March 2007

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and Rubberbandance Group
presented by Danceworks
March 8–10, 2007 Enwave Theatre Toronto
by Paul J. Youngman with photos (from rehearsal) by Mike Colyer
Can passion, sexual desire and the intermingling of bodies in motion be displayed in a less intoxicating manner? Humanity, with its love, anger, hate, sadness, joy and violence, manifested itself in an orgy of styles, dynamics and methods, from classical, meeting modern, hip-hop and b-boy, to aboriginal folk dancing, tai chi and chi-kung. The audience at Harbourfront Centre were transported through a constellation of discovery. Dance, when performed with passion, energy and desire, should always move you; the performance this night by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and the Rubberbandance Group did just that, with physical and emotional abandon.

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (pronounced Ga-ha-wee), was formed in 2005 by Artistic Director, choreographer and dancer Santee Smith. The troupe's mission is "to create and promote contemporary artistic expression that reflects and honours the integrity of the Indigenous cultural aesthetic and world view.”

Rubberbandance Group is a collective of excellent dancers from contemporary and break-dance backgrounds that unite to investigate human relationships through an innovative mix of hip-hop dynamics and contemporary classicism. In 2002, after years of exploring dance and theatre from urban, classical and contemporary angles, Victor Quijada, Artistic Director, choreographer and dancer formed Rubberbandance Group. His choreographic work examines humanity and human relationships through a unique fusion of these dance and theatre styles.

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre program consisted of one lengthy, fluid and totally entertaining piece, A Constellation Of Bones. The performers: Ceinwin Gobert, John Henry Gerena, Alex Meraz and Santee Smith interpreted the fusion of musical ideas as presented by composer Dean Hapeta a.k.a. Te Kupu, writer Keteri Akiwenzie-Damm and choreographer Santee Smith, a blending of Mohawk, Anishnabe and Maori traditional stories, myths, poetry and the imagery of men, women, children, earth and sky.

At times, the dancing was violent, at times sensual, always skilful and displaying endless amounts of energy and passion. The dancers were constantly performing from a solid rooted stance; with legs strong as giant oak trees they would raise their arms to the heavens and create lengths of flowing motion. The music was hypnotic, a fusion of many styles, with haunting saxophone lines complemented by vocal chanting. The imagery of the worldview, as portrayed by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, unfolded — there were seasons of joy, followed by equal amounts of pain and pleasure.

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Rubberbandance Group’s program consisted of a project entitled Elastic Perspective, a collection of small works, presented in two parts. An announcement at the beginning of the show made mention of changes to the program due to an injury suffered by one of the dancers. The first number “Secret Service” was replaced by “Ship, Shock, Shape, Shifting.” The dancers who make up the company are: Victor Quijada, Joe Danny Aurelien, Jayko Eloi, Julia Gustik and Anne Plamondon.

The first dance “Ship, Shock, Shape, Shifting” featured Victor Quijada in a tremendous display of strength and agility. Quijada is a stocky, non-dancer looking individual, more like an athlete in appearance, perhaps an Olympic gymnast — specialty pommel horse and floor routine. Why not a hip-hop, break-dancer, b-boy specialist? Technique, as much as street may have played a part in his development. Refinement through classical training has been pushed to the forefront, the street is the base to improve upon and so he has.

The choreography mixed a little of everything, classical dance, modern, hip-hop as well as techniques from chi-kung’s push hands and tai-chi’s fluid circular grounded movements. The dancers injected spirit, personality and emotion throughout their performance. There were moments of humour, passion, play and plenty of excitement. The music mixed in classical, Vivaldi and Verdi combined with Latin music from Antony Santo, Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca, spoken word and hip-hop artist Saul Williams and contemporary music from the Gotan Project. A little bit of everything, stirred, blended and brought together in a mix, creating a new form — a hybrid style.
Rubberbandance Group
Thoroughly entertaining, an audio-visual delight, thank you Danceworks and congratulation on your 30th Anniversary Season. May you have many more and please keep up the excellent presentations from independent dance artists.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
• • • • • •
Mike Colyer
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The Live Music Report

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