Suspend stereotypes. Suspend expectations. And you will ultimately suspend time — that is, if you are watching Rubberbandance Group, the unique ensemble that performed this past weekend at PS/21.
This wonderful group of hip-hop street dancers from Montreal transforms its edgy foundation into an artform that is elegant, fluid and blissful.
Directed by Victor Quijada, the company of six performed four works that testify to its mysterious pull and its broad but effective selection of music. Opening with “Dr Ib Erif,” the group work delves into the menacing and magical portions of Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” The dancers turn and strut toward the audience. Then, to the musical crashes of the horns and drums, they kick and swing their arms, landing near-misses at each others’ faces. Passes of the hands, feet, torsos and buttocks are the impulses for others’ movements as if their bodies were connected by an invisible chord. However, their hip-hop/capeoira style of dance surprises with hints of classical training seeping through — for example, a round-house kick with perfectly placed epaulement.
“Soft watching the first implosion,” a piece created for Peter Boal and Company (off-season New York City Ballet dancers), was set to Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A minor. For the three men, the tall and muscular Quijada, the lanky and liquid John Welker and the compact and mercurial Daniel Mayo, the dance employs lighting to trick the eye as to where the dancers will next appear onstage. Unfortunately, the effect did not register as well at PS/21, as it is an outdoor venue and the sun’s rays hovered slightly in the distance despite the evening hour. However, it was a jolly piece, in which Mayo stood out for his quirky sense of humor.
The women, Anne Plamondon, Louise Michel Jackson and Lila-Mae G. Talbot, showed off their seamless style in “Attempt #2 at Reinventing the Hip Hop Routine.” Driven by Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” the trio battled an electric current that runs through their limbs and riles their calm. Like in other works, Quijada weds each gesture so nothing happens in a vacuum. Every gesture ripples across the space.
The final work, “Punto Ciego Abreviado,” proves that Rubberbandance is ripening its vision. Plamondon and Quijada are marvelous as the opening couple who externalize their struggles. These two dancers have been together since the start of Rubberbandance, and it’s obvious. In their duet, they are one, despite their choreographed efforts to weave and dodge the other. When the eye enters the vortex of their glorious pursuits (which spill off the stage and through the aisles), one is touched by how well they complement each other. They fill their negative space with a sensitivity and delicacy that is impossible to ignore.
While the dancing is hypnotic, the costumes are homely. The dancers wear shapeless gray or black, loose-fitting street clothes, often with their socks tucking in their pants. Their outfits allow for the flowing gestures to fly unimpeded. But they don’t enhance the works, which is too bad. A good costume could.