What happens when you combine a former Los Angeles b-boy, a classically-trained ballet dancer, and a lot of buzz? You get Rubberbandance Group (RBDG), the newest phenomenon to sweep the Montreal dance world. The company, this year’s artists-in-residence at the Cinquième Salle, premiered their much-anticipated new work, AV Input/Output, yesterday at Place des Arts.
RBDG was founded in 2002 by L.A. native and emerging choreographer Victor Quijada, and since then, the company has risen through the ranks of the Montreal dance scene in a way that would make any up-and-coming artist envious. La Presse hailed their 2002 debut, at Montreal’s Espace Tangente, as the best dance performance of the year, and RBDG was quickly named the 2003-2004 resident company at Usine C. This was followed by a cross-Canada tour and an appearance at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
The company’s rapid achievements are indicative of the growing popularity of street forms in the dance world. What’s unique about Quijada and his work, though, is the ease with which he fuses breakdancing and hip hop with the more widely accepted traditions of classical ballet and contemporary dance. This can be traced not only to Quijada’s diverse background – after leaving L.A. he held contracts with Twyla Tharp, Eliot Feld, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens – but also to the dancers he works with. RBDG has attracted not only talented breakdancers, but also first-rate classicists like Anne Plamondon, originally a Canadian-trained ballet dancer who has worked with the likes of Jiri Kylian, Paul Lightfoot, and Jean Grande-Maitre.
Quijada has said that AV Input/Output seeks to push the boundaries between fiction and reality, and this is in keeping with his past choreographic interests. RBDG is known for attempting to distort the line between audience and performers. Such was the case with Quijada’s much-lauded 2004 piece, Slicing Static, a site-specific and interactive production; by virtue of its form, no two performances of the work were ever exactly the same.
The choreographer’s work demonstrates a fascination for human relationships. The gaze becomes an important tool in his choreography, and as a result the dances are imbued with a powerful emotional charge. It is rare to find a choreographer who speaks through stillness in the way that Quijada does. The spectator finds herself in a heightened state of awareness that comes from a desire to grasp onto every narrowing of the eyes, every clenched fist. This depth of feeling is certainly a credit to the purity of Quijada’s vision, and also to the integrity of his dancers. RBDG’s latest work will certainly not fail to deliver this type of potent emotional experience.
AV Input/Output is running through March 29 at Place des Arts (175 Ste. Catherine O.). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit pda.qc.ca.