Part 1: Choreographer Victor Quijada shares the story behind his unique style of dance

Choreographer Victor Quijada. Photo by Roland Lorente.

Are you the type of person who likes to rock out in your bedroom to your favourite song? Or, would you rather tap your foot to a good groove?. There’s something about moving to music that just feels good.

Victor Quijada, Montreal choreographer and artistic director of RUBBERBANDance group, knows what we’re talking about. In fact, Victor’s regarded as a pioneer in the world of dance—not only has he created beautiful and inspiring dance pieces, he’s created an entirely original movement vocabulary as well! We caught up with Victor to hear more about his original style of movement and his thoughts on bringing his newest dance piece Gravity of Center, to The Cultch.

SC: Your choreography is recognized for being a fusion of hip hop, contemporary and classical styles. In your own words, how do you describe your movement vocabulary?

VQ: Actually, that description is probably the most basic, most rudimentary way to describe the movement vocabulary I use with RBDG. Why it doesn’t really work as a good description, is because it asks you to imagine these three styles—hip hop, contemporary, classical—and it forces you to think of the stereotypes that help these genres keep their labels.  Then, it demands that you imagine a fusion of these stereotypical aspects in some kind of a choreographic context.

Victor Quijada working with Company dancers. Photo by Lindsay Thomas

To be more accurate, I would say that as a choreographer, my voice and vision have been shaped by my history. At one end of the spectrum, this starts with growing up in the freestyle hip hop dance ciphers of Los Angeles, and on the other end it includes a professional career of working with postmodern, contemporary, and neo-classical choreographers in the ranks of high caliber dance companies.

I think this paragraph from my bio says it well:

A wide range of early performance experiences, from the hip hop clubs of his native Los Angeles to a performance career with internationally-acclaimed postmodern and ballet dance companies such as THARP!, Ballet Tech and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, led Victor Quijada to Montreal, a city he now calls home. By age 26, Victor had gained a rare perspective on a large spectrum of dance, possessing knowledge and experience that spanned from the street corner to the concert hall.

But even before you imagine motion or gestures or choreography, the RBDG movement vocabulary begins with the manner in which the dancer acknowledges the space and their own physical reaction to inhabiting it. RBDG movement vocabulary is actuated by the manner of muscularity the dancer adopts at the contact points with the environment. Furthermore, the RBDG movement vocabulary gains its aesthetic through the manner in which the dancer perceives his or her experience.

SC: How did you come to develop this movement style and quality?

VC: It was thanks to the different experiences I had, the different spheres I was exposed to, and to the fact that I was determined to become the best I could be in the different milieus that I found myself in. The “developing the style” part came through many years of practice, but the seeds were planted when I was still very young.

Jessica Tong, right, with Quijada in rehearsal. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

I remember that from a very young age, I already proclaimed, “I am a hip-hop artist,” except that I really didn’t know what “art” was.

But as a student at the L.A. Arts High School, I remember learning about “art” and coming upon the notion that through “art” it was possible to change the world. As a teenager, hip hop was my life, and art would change my life. I started to expand my ideas about my hip-hop. The knowledge and formal dance training I was receiving at that arts high school would mutate my relationship with hip hop forever.

And of course the professional experience that I would acquire over the next decade would further transform me. It’s not just my physical capabilities that would grow, but my mind was also growing. I was watching, learning, changing.

Once the style had developed in my body, the real challenge came in the transmission of the movement to new dancers—how to get them to understand and recreate the specific qualities I was asking for. That’s why identifying the style and developing a technique was important and necessary. And that took time. Lots of time. Lots of sweat. Lots of writing, testing, experimenting, practicing, and teaching. Lots of trial and error.

But finally, the method is all there, compact and airtight. And now we can pass the knowledge on very well, very clearly. No guesswork. Simply. Directly.

Gravity of Center runs at The Cultch February 19 – 23, 2013. Tickets start at $17 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604.251.1363, or in person at The Cultch Box Office, 1895 Venables St.

