Breaking the Wall

I was hoping that by waiting until I’d seen his work (the world premiere was Thursday night at the Harris Theater), I’d be better equipped to explain it.  That didn’t happen.  Victor Quijada’s work defies description.  In fact, he has a hard time describing it himself.  “I think what I’m trying to go towards,” says Quijada, “is a post-hip hop-contemporary-ballet-breakdance-actor.”  That’s a lot of hyphens.

The man who earned the nickname “Rubberband” for his elastic-like way of moving has internalized that name and applied it to his choreography, as well as his Montreal-based company RUBBERBANDance Group.  He stretches, twists, pulls, releases and flips the steps, creating a new way of performing them.  A whole new genre.  He admits his vision is not simple.  “The biggest challenge is trying to create something that’s not existing…but following a vision, spawning something new,” he says.  “I’m talking about this idea that is a raw version of a contemporary, post-hip hop, influenced by contemporary, ballet, dance, theater with…an unapologetic, but not false attitude and creating something that’s real.  Hopefully.”  Like I said, it’s not simple, but I’m pretty sure it’s  unlike anything Chicago audiences have ever seen.

HSDC dancers Penny Saunders and Jason Hortin in Quijada's PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS.

Quijada’s eclectic dance background strongly influences his work.  After graduating from the L.A. County High School for the Arts, he expanded his talents in hip hop by working with Rudy Perez, Twyla Tharp and dancing for the Eliot Feld Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canandiens de Montreal.  Blending this unique physical vocabulary with honesty, humor and a couple of cool gimics, Quijada has created a fun, stylistic masterpiece that challenges not only the audience, but the world-class dancers at HSDC.  Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton brought Quijada in (after dancer Jason Hortin showed him You Tube clips of his work) for a one-week workshop at the end of last season to prep the dancers in his style and make sure they could perform it safely.  The acrobatic style took some time to get used to.  He explains, “It is taking the body from that Alexander plum line-vertical into the inversion towards the horizontal and through that inversion creating, at least in my vision, creating a body that has no front or no up, no down.”  After winning the prestigious Princess Grace Award in August, Quijada was able to enlist friend/collaborator Jasper Gahunia (aka DJ Lil Jazz), who composed the music for PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS in real time creating what Quijada calls “an audio parallel” to the dance.  It’s that creative process that fuels the work which explores not just the physical side of the dancers, but the human side.  With his new piece, Quijada looks into the relationship between life and the theater.  “Life and theater and how they come together or repel each other and how we build, usually, a fourth wall for theatrical events.  I’m seeing if I can poke holes into that.”  PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS breaks that fourth wall – and perhaps even a fifth.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago still has two performances this weekend at the Harris Theater.  Ticket information:, Harris Theater Box Office: 312.334.7777

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