My name is Michael Arellano, and I am a Junior at WMU pursuing a BA degree in both Dance and Psychology. I’m originally from Shelby Township, Michigan and next fall I will be traveling to London to study abroad.
This summer, I spent two weeks at the Domaine Forget International Music and Dance Academy in Saint-Irénée, Québec. The company RUBBERBANDance Group was in residence at the academy to teach their codified “Rubberband Method” as well as some of their repertoire. RUBBERBANDance was founded by artist director Victor Quijada in 2002 and is based in Montreal, Québec. The works created by this company include elements of both hip-hop/break-dancing, as well as ballet and contemporary.
During the first day of the intensive, all the students danced together in a conventional basement studio. After that, we were split up into smaller groups of about 10 to have a more intimate experience. The groups alternated between the basement studio and a beautiful upstairs studio with a view of the water and the hills outside. Our schedule every day consisted of intense dancing from 9am-5:30pm with an hour break for lunch. The classes included learning the Rubberband Floor and Standing Techniques, the Rubberband style of partnering, and learning repertoire from the company. Additionally, during the first week we had a ballet class every day, and during the second week we had an improvisation class to help us build skills for individual and contact improvisation; we even explored the sculptures around the academy and tried to embody them through movement. These classes helped me broaden movement vocabulary by teaching different types inversions, shoulder stabs, movement textures and the overlying philosophy that “the space is never empty.”
Although most of my time was spent dancing, the academy arranged many bonfires, soccer games, and other social events to help us meet some of the other artists there. We were also a short walk from the beach so we would occasionally spend time soaking our sore muscles in the freezing cold water to substitute for an ice bath. However, everyone’s favorite outside meeting place had to be the “Party Barn” which was a small shed where all the artists would gather, play music, and dance even after an exhausting 8-hour day of Rubberband method.
On the last day of the intensive we did an informal showcase of the repertoire we had been working on in class. The piece that I got to perform was an excerpt of the work Punto Ciego called The Square Section which was choreographed by Victor Quijada and originally premiered in 2008. This was an amazing experience to learn some of the work that the company still performs today. I also got to work with the company member who performs my part in the show which allowed me to really refine the quality and technique that is required for the piece. Additionally, we also did a 20-minute combined improvisation on-stage to utilize the skills we had built in class.
Overall, this experience introduced me to so many amazing artists and a whole new world of movement; I can truly say that I have fallen in love with both Québec and RUBBERBANDance Group.