2013 at the Cultch – Programming as diverse as you

By Caitlin Bryant

It’s 2013 and we are ready to embark on a brand new year of performance that will warm the heart, push boundaries, expand the mind, and amaze the senses. Here’s what’s coming up!

Don Juan
Three songs, two duels and a road trip to hell
Blackbird Theatre (Vancouver)
Historic Theatre at The Cultch
December 26 – January 26, 2013
Opening night: December 28, 8pm

Peter Jorgensen stars as the legendary rogue and Simon Webb plays his beleaguered servant in Blackbird Theatre’s (Waiting for Godot) daring new adaptation of Molière’s most scandalous comedy, Don Juan.

Festooned with swordplay, seduction, and song, this satiric tale follows the irresistible rogue and defiant hedonist down an unrepentant path to hellfire and brimstone.

Music features a newly commissioned rock mass in Latin (with electric guitar) from composer Peter Berring, and arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, sung and played on the guitar and harpsichord by the leading actors.

Click here for more information. Tickets are from $17 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Grim & Fischer
One granny’s showdown with Death himself
WONDERHEADS Theatre (Portland, Oregon)
Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch

January 3 – 13, 2013
Opening night: January 3, 8pm

Winner of the 2011 Cultchivating The Fringe Award, Grim and Fischer is the epic tale of one mischievous Granny’s journey as she is pit against the Grim Reaper and must confront the inevitable question that we all face: what is it to know your end is nigh?

Click here to watch the hilarious trailer for Grim and Fischer.

Click here for more information. Tickets are $30 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Cutting Edge Performing Arts Partnerships

As one of Vancouver’s signature performing arts festivals, The Cultch is thrilled to partner with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (January 15 – February 3, 2013) once again.

As a part of this exciting partnership, The Cultch will be presenting The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart taking place at East Vancouver’s own WISE Hall and I, Malvolio, taking centre stage at The Cultch’s Historic Theatre.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
Extend your Robbie Burns Day  celebrations with a lock-in at the WISE Hall
National Theatre of Scotland (Glasgow)
The WISE hall (1882 Adanac Street)
January 29 – February 2, 2013
Opening night: January 29, 8pm

Robbie Burns Day is fast approaching and so now is the time for a supernatural lock-in with the National Theatre of Scotland’s band of actors and musicians.

Grab a beer and a seat with friends for this heartwarming and whimsical story infused with rhyme and Scottish karaoke. The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart takes theatre into the pub where stories are told, re-told and passed on.

Click here to watch The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’s preview.

Click here for more information. Tickets are $47 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

I, Malvolio
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as seen through his most pent- up steward
Tim Crouch
January 30 – February 10, 2013
Opening night: January 30, 8pm

Tim Crouch’s I, Malvolio is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night but with its spotlight uniquely trained on Malvolio, the notoriously wronged steward with his hilarious tale of woe.

A story of lost dignity, prudery, practical jokes and bullying, this one-man act of storytelling alchemy draws us deep into the madness of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

Click here to watch the trailer for Tim Crouch’s, I, Malvolio.

Click here for more information. Tickets are from $17 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

Gravity of Center
Hip hop meets ballet
RUBBERBANDDance Group (Montreal)
February 19 – 23, 2013
Opening night: February 19, 8pm

Critically acclaimed choreographer Victor Quijada presents his ninth work, Gravity of Center. In this exploration of individuality and interdependence with its obvious and inevitable struggles, raw movement expresses all the weight of this adversarial relationship. The dancers interweave, fight, crave, and hustle in an astonishing fluidity of action.

Click here to watch the Gravity of Center trailer.

Click here for more information. Tickets are from $17 and are available at tickets.thecultch.com, by phone at 604-251-1363, or in person at 1895 Venables Street.

*Holiday housekeeping note: The Cultch administration office will be closed from December 24 – January 1 and will re-open at 10am on Tuesday, January 2.  Have a safe and happy holiday from all of us at The Cultch!

