stepping off stage. The program MDC Live Arts and Miami-Dade County Auditorium are co-presenting, Empirical Quotient, is first piece in the 10 years of the company that Quijada does not perform in. “I didn’t start the company to perform, but to take the two very different worlds that live in me and join them together.” A study of human behavior, Empirical Quotient “looks at a different human experience, especially rejection, being rejected, being the rejecter and the rejected,” explains Quijada. “The piece features an incredible amount of partnering, there are huge chapters of the piece where there is always contact between dancers.”

Indeed, throughout the performance, his company members are found moving as a many-limbed organism in perpetual motion; powerful legs and lithe arms extend, bodies drop and release, only to explode against one another, seemingly deriving energy from physical connection and proximity.

In creating the piece, Quijada says that he “felt an urgency to completely transmit to my dancers all the things in my body.” Stepping off the stage also allowed him to give his attention more fully and equally to each of his dancers. “Before,” he says with a laugh, “those who partnered with me got the least of my attention.”

He explains that creating work that combines hip hop and classical dance is more than “just putting a b-boy next to a ballerina.” He likens his relationship to hip hop and classical dance to growing up in L.A. to Mexican parents. “One step is Mexican, one is American, I am who I am, and I am a bridge connecting all of these things.” With his company, Quijada invites dancers from various disciplines to come together to learn the unified language of his Rubberband movement theory, which has created a diversity of movement that he relishes, describing their joining together as akin to creating a new language. “They all bring their own accent from whatever language is already within their bodies.” Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts executive director, has been following the group’s work since 2010 and continues to be fascinated by their signature movement style. “They are unlike anything I seen before, “ she says. “There are certainly companies that try to mix hip-hop aesthetics with contemporary dance, that’s not new, and its hard to describe exactly what he does that is different.
“It’s exactly as dance should be: you have to see it to experience it, to understand. He’s doing something so fresh and different.”

-Rebekah Lanae Lengel,

RUBBERBANDance Group performs “Empirical Quotient” on Saturday, at 8 p.m.; On.Stage Black Box Theater, Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami; tickets $25;
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