Whirling about, surrounded by towering floor-to-ceiling mirrors, long hair flying, arms lifted with strong legs as if to take flight, Falls Church choreographer Erica Rebollar and her dancers are rehearsing precise geometric, weaving patterns.
They are in solo and in duets. Sometimes structured and lively, sometimes turbulent and dizzy. Always mesmerizing.
Rebollar, a 2012 Arts Council of Fairfax County Strauss Fellowship awardee and Kennedy Center dance grant recipient, is creating bold, new contemporary dance works. She explores inner mysteries through expressive external movement. All without words.
With a chemistry fashioned with electronic music laced with sound effects like pings and machines, the Rebollar dancers rise above the sparkling, polished wood in bare feet, lit by enormous, bright overhead halogen lights. They are risk-taking experimenters moving beyond well-known, often-done routines of classical dance.
“My inspiration for work is usually based on a phenomenon that can be easily translated into movement,” Rebollar said. With “bodies, light and sound as her canvases,” the Rebollar Dance Theatre is far from humdrum or milquetoast. The athletic troupe has a dance style that is rigorous, intricate and physically stylized. It is fueled by a percussive, newly created music with stimulating sounds soaking through.
She works in three dimensions, but not the usually thought-of dimensions. Rather, she works with time in its stillness and warp speed. She works with space, whether constrained or vast. She works with an idea of the human body and its emotional alertness.
At the recent VelocityDC Dance Festival, Rebollar Dance Theatre performed “Sentient Machine.” The dancers moved about in unison, building precisely detailed, mechanical clock-hand-like movements appearing like human time pieces. Under haunting lighting, all were tightly bound up, even the women’s hair. Then a slight pause. And into a fluid transformation to form mystical, emotionally infused, curving movements. Sinuous body arrangements with heads spinning, and the once bun-like hair let down to fly and flow to become a veil covering the face.
The group’s next performance will be “Space Junk,” a premiere work developed by Rebollar in collaboration with her dancers. The name “Space Junk” comes from the image of “satellites orbiting endlessly, no longer entirely useful but still transmitting information,” Rebollar said.
Original music, video and set design will enhance the storytelling of the choreography. The original sound design will be composed by Charlie Campagna, who has worked as a composer, sound editor and sound effects magician on television and in Hollywood.
Music is a “very primary source of inspiration,” Rebollar said. Working closely with her composer over drafts, “I create a map of the piece, with its energetic ups and downs in order to allow the composer freedom within these guidelines to create his own experiences and interpretations.”
For company member David Dowling of Reston, reaching out to new audiences is an important goal, and not just to those immersed in the world of contemporary dance. “We are trying to make modern dance more accessible to the casual performance goer.” In its outreach activities, the troupe has performed not only at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, but at more unexpected locations, such as an outdoor pool setting at the Washington Navy Yard’s Park Canal.
Dancer Nate Bond of Annandale, a George Mason University graduate, noted the collaborative approach “in the process of creation” of choreography and storytelling by Rebollar Dance. It is an open and trusting atmosphere as the ideas and personalities of each of the dancers are drawn together to be deftly woven into the final theatrical presentation.
“I would hope that the audience feels a sense of relation to us as people. Art is only realized within the eye of the observer, and so we hope that we can communicate with that observer in a way that is both original and relevant, to the world that we all share,” Bond added.
“We are making dances and performing because we love it ... I am very extremely grateful for the support of Fairfax County Arts Council’s Strauss Fellowship,” Rebollar said. “I want audiences to be enlivened to see the next show, knowing that each work will be unique.”