Box Office hours:

December 24: 12 – 4pm, December 25: Closed, December 26: 12 – 4pm, December 27, 28: 12 – 6pm, December 29: 12 – 4pm, December 30: Closed, December 31: 12 – 6pm, January 1, 2013: Closed

Bringing street cred into the theatres: IZM propels street dancing to the performing arts

By Roanne Ward

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker Crazy Smooth

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker Crazy Smooth

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker Crazy Smooth (Yvon Soglo) takes his inspiring mission to illuminate the tradition of street dance culture to the world of performing arts. Smooth’s ambitious goal is to prove that hip hop is a legitimate, professional contemporary dance form. From working as an acrobatic instructor for Cirque du Soleil to performing at the Nancy Jazz Festival in France and winning the Most Valuable B-Boy award at the 2006 Kings of NY Competition, Crazy Smooth is a force to be reckoned with on the international street dance scene. He was the first B-Boy to receive a grant from the Canada Council to study B-Boying and other forms of street dance in New York and Philadelphia. The articulate, fluently bilingual, Benin-born dancer says his new show IZM, which plays at The Cultch from April 24-29, “transcends age, race and gender, reaching below the surface where emotions live.”

This year, as part of International Dance Day on April 29, the Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA) asked Crazy Smooth to author the Canadian message that celebrates dance in our community. In his inspired message, he writes:

“Consider the enthusiasm of children as they express themselves through movement; the joy adults exude after a ballroom dance class; the profound emotional response of audiences and their reflections after a powerful dance performance; the incredible energy generated in a room when everybody starts to boogie; and the passion and history reflected in traditional and cultural dances. Imagine how desolate a world without dance would be. Dance speaks to the mind, body and soul in a way that goes beyond the power of words, and its social impact and capacity to engage should be celebrated. As an art form dance can be impressive but expression is its fundamental nature.”

Crazy Smooth

Created in 2010, IZM has been heating up provinces across Canada for the past few months, performing to sold-out shows and receiving critical acclaim. Brian Webb, Artistic Director of The Canada Dance Festival commented:

“When IZM premiered at the Canada Dance Festival, the sold out audience went wild! And, they have good reason to…. Crazy Smooth and his dancers hold nothing back, they dance full out and they give every audience member an authentic high!”

More than anything else, Crazy Smooth aims for the audience to have an ‘experience’ during the show rather than simply being a passive spectator. Whether it’s on an intellectual level or through a physical compulsion to jump out of your seat and join in, the energy flying out of IZM‘s talented ensemble is compelling to say the least!

Rehearsing before the tour:

IZM is just one of the many performances and events happening in Vancouver to celebrate International Dance Day, which has actually turned into Dance Week – it seems we have too much talent in Canada to pack into one day! Find out more about workshops and performances and to read Crazy Smooth’s entire message.

Leap into your sneakers and catch IZM at The Cultch from April 24 – 29. Tickets are from $16 and can be purchased by visiting http://tickets.thecultch.com/show.asp, calling the Box Office at 604.251.1363 or by visiting us in person at 1895 Venables St, Vancouver.

A Profile of the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award

With Firebird 2011 currently playing to sold out audiences at The Cultch, it’s not a surprise that many people have heard about something called the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award. As this critically acclaimed production by Vancouver’s own Turning Point Ensemble was last year’s winner, we thought we’d give those of you unfamiliar with the prestigious award a brief run down on what it’s all about.

The Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award is an admirable $60,000 production fund granted to a BC-based performing arts organization. The award was conceived to foster the creation of new work by providing a significant financial investment in a new production by the chosen company. The recipient of the award rotates annually between in the disciplines of music/opera, theatre or dance. In addition to the cash prize, the recipient is also awarded a four night run of the winning production in The Cultch’s following presentation season.

2012 Rio Tinto Alcan Winner - Les Productions Figlio

2012 Rio Tinto Alcan Winner - Les Productions Figlio

In order to receive the award, the hopeful organisation must undergo a rigorous application process followed by an even more intense adjudication. A panel of independent professionals immersed in the particular discipline being awarded that year evaluate applicants to determine the best possible winner. Once the winner is selected, they are announced at the opening night of the winning performance from the year before.

