Victor Quijada, the director/choreographer of the performance we watched on Saturday, taught a class the day after. As he explained, it was just a scraping of the surface of the method (RUBBERBAND method) used to prepare his own dancers for the choreographies he uses.
Victor’s approach involved introducing and re-visiting principles. In this way, each principle doesn’t get “left behind” as a forgotten experience, but instead gets incorporated into the other principles. He exposed us in this way to three principles:
Victor had us mentally fill the space around us with a substance of changeable viscosity (10 is a wall, 1 is a light gas). The entire lesson occurred in the middle of this viscous spectrum, 5 = mashed potatoes.
We began by simply moving our bodies through this space. At first, you might expect that you only slow down in mashed potatoes. Actually, you can keep the same speed, but what would change is the timing of the moving parts as you reach through. Each movement also becomes much more effortful.
It is as much, if not more, a mental exercise than a physical one (or maybe it’s better than that, a mental-physical exercise).
Victor turned our feet into anchor points, allowing us to not just push but also pull against the floor. This changes the quality of the movement. A step takes on a very different feel when it is pulled against an imaginary anchor.
I’m still wrestling with how the change occurs, since you’re still by necessity pushing against the floor. But there is an added tension coming especially from the muscles that actually would pull you if you were anchored.
An emphasis was placed on the orientation of the head. But this wasn’t just about keeping your head upright. It was about treating your head like a camera, and “finding the best shot”. What a challenge for me, so used to keeping my head low and eyes on my feet as I dance! Now I had to be intentional with my camera. I think every time Victor admonished us about the cameras, my face was peering firmly at my own feet.
In addition to these main principles, Victor used a segmental approach to refining our movements, which he likened to learning the scales. We worked with various parts of the body in isolation, including the spine, shoulders, head, elbow, wrist, hand, torso, thigh… Each became it’s own universe to be explored (or get lost in). I was very flawed with these isolations, trying to think in terms of individual joints.
While there, I already knew how much I was relying on old habits, and I kept trying to avoid this. But unlearning something is so difficult, especially in the span of 90 minutes!
When I’m done with the pantomime performance (it’s coming up, June 6th), it’s back to the movement lab to explore this rich new universe of mashed potatoes, anchored feet, and cameras instead of heads.
We highly recommend taking advantage of any opportunity to learn from Victor! He does a 2 week intensive in Canada every Summer; we’ll be missing out on this one since we’re off to Europe for an internship then, but we’ll jump at the next chance we get to learn from him.