Student Blog: Breaking and blending with Raphael Xavier

January 23, 2017

By Celine Kiner

Raphael Xavier does not waste time.

Within the first ten minutes of our very first rehearsal, he had jumped into a cardio workout filled with breaking footwork. We were not ready.

Our previous work with Victor Quijada, who created the RUBBERBAND Method as a bridge between contemporary and breaking techniques, had strengthened our forearms, of course. Even so, Quijada’s last visit was a full year ago, and we were a little rusty as far as floorwork went.

But we cannot boast that we are USC Kaufman dancers that “study every style of dance” if we are not committed to all that comes our way. So we jumped headfirst (literally, in some cases) into the movement at hand, and we were not disappointed.

Xavier walked us through a comprehensive list of breaking steps, noting that the steps are most often named after a very interpretation of their mechanics. Just because the nomenclature was simple, however, did not mean that the movement was easy. Xavier’s vocabulary required a strength in the upper body that we lacked, especially for the first few days. Blisters popped up everywhere, and soreness hit us the next morning in ballet class when we went for that 9:00 a.m. plié. But through a few days of process, blisters turned into calluses and we began to see the choreography come together.

Xavier used hip-hop music to warm us up, but then switched to music he had produced himself for combinations–a score that was hauntingly beautiful and unpredictably complex, with uneven meter and interwoven melodies.

“If you’re moving fast and the music’s fast, there’s no contrast and everything looks the same. With breaking, people are already thinking. Changing the music changes the dynamic of the movement that they expect,” he said.

His new piece so far has come together in a way that quite describes us at USC Kaufman, blending elements of our own movement into the vocabulary he gave us. He’s well-respected for incorporating breaking on the concert stage, having danced with Rennie Harris Puremovement with our own faculty members d. Sabela Grimes and E. Moncell Durden, so it made absolute sense that his ideas on hybrid movement aligned well with ours. It seemed a testament to how well-crafted this program is, especially for its young age. Hopefully our breaking vocabulary sticks, and we’ll continue to develop as hybrid dancers that embody the New Movement.