This year, on the opening night of Firebird 2011, Les Productions Figlio was announced as the new 2012 winner for their performance Elles. This dance performance from Artistic Director Serge Bennathan is sure to be a stunner as it investigates the visceral, raw physicality of 10 – 12 women dancers from across Canada. Elles will have its world premiere in March 2012 at The Cultch.  With a prestigious award like the Rio Tinto Alcan backing them up, they can’t go wrong!

What the Heck is Unison? A Viewer’s Guide

This January 25th to 29th The Cultch is presenting one of its most innovative pieces of the season, relay. Created by Toronto-based choreographer Ame Henderson, relay explores the concept of unison in dance.

We all know the word unison means “at the same time as somebody or something else,” but what does it mean when we talk about dance?

live dance: Swan Lake

National Ballet of Canada

Turns out, unison pretty much means the same in dance terms as it does in general usage. It’s when two or more dancers perform the same steps at the same time on the same stage. As one of the oldest conventions of movement there is, unison is commonly used in all choreography and dance styles from hip hop and salsa to classical ballet.

Check out this photo of the dancers from Canada’s own National Ballet. This iconic piece from Swan Lake shows how effective true unison in a dance piece can be. Notice how every dancer is performing the same steps at the very same time. If any dancer were to stray from performing in synchronization, the whole effect would be lost.

Now, check out this photo from Vancouver’s own MOVE: the company as it illustrates dancers abandoning the concept of unison. They move in their own time and their own way, independent from one another. While this choreographic choice is much different from true unison, creating a different story onstage, it still makes for quite a compelling performance.
(more…)

What is Unison? An Interview with Public Recordings Choreographer Ame Henderson

vancouver live dance: Ame Henderson, choreographer of relay

Ame Henderson - photo by Aaron Mackenzie Fraser

On Tuesday January 25th, Ame Henderson brings her creation, the contemporary dance piece relay, to The Cultch. This cross-disciplinary work uses live music and dance to examine the idea of unison, questioning the “politics and possibility of being together.” We spoke with Ame about her process, the artistic journey she traveled in creating this highly anticipated work, and how she feels about bringing it to Vancouver.

Ame, Can you tell us a little about your background and the creation of Public Recordings? How did you get to where you are today?

I grew up on Vancouver Island and finished high school in North Vancouver. I then moved to Montreal to attend Concordia University, staying in Montreal for several years after graduating from the dance program. I think these early years in Montreal were really important for me in terms of exploring ways to work with other artists and creating strong connections with performers and musicians that I still work with today. We were making things happen ourselves, creating contexts for our projects and working collectively. The spirit of these collaborations is still very much at the crux of how I imagine Public Recordings. With the company, I hope to create a space for people to come together to work and to share time and to come up with ways to extend what we’re thinking about to our audiences.

What are your thoughts on the current Canadian dance scene?

I am excited by what’s happening in dance in Canada. It is sometimes challenging to bridge the great expanses of space between our cities, but I think artists find incredible ways to work with these distances and differences while also working locally. I am now based in Toronto where the dance community is made up of many artists that come originally from other parts of Canada and from other countries. I think that we are in an ongoing and dynamic conversation with each other about how to nurture the forms we work in, as well as our own artistic growth, and then how to connect with the outside and move our work. These questions are challenging but they are also exciting.

Vancouver live dance: relay

photo by Omer Yukseker

As you are originally from Tofino, how do you feel about coming back to the West Coast to perform?

I am thrilled. I apologize for being incredibly personal, but one thing I keep thinking about is how exciting it is to get to perform this work for friends and family that have never seen what I do. I am absolutely looking forward to presenting at The Cultch for that reason. But at the same time, there is something about coming around full circle. I am the person and artist that I am partially because of my upbringing and where I grew up. I don’t think often of the direct connections between my youth on Vancouver Island and my work, but I think the opportunity to think about some of that when in closer proximity is interesting. I am curious about what it will feel like and also what conversations I’ll have with audience members.

(more…)