In the Moment: Erica Rebollar on ‘Sacred Profane’ at Dance Place on October 3rd

With the ongoing Women’s Voices Theater Festival, I wondered if other performing arts in the DC area were highlighting the work of women artists. I didn’t have to search far to find that there is a dance project drawing attention to women choreographers and dancers. It is RebollarDance’s collaborative project, Sacred Profane.

Wanting to learn more about Sacred Profane, I spent time chatting with choreographer and dancer Erica Rebollar.

Erica Rebollar. Photo courtesy of RebollarDance.
Erica Rebollar. Photo courtesy of RebollarDance.

Right off, Rebollar was very clear. “There are many connections! I identify with Women’s Voices Theater Festival’s mission as it is similar to my own, and to that of the business of dance in general. The big companies are danced primarily by women and choreographed primarily by men. In Western culture, this has dated back from 15th-16th century ballets and has been a constant since.”

She went on to say, “In my classes, I teach 30 girls/woman for every 1 boy/man. With that percentage, why then are most dance directors and choreographers men? I created Sacred Profane to give a voice to women led, women danced companies for the same reason Women’s Voices Theater sought to create their festival. We need to join forces!”

Sacred Profane will be performed at DC’s Dance Place on Saturday, October 3rd at 8 pm and Sunday, October 4th at 7 pm at Dance Place. Sacred Profane is a pick of the season in the recent Washington City Paper’s Fall Arts Guide. It was highlighted as well by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post dance writer Sarah Kaufman in her Sunday, September 13, 2015 Falls Arts article.

Here is my full Sacred Profane interview with Erica Rebollar is here:

David: As I understand Scared-Profane is a cross-cultural collaboration of women-led DC-based dance companies. Would you tell us more about Sacred-Profane?

Erica: An evening length premiere “woman spectacular” Sacred Profane is a multi-company, cross-cultural collaboration between among, DC-based dance companies. The all women cast highlights backgrounds in various dance genres and standpoints as RebollarDance collaborates with feminist punk rock dance band Tia Nina, South Asian Performing Arts Network and Institute (SAPAN), Somapa Thai Dance Company, and guest artists Esther Geiger, Heather Doyle, and Annemarie Clark.

Sacred Profane involves women of different ages, cultures, and races to create feminist work that delves into human rights issues at times, and at times is celebratory and irreverent! Using music composition by Jeffrey Dorfman coupled with pop songs and classical music, RebollarDance premieres original work as a collaborative.

In an area such as DC, why is a cross-cultural dance evening important?  

DC is a multi-cultural city, yet cultures are divided; women’s lived experiences are often not shared, and the DC postmodern cultural dance scene is separate from other cultural dance scenes in DC (Indian, Thai, African, etc.) because the genres/techniques and cultural imperatives vary. Nonetheless, at the base of it are women led and danced companies, so I sought to find a common denominator through gender, and explore our shared experiences as well as what makes us different.  This work is the outcome, a cross-cultural collaboration.

Why did you select the title, Sacred Profane?

I spent two summers touring small villages of Morocco, and I saw some situations/circumstances of women (from my Western eyes) that I deemed troubling, and therefore “profane.” After acclimating to the culture, I returned to America via JFK airport and taxied through New York City’s Times Square, and was again affected by Western “profanity,” specifically in terms of women. Through viewing the cultural expectations, dress codes, societal norms, and behavioral defenses that women of Morocco and America display and deal with, I then imagined the title Sacred Profane.

I later found that the sacred–profane dichotomy is an idea by French sociologist Émile Durkheim, who considered it to be the central characteristic of religion: “religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden.” So I ask what is “profane” and what is “sacred”? The more the performance has evolved, the more I see the two existing together. There is “sacred” to ideas of profane, and there is “profane” to ideas of sacred.

What can the audience expect at the performance of Sacred Profane?

A cross-cultural performance that skirts the boundaries of risk taking, with special interest in the subjects of performativity, colonialization, orientalism/occidentalism, femininity, and feminist culture within a cross-cultural perspective. With the intention of presenting manifestations of women as subject vs. object, Sacred Profane is a loose, provocative canvass of bodies in motion, placing movement situations and stories in juxtaposition to each other in order to provoke questions and challenge ideas.

How do you want the audience to feel during and after the performance?

I hope to evoke a feeling of women’s performative bodies as both subject and object living within the same body, with experiences complex and dynamic. Feelings that come with dichotomies: loving some things, hating others, ultimately asking why? What are our cultural imperatives?

What music will be the score for the performance?  

 The music of Sacred Profane is so varied it is hard to categorize. There are 17 pieces of completely different sound scores and songs. Some are popular, some are classical. The total concert is mastered and scored by composer Jeffrey Dorfman (

Anything additional you would like readers to be aware of?

There will be an amazing feast of vegan food after the Saturday night performance and a provocative “Q&A” after the Sunday night show.

Sacred Profane will be performed at Dance Place – 3225 8th Street, NE, in Washington, DC on Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 8 pm, and Sunday, October 4, 2015 at 7 pm. Information and tickets are here.

Note: Information about donations to Sacred Profane to fund its 27 collaborators (dancers, choreographers, lighting/scenic/costume/sound designers, videographers, etc.) go here.

Note: Erica Rebollar will receive the prestigious Pola Nirenska Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Dance” at a ceremony on January 23rd at the Terrace Theater, at The Kennedy Center.


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