Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Kids Find Meaning with RUBBERBANDance Group

RUBBERBANDance Group is known for its creative risk-taking, innovative choreography, and melding of technical expertise and dance prowess with youth inspired movements like hip-hop. The result is a hybrid of physical expression, marrying discipline and tradition, with the sensibility of the street. Their new work, Empirical Quotient, was co-commissioned by Guelph Dance and will be presented on Friday, March 28 at 8pm at River Run Centre.

While they're in Guelph, the Group is presenting 6 lecture/demonstrations for young audiences through the "Linamar for the Performing Arts" program, reaching a total of 4200 kids. We sat in on their first show this morning and caught up with the kids afterwards.

Choreographer Victor Quijada knows how to hold the attention of a young audience. Going back and forth between snippets of their full-length works and demonstrations of their unique choreographic method, Victor helps the kids to see meaning behind the movement.

Victor asks "Do you like what you see?" The Main Stage Theatre is engulfed in a resounding "YEAHHHH!" "Well for my next experiment, I'm going to need your help". Hands shoot up, with plenty of volunteers for Victor to choose from.

Victor's 5 eager volunteers each act out a word - everyone, think, dance, really, amazing - and he helps coach them to add layers to their movement, whether its a wave, a few chest pops, or a turn. Within only a few minutes, we have a short sequence that says, "Everyone think(s) dance (is) really amazing!"

After their final excerpt from Empirical Quotient, Victor has the Group members introduce themselves. An eclectic mix of dancers from Venezuela, the US, Italy, and Vancouver, 3 of whom are Juilliard-trained, help the kids to realize that "you can create new styles of dance with other people" and that "dance styles can be all mixed up".

This was one teacher's first-ever dance performance, and she was expecting a full-length piece, but was excited that there was some instruction of the RUBBERBAND Method, as "this was a great way to connect with the kids".

When I asked about their favourite part, I was excited to hear them use the words that choreographer Victor Quijada used: "threading!", "freezing!", "pushing and reacting!", "the technique with the loopholes!"

Some kids couldn't put their favourite parts into words, so instead, they showed me! I think we may have inspired more than a few kids to find their own unique style. 
Dorothy Fisher, a long-time volunteer with Guelph Dance and River Run Centre, pointed out that "when the kids come out re-enacting what they saw, you know you got 'em".

We would love to get you too! Get your tickets for the full-length performance of Empirical Quotient on Friday, March 28 at 8pm at River Run Centre Box Office: 519-763-3000.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Behind the Scenes with RUBBERBANDance

RUBBERBANDance Group is known for its creative risk-taking, innovative choreography, and melding of technical expertise and dance prowess with youth inspired movements like hip-hop. The result is a hybrid of physical expression, marrying discipline and tradition, with the sensibility of the street. Their new work, Empirical Quotient, was co-commissioned by Guelph Dance and will be presented on Friday, March 28 at 8pm at the River Run Centre.

Victor Quijada, Co-Artistic Director and Choreographer of RUBBERBANDance Group, talks with us today about how his creative process has evolved over time and what Guelph audiences can expect.

Victor: The commission by the CanDance Network and our other creative partners has been a wonderful opportunity – first, to have the funding, and second to have tour dates booked before the piece even premiered. It has been incredibly validating for my work and my vision to be endorsed in this way, especially because they gave me a blank slate to work with, rather than having their own ideas in mind for the final product. The piece itself continues to grow and develop as we are on tour.

This is the first time I will not be dancing in my own piece, as I have been able to communicate my message to the 6 dancers, and I do not feel the need to be on stage with them. This has largely been due to the resources that the commission has provided, including a creation residency at the Grand Theatre in Kingston.

Photos of Empirical Quotient by Michael Slobodian.
Victor: I used to be very interested in the extremes of my training background – classical and street styles – and what happens when these exist in the same space. I am now exploring the more subtle elements of that convergence. I have developed a technique to support the style that I am creating. My dancers have varied backgrounds – some with contemporary, some that come from street styles, and some with circus training – but they all need to train in the RUBBERBAND Method in order to execute the vocabulary.

While the RUBBERBAND Method pulls from other contemporary techniques, it is not verbatim. We focus on connecting with the floor through the feet and connecting with the other people in the room. I want to get the dancers out of the vertical axis, and more into the horizontal, diagonal, or even inverted, so that they can flow through these fluidly. This comes from the hip hop cypher where there is no front and everything is performed in a closed circle. It is hard to put our signature style into words, you will just have to come see the show and let the work speak for itself!

