On Tuesday, Jan. 14, more than 700 students, faculty, and administration congregated in the auditorium of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) to watch a performance by the Montreal-based dance company, Rubberband.
Rubberband is an innovative dance group that deconstructs typical choreography by blending classical ballet, breakdancing, and dance theater in its performances.
The hourlong performance consisted of Rubberband dancers performing a variety of dances, interspersed with commentary by the company’s founder and choreographer, Victor Quijada. Quijada explained his backstory, creative process, and style, and called on his dancers and MVRHS students to improvise their own dance moves based on short phrases, while implementing the dance principles outlined earlier in his talk.
Victor Quijada, a Mexican-American who lives in Montreal, was formally introduced to dance on the streets of Los Angeles. He grew up engrossed in the hip-hop culture of the city, but as a teenager, he began expanding his dance repertoire to include traditional ballet and classical dance.
“I dedicated my life to become a classical dancer. Since then, my career has taken me from Los Angeles to New York to Montreal, from street dancing to neoclassical ballet. In 2002, I started Rubberband Dance so that I could bring all these different worlds together,” said Mr. Quijada. Since then, the company has staged 14 full-length productions, and toured across the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Europe.
One unique aspect of Quijada’s approach, which he calls “the Rubberband method,” is that it encourages dancers to imagine that the space around them is not empty, but instead is filled with some kind of substance, from peanut butter to bubble bath foam. The difference in thickness and malleability of the envisioned substance is what defines the dancer’s movements.
Mr. Quijada said, “Depending on what we decide the space is filled with, it changes the way the body is moving and working. [The dancers] envision that they’re leaving tracks and tunnels in the mashed potatoes, for example.”
The Rubberband method also emphasizes the importance of using all surfaces of the body — the front, back, side, exterior, and interior of each body part — which allows dancers to create a diverse range of movements.
The artistic dance group was introduced to the high school community by the Yard, a nonprofit dance residency and creative event space located in Chilmark. For the past four years, the Yard has been partnering with MVRHS in an effort to bring rising dancers and musicians to the stage of the Performing Arts Center with the aim of enriching student life and increasing student access to the professional performing arts.
MVRHS restorative justice coordinator Nell Coogan, who helps coordinate with the Yard, values bringing artistic performances to the high school, and identified Rubberband as an ideal company to perform. “I think that bringing in anyone from outside of our little MVRHS community is so important because [the students] need to see what people are doing in other places, not just on the Vineyard,” Nell said. “There is more to life than just studying academic content, and although that is incredibly important, you also have to remember to do creative things with your life as well.”
Freshman Nellie Long’s favorite part of the performance was being one of the five students to volunteer to go on stage and incorporate Mr. Quijada’s “Rubberband method” into an interpretive dance move based on the word “dance!” Nellie said, “The performance made me feel confident to go on stage. [The Rubberband dance company] showed me that dancing can be anything that you make of it.”
Senior and dancer Pandora Bassett said, “What makes dance so fascinating is how completely different bodies can move in such similar and such different ways at the same time. I liked seeing the dancer’s strengths, especially at the end when they were able to improvise. I could see what they wanted to highlight about themselves, which I found very inspiring.”
On March 12, the MVRHS community will welcome the Malpaso Dance Company, a Cuban-based contemporary dance group.