Dance performance breaks down barriers to showcase interconnectivity of styles, communities

Since he began dancing at age 7, Victor Quijada has explored many different forms, starting out on the hip-hop and breakdance scene and eventually incorporating ballet and contemporary dance.

His upcoming show “Reckless Underdog” is a glimpse into these periods of dance in Quijada’s life as he asks himself: What would his dancing look like if he had made different choices? The show debuts April 1 as part of Arizona State University's Gammage Beyond series.

“It feels like I had so many different moments and identities in my life, or possible identities in my life, that 'Reckless Underdog' is me imagining three different timelines of what kind of work would I have made,” Quijada, who is the artistic director and choreographer for the show, said. “Any one of those chapters could have been its own story. And they each could have continued on and maybe it would have manifested into something else. I think all of us have that thing that we think about and wonder what would have happened if we would have gone down other paths and made different choices.”

Acts represent alternative realities 

The show is split into three acts that each represent a major chapter in Quijada’s dance career. Each act includes different collaborators and contributors and uses different staging, music, costumes and aesthetics to show three alternate realities of his life.

The first act takes inspiration from classical ballet and features elements reminiscent of pas de deux. Quijada takes these elements such as the length and amplitude that would be seen in traditional ballet and uses them as the foundation for his unique elegant and free-flowing dance style The music for this act comes from pianist and composer Chilly Gonzales’ album “Solo Piano III,” which was remixed for “Reckless Underdog” by music director Jasper Gahunia.

The second act is more experimental and endeavors to distort certain theatrical codes while approaching dance with limited movements. The dance and storytelling more abstract and allows the audience to project their own meaning and story onto what the dancers are doing on stage. The second act has music composed by Eric San, aka experimental DJ and composer Kid Koala.

The final act takes elements from hip-hop culture and breakdancing combined with Quijada’s dance style, taking traditional break cypher and putting it into an upbeat and festive environment. The music for this act was composed by Louis-Nicolas Imbeau, aka Vlooper, the producer of the hip-hop music collective Alaclair Ensemble.

Creating a dance 'laboratory' 

After years of being a professional dancer for different artists and crews, Quijada felt torn between different worlds of dance and endeavored to create a space of his own to develop his style led by the philosophy that all dance is valid and different types can be harmonious together. In 2002, he formed his company Rubberband in Montreal, after the nickname he was given as a young b-boy, or breakdancer, because he “dances like a rubberband.”

“It was important that I started Rubberband as this laboratory for me to put those ideas together and put dancers from different backgrounds together. I had all this information in my body that was coming out of choreography, movement (and) vocabulary that I needed to see amplified in more bodies,” Quijada said. 

Rubberband is characterized by Quijada's method, breaking down the barriers between competing dance styles and taking the foundations from traditional dance forms to create something entirely new. He has taught throughout the world in university programs, workshops and master classes.

“I take genes from one end of the spectrum towards classical forms like ballet, contemporary and modern point, and then I take genes from hip-hop dances like breaking and popping and even other genes from martial arts, yoga and capoeira and put them all together to create something new,” said Quijada. “I was trying to create and reinforce this identity that was far away from the beginning points of these genres but like it was its own distinct dance, language and identity."

“Reckless Underdog” is a show that aims to tear down the barriers of what we think dance is and is not, and carries the audience on a powerful journey of self-reflection and raw emotion.

“I believe every audience member comes with their own story, comes with their own history, comes with their own baggage, and I'm hoping that each and every one will get their own personal journey through the show,” said Quijada. “I hope they will get something very profound and very impactful and very deep and they'll walk away from the show like, ‘I wasn't expecting that’ or ‘I didn’t think that was possible.’”

“Reckless Underdog” debuts Saturday, April 1, at ASU Gammage. Tickets are on sale now at

Emily Mai