Heidi Duckler Dance’s yellow Mustang is the launching pad for student-driven online performance

By Katherine Brubaker

HDD’s yellow Mustang convertible is the springboard for Culver City High School students’ upcoming virtual performance
Photo courtesy of
Heidi Duckler Dance

What do Zoom and a yellow Mustang have in common? Los Angeles-based dance company Heidi Duckler Dance and Culver City High School students will show the connection during a final Zoom video performance this Friday (July 24) — the culmination of a five-day online movement workshop with the company, which students completed this week. The online event also features a showing of a previously recorded performance of HDD’s “Move Me.”

That piece was created for the company’s 2002 yellow Mustang convertible, which was “used as a performance site and educational platform designed to foster encounters between artists and audiences in public spaces,” according to a release describing the event.

Heidi Duckler, the director of the company, explained that the company has produced many site-specific performance pieces in a myriad of locations over the last three decades. “We’ve been doing [site-specific work] for 35 years. We are pretty much a pioneer in the medium. The content is created on site, so it’s never created somewhere else and then plopped into a space. So whether the content is created in a community, whether it’s created in a location, or whether it’s created on screen or on Zoom, sites are always being redefined,” said Duckler, who’s also staged works in laundromats, an abandoned movie theater and on the hood of a 1970s Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

Through Zoom, students from The Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at Culver City High School took five days of movement and expression workshops with artist Rafael Quintas, a Heidi Duckler Dance Teaching Artist. Friday’s online event showcases an original video performance created by students. In addition to the student performance, viewers will be able to watch Quintas perform in a recording of the original “Move Me.”

Duckler described the kind of training and dancing her company does, which is taught in their workshops.

“Many companies look for a sort of a homogenous look for their dancers — basically having all of them trained in a particular genre or style,” said Duckler ahead of the Culver City High academy workshop. “The way our company develops our technique is through a sort of original vocabulary. We look for dancers that are unlike any other dancers. They are trained to mind their own body and its own particular and unique talent. Everyone has potential that can be developed. And so there’s no sort of invitation or following or learning of steps, but it’s all kind of really finding the tools and information to really develop what you have and then to increase and expand upon that — to really use your own resources for expression to the extreme.”

Due to COVID-19, HDD adapted the workshop and performance experience with Culver City High students to an online platform, but Duckler feels that learning dance virtually — while unusual — has its benefits.

“Everyone is working remotely, which changes things and challenges us,” she said, “but the students will be on Zoom working from their homes. And I think that’s interesting. I think that, you know, that’s the site. Everyone will have their own site to deal with and to create within and to share. It is kind of an interesting cross-section of public and private.

“When you’re peering into somebody’s space like that on Zoom,” Duckler continued, “how much do you want to share and reveal and how much do you want to protect? So these are interesting conversations to have, I think, in terms of boundaries and borders and [it’s] very much a topic that’s so relevant today. I think it will be very interesting for the students to explore within their home and to share with their peers and colleagues and then to come up with some exploration of their identity as it relates to where they are. It will be quite a profound week for them.”

Tune in to see the results!

Culver City High’s final student performance of “Move Me” happens at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24 via Zoom. Visit movemecc.eventbrite.com to RSVP.