RUBBERBANDance: Unique Style in Gravity of Center Performance

A musical, rhythmic and dramatic performance, Gravity of Center by the RUBBERBANDance Group took place in the Purcell Room, London on the 3rd of May, 2013. The performance started at 7:45 PM and lasted 70 minutes with no intermission. The five performers presented the show that became a breath of fresh air in the history of dance.

RUBBERBANDance is a Canadian hip-hop company from Montreal. It was founded by the choreographer, artistic director and dancer Victor Quijada in 2002 after studying street, classical and modern dance. Anne Plamondon, his co-director, studied at the ballet studio of Quebec. Together they created a hybrid movement that borrowed much from urban and classical dance vocabularies.

The main idea of the performance Gravity of Center is to show the social problems of modern society, antagonism of abundance and shortage. The dancers encourage us to reflect on these topics. According to Zoe Anderson from The Independent, it is “an intelligent drama, packing a lot of emotion into its varied vocabulary” (Anderson, 2013).

The RUBBERBANDance style is special: it combines hip-hop, classic dance and contemporary performance, and therefore it is at the same time dynamic, elastic and tough. There are some moments in the show that seems that these five performers are indeed connected by some invisible bond which makes them move like rubber. Describing the dance style of RUBBERBANDance Group, Judith Mackrel of The Guardian writes: “Super-stretched jumps morph into crouching rolls; top-rocking footwork muscles in on high stepping bourrées; and below the movement’s surface, silky classical phrasing is worked into the choppy rhythms of street dance” (Mackrel, 2013).

Quijada’s choreography is based on a narrative subtext. Each dancer has their clear role. Two of the men with their movements represent a conflict that grows between them. The third man acts as a sort of vulnerable scapegoat, the victim of their disagreement. Plamondon in her energetic and out-giving solos appears to be the guardian spirit flitting weightlessly among members of the tribe and trying to reconcile them. She is well-known for her extraordinary articulating feet and legs. Emmanuelle LêPhan has her own relationships with others. Altogether they explode with unrestrained tribal energy.

One of the most breathtaking moments in the show was when all five dancers approached the edge of the stage, and one of them, Daniel Mayo, impulsively leaned forward, ready to fall. It is because of Quijada, who pushed him, representing the status of an outcast. Fortunately, the others were just in time to rescue him, grabbing his hands and clothes. At this moment, the spectators, who were frozen in tension, were relieved.

With his dramatic performance, Quijada appeals to our present global crisis and demonstrates its impact on our lives. It is remarkable that the language of dance is more important to him than just choreography. It seems that in his opinion that each dance must have some message. Tresca Weinstein from Times Union calls him “a brilliant mad scientist of dance” (Weinstein, 2009).

Quijada and his group are successful when conveying reactions and moods. They are charismatic dancers who have vivid, personal styles. We should note that male and female habits are not simplified or stereotyped in Gravity of Center, but well-observed. For example, for LêPhan, it is important not to hurt the other woman’s feelings – Plamondon. As to men, the performance shows the competition between them, developing into struggle similar to the wildness of nature, where the weak are oppressed by the strong.

Thanks to the proper atmosphere on the stage, the audience could completely immerse into the action. The Purcell Room is especially suitable for dance performances, mime, solo recitals, literature and spoken word events, and chamber music. The smoky haze and dim lighting on stage added more drama. The classically trained pianist Jasper Gahunia (also known as DJ LilJaz) wrote amazing music for the performance, which even may be called genius. Beginning with soft classic tunes, he changed rhythms all the time: from intricate electronic beats to bumping bass. Together with the incredible content, it made the show unforgettable.

Those who are fond of emotional and intelligent dance performances should see Gravity of Center by RUBBERBANDance with their own eyes. Quijada’s ability to combine different dance styles astonishes. It is a solid example of how acts that are seemingly unconnected can form an extraordinary and brilliant combination.

List of References
Judith Mackrel: “Rubberbandance – Review”, The Guardian, 05 May 2013.
Zoe Anderson: “RUBBERBANDance Group, Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London”, The Independent, 03 May 2013.
Tresca Weinstein: “Mixed Forms, Styles Form Elegant Hybrid”, Times Union, 25 October 2009.