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Rubberbandance — AV Input/Output

by Joanne Zimbler
March 27, 2010
Luckman Fine Arts Complex
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032
323-343-6600
Native Angeleno Victor Quijada returned from Montreal to his hometown on Saturday to perform at the Luckman Theater with his ballet/hip-hop fusion dance company Rubberbandance Group. In a departure from the company's standard repertoire, "AV Input/Output" is a contemporary piece in which Quijada, in a duet with Ann Plamondon, performed a heart wrenching meditation on the desperate nature of human connections in the modern world. The dancers invoked the empathy of the audience, sometimes even while simultaneously alienating us, as we became more than mere spectators in their comedic and tragic proscenium-extending performance.

The self-professed mission of Quijada's company is to use dance as a vehicle to reflect and explore the vagaries of the human condition and grapple with universal themes, as well as those more specific to the postmodern Western world. "AV Input/Output," the title alluding to our tendencies to always be "plugged in," juxtaposes the virtual world with the real. In doing so, it reveals the ways in which truth is often distorted or subverted. As Plamondon enters the stage, shhs the audience and begins to move alone in silence, it slowly becomes apparent that this is to be a minimalistic contemporary performance with a mise en scene remembered mostly for its two dancers. The sparseness on the stage, with the exception of a few multimedia moments, emphasizes the poignant relationship between the pair as they explore motifs of intimacy and the conflict between reality and fiction, alternately examining them in solos and duets.

As the dancers search for authenticity in the ambiguity of a media-muddled world, they attempt to recognize one another beyond their public images. Together they explore each other as strangers, lovers, playmates, tyrants, codependents, freaks, and conformists using a vocabulary of contemporary movements, jagged and isolated, graceful and synchronized. Jaspar Gahunia, or DJ Lil' Jaz, who provided the soundtrack, seems to distill jazz and hip hop down to their most basic elements as he overlaps them in an effect that is scratchy, full of static, and discordant, successfully reinforcing the theme of isolation. The electronically textured music has an alien sound, achingly gorgeous in its heartbreaking stridency.

Must the increasingly significant and necessary public persona that our society demands conflict with our private reckonings? Can authenticity exist in this electronic age, which insists that we promote ourselves to more and more people while becoming increasingly isolated, not only from them but ourselves as well? These questions emerge as the dancers cycle through tenuous moments of misrecognitions, disengagement, intimacy, disconnection, synergistic support, and misperceptions. Although the dance often has an improvisational feel, it is belied by synchronized movements and precisely crafted lifts which move fluidly into more contact movements as the powerful pair work on and off of one another's competent bodies.

At one point, a filmed interview on a screen at the top of the stage, ostensibly running concurrent to the action on stage, reveals Quijada interviewing Plamondon in front of a camera and several producers. As Plamondon talks to us about shopping and friends, we are held rapt by her close-up on the screen. But as the banal platitudes yield to more uncomfortable truths, we become even more riveted as we realize that the two were merely simulating the interview, as this was pre-taped and the "real" Plamondon is now plaintively moving from the couch to the center of the stage, as the onscreen interview continues. The truth impels a beautiful heartbreaking solo that kinesthetically articulates the pain endemic to her loneliness and isolation, as she cracks open the glossy pixilated veneer, and the truth supplants the fictional image.

Quijada comedically plays MC as he replays an altered, edited version of the interview, revealing the disparity inherent in digitally mediated versions of truth and their divergent realities. Later, the screen is utilized again as we view a pre-taped Quijada waxing tritely about himself, humorously contradicting himself at times until he too inadvertently stumbles into painful truths that he must confront. "Trust and be open," Quijada tells us is what he would tell his young self as he implicates the audience by asking us to also reflect on what we would say to our own younger selves. His vulnerability translates into beautiful movements imbued with pathos and longing, as he dances alone and then together with his partner.

Quijada and Plamondon illuminate the devastating loneliness that is so often the flipside of the fetishization of technology, all while delivering powerful performances, rich with tenderness and sympathy. The performance is the kind of fare that fulfills with its depth and substance, as its text and subtext resist the the modern compulsion to reduce it to a "tweet".
Victor Quijada and Ann Plamondon

Victor Quijada and Ann Plamondon

Photo © & courtesy of Michael Slobodian

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