Victor Quijada is proud to rediscover his Rubberband roots in Ever So Slightly

The Montreal choreographer is thrilled that his dancers will be returning to the stage this week in Vancouver

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      Choreographer Victor Quijada first became interested in dance as a child growing up in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Hip-hop culture was on the rise, breakdancing was the rage, and he had no shortage of opportunities to express himself.

      “My real initiation into dance was in those circles…after school and on the street corner and in garages as a teenager,” Quijada tells the Straight by phone. “That became a very important part of my life.”

      As he moved into his late teens, he was in the clubs or ciphering at underground hip-hop events. As he grew older, he also toured as a backup dancer for rappers, which is where his identity as “Rubberband” originated.

      “That name was given to me because of the style of dance I had,” Quijada says.

      But he was also living in a parallel universe of more conventional artistic expression. It came from his last two years attending a high school with a strong focus on arts.

      There, Quijada was exposed to various artistic movements, including cubism, minimalism, and abstraction. He learned about the great choreographers, as well as postmodernism and butoh. The closest thing to his street dancing in this school was learning about jazz music because both are heavy on improvisation.

      Video: Watch Rubberband's short film "Hasta La Proxima", which was choreographed by Victor Quijada.

      Quijada’s talent was eventually recognized by legendary U.S. choreographer Twyla Tharp, who invited him to join her company in 1996. That resulted in Quijada moving to New York where he refined his skills as a contemporary ballet dancer, soaking up all that the city had to offer. But Quijada couldn’t forget his roots as Rubberband.

      It was in New York that the seeds were sown for his eventual decision to create a company called Rubberband two years after moving to Montreal in 2000.

      “The Rubberband method is the consolidation of not just movement, it’s a philosophy,” Quijada says. “It’s a bridge between very distinct approaches.”

      His choreography incorporates styles from the street, juxtaposing this with contemporary ballet and movement approaches from theatre, martial arts and other areas.

      In addition to his stage shows, Quijada has also worked as a director, dancer, and dramaturge on many films, including "Hasta La Próxima", which was a finalist in the 2004 American Choreography Awards. He also choreographed music videos by Elton John ("Blue Wonderful") and k-os ("Man I Used to Be").

      Quijada notes that, sometimes, a professional ballet dancer will say that street dancers have no discipline. But he believes that street dancers sometimes put in twice as many hours as a ballet dancer until they master a certain move.

      As the choreographer bringing these two dance forms together, he acknowledges that he sometimes finds himself in the middle, telling dancers that he recognizes himself in both of them.

      Watch the teaser for Rubberband's Ever So Slightly.

      Quijada’s newest show, Ever So Slightly, addresses the dichotomy between hip-hop culture and contemporary ballet.

      According to the veteran artist, there are moments of virtuoso and explosive athleticism. At other times, his dancers perform in a calm and vulnerable way, reflecting quiet moments that convey an understanding of what they’re experiencing in the show.

      “The audience will project their stories onto these faces and the situations that these people are going through—or fighting to get out of,” Quijada says. “In that way, there are many narratives possible.”

      The upcoming production is the first time that Rubberband’s 10 dancers will share the stage at once since the start of the pandemic.

      “I’m ultragrateful and superproud to bring this piece, which means so much to me, to Vancouver and to share it,” he says.