Photos of the RUBBERBAND Method by Michael Slobodian.
Victor: The shows for the young audiences throughout the week will be a combination lecture and demo. They will see sections from the full-length piece but there will also be interactive elements where we invite some kids up on stage. Sharing a bit of the RUBBERBAND Method with them will help them understand how we arrived at the works.

The audiences will witness the ways that the dance actors interact with each other, and the moments of discovery and exchange that take place. We commissioned music compositions from Jasper Gahunia, who trained at the Royal Conservatory of Music and has since become a DJ, so he is kind of the musical version of me. There is a lot of work behind what we are offering, and we can’t wait to keep the momentum going.

Co-presented by the River Run Centre, Empirical Quotient is a production of RUBBERBANDance Group and a co-production of The CanDance Network Creation Fund, Danse Danse, Grand Theatre Kingston, Guelph Dance, Le Theatre Hector-Charland, and la Société de la Place des Arts, with the kind collaboration of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What Makes Our March Break Camp Magical

We had a fabulous week at our 2014 Arts Explosion March Break Camp, but then again, we always have a great time at camp! We want to share with you why our counsellors, campers, and camper parents think our camp is so magical. 

Lynette Segal led the 4-5 year old campers in creative movement. Here they are waking up and stretching like bears coming out of hibernation. The theme of "spring awakening" helped to guide our activities throughout the week.
As one grandparent commented, our camp has a "good variety of activities, enthusiastic instructors, a great venue, and high quality art instruction". This does sound like a winning formula! It can also be the little things that make a difference. While we receive lots of compliments for being well-organized overall, having the coats, boots, snow pants, and backpacks lined up at the end of the day to make pick-up easier was an extra touch that did not go unnoticed. Special thanks to our counsellors for taking on even the unglamorous tasks!
Left: Campers' art work made it feel like spring had sprung even through the mid-March blizzard that we faced! Right: We are fortunate to be in the position of witnessing the campers develop their masterpieces, and the pride that goes along with art-making.

We love to hear that campers enjoyed their time with us. Some are already looking forward to summer camp:

"It was the best thing that my son has done over March Break. It was wonderful!"

"Wonderful job! It was interesting for both my girls and we would sign them up again!"

The camp is great at "keeping the kids active and looking forward to the next day. My daughter had a fantastic time and is already talking about coming back in the summer!"

"My daughter had a fabulous week and we'll be back!"
Left: The Blue Group learned shaping in contemporary dance with Jasmin McGraw. Right: They even got to use balloons to help them through the exploration of different body postures!
We had an amazing team of volunteer camp counsellors and art assistants, who the campers said they "LOVE". Turns out that the counsellors love camp too! In the words of one of our team leaders, "I love this camp! So much fun, an awesome atmosphere, and these kids are the best. I'd much rather spend my time here than at home on the computer."
Top: The Red Group worked on building their muscles and their confidence in hip hop with Carolyn Hebert. Bottom: The Blue Group sang "Here Comes the Sun" at the showcase on Friday afternoon, complete with guitar accompaniment and sunshine-y yellow scarves!
We would like to thank our energetic and creative instructors - Carolyn Hebert, Shannon Kingsbury, Jasmin McGraw, Janet Morton, and Lynette Segal - as well as our team of 20 volunteers for their amazing work. Camp would not be possible without them. In the words of a grateful parent, "Every child is happy and so engaged. It's lovely to see. The camp is run very well and all counsellors and teachers are so happy to be here. That speaks volumes."

Our campers and counsellors strike a pose at snack time in the River Run Centre lobby. Camp is a great place to re-connect with old friends and make new ones!

We are happy to say that with the help of our donors to the Monica Davis Camp Scholarship Fund we were able to provide 5 families with subsidized spaces for their child. It touches our hearts that many of you have made this possible and that we can witness the joy it brings to the children. One child hugged our staff on Friday and said "I am so sad, I do not want this camp to ever end".  We have a waiting list of children hoping to attend the Summer Camps at subsidized rates. Please donate today to help make this possible!

Like what you see? Registration for our 2014 Arts Explosion Summer Camps, July 7-11 & 14-18, is available now through the River Run Centre. We are also recruiting volunteer camp counsellors and art assistants. Contact Lindsay at info@guelphdance.ca for more information. We would love to have you join us!