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The Politics of Spin

When dance companies couldn’t find a spot for Erica Rebollar’s unique style, she carved out a place all her own.

Erica Rebollar’s local start in The Washington Ballet motivated her to chart her own course, which ultimately led the modern dancer back home.

When Erica Rebollar and her dance company mount the stage to perform Space Junk in the CityDance Studio Theater at Strathmore this month, the audience will take in a tight show featuring innovative, unconventional movements. What they won’t see is the winding path that led Rebollar to seek out a style all her own. “I was told I would never be a dancer,” says the Falls Church-based company director. “I think that’s what turned me into a choreographer. If I’m going to dance, I’d better create my own, because no one might hire me.”

The 35-year-old Rebollar grew up in Alexandria and was, for years, one of the Washington School of Ballet’s “bunheads”—budding ballerinas who can do a perfect arabesque, but don’t honor their own creative impulses. One day, something inside Rebollar snapped. “I remember taking my 900th ballet class and thinking: what if I do the opposite of everything I’ve been trained to do?”

She made the switch to modern dance and attended a competitive program in New York. It was a rough road, but the experience served a purpose. “It seemed like a giant challenge and gave me this drive to continue,” explains Rebollar. Gradually, thanks to exposure to Indonesian dance and a welcoming MFA program at UCLA, she found her voice, bucking contemporary trends to develop a tense, twitchy style.
Rebollar wound up back in the Washington area three years ago and has quickly become one of the region’s most intriguing choreographers. This is a big year. Besides the CityDance show, she recently performed in VelocityDC, the preeminent local dance showcase.

For Space Junk, she’s collaborating on a mechanical-sounding musical score with a composer in L.A. and experimenting with new elements, like video projection. But once the show is over, Rebollar will be back to the drawing board, focusing on her next project—in this case, a residency at the American Dance Institute—and continuing to hone her own unique style.

Rebollar’s Hots
Hirshhorn Black Box series, U Street’s Dukem Ethiopian restaurant, shows at Dance Place,
Café Saint-Ex’s beet salad

Rebollar’s Nots
Stilettos, Dancing With the Stars, texting during dinner, heavy perfume, parking at The Kennedy Center