For b-boy turned ballet dancer Victor Quijada, the decision to forge a union between two dance worlds was risky. He knew what wouldn’t work: break dancers doing battements, contemporary dance choreographers appropriating the language of the street for the stage. But he went for it anyway.
Five years into the experiment known as Rubberbandance, Quijada is already laughing at his “early” years. Tuesday night’s program was a retrospective of works spanning 2002, when the company was founded, and 2005. The company’s first works were also the evening’s openers; “Elastic Perspective Redux” and “Meditations on the Gift” carried the urgency and uncertainty of a street brawl, as well as the bravado. Here were the early stirrings of Quijada’s defiant bilingualism: Body waves and popping isolations gave way to lyrical spirals, boneless fluidity, and moments of classical weightlessness. Quijada’s impulse for theatricality was unleashed in “Reflections of Movement Particles,” created just months later. After those first explosive works, “Reflection,” with its long moments of silence and stillness and emphasis on gestural work and psychological states, looked like something of an overcorrection.
The pendulum swung back again in “sHip sHop Shape Shifting,” the most recent work on the program, with a soundtrack to match its disparate influences: Mos Def meets Johann Sebastian Bach. A duet between Quijada and veteran company member Anne Plamondon, “sHip sHop” played with the familiar elements of break dance-the conversation, the competition-stretching them to incorporate dynamic partnering. Lively violin arpeggios found perfect expression in a flurry of back walkovers; as in the best break dancing, virtuosic movement and creative musicality built to a delicious pitch. Other later works found Quijada’s converging worlds melding into something new: tricky floor work done with the rigor and delicacy of true technique, and meditative solos performed with the focused awareness of live improvisation.
Above all else, what Quijada has forged in five years are dancers who are tough and tender, rigorously trained and still authentically responsive. As a b-boy working the underground dance circuit, Quijada knew the power of hip hop-he just didn’t know whether he could bring it to the stage. If the developments of the past five years are any indication, the risk of Rubberbandance is going to keep paying off, big time.