2 min

Gay at heart

There’s always been something a bit queer about Rob Abubo. Perhaps that’s why so many assume Abubo, a dancer and choreographer with Le Groupe Dance Lab, is gay – but he’s not. The funny thing is, he says, at one time, as an aspiring young dancer, he thought he was supposed to be a gay man, too.

“When I was growing up, I knew how to admire – I looked up to people – and when I started dancing, I would point to a guy and say, ‘I wanna be just like him.’ And it would be this really buff guy with another man in his arms. All the good dancers were gay. And I sort of figured, well, I’m going to be like him: I’m gonna be good and I’m gonna have my best friend, who I can hold hands with,” Abubo explains.

“Everyone thinks he’s gay but he’s straight,” Peter Boneham, founder and artistic director of Le Group Dance Lab, says with a smile. “But I think that he’s gay at heart.”

Although Abubo, 30, is straight, his artistic endeavours are anything but traditional or conventional – even for the modern dance world.

“In my work, I do like to cross boundaries. I do like to mix things up. I don’t like gender-specific roles: I don’t like the men always being strong and the lifters on stage, and I don’t like the women always being the liftees and always doing the splits onstage. I really mix up what’s expected,” he says. “And maybe that is my sexuality, maybe it is coming out – maybe the way I thought I was supposed to be is coming out.”

Abubo’s boundary-pushing choreography will be showcased during the upcoming Canada Dance Festival, which will take place at various locations throughout Ottawa from Jun 3–12. Abubo will share the stage with fellow Le Groupe dancer and choreographer Karen Guttman.

The program will highlight Peter Boneham and Le Groupe Dance Lab’s contributions to the world of modern dance. The performances, which will also feature other lab dancers, will be held from Jun 7–10 at Le Group’s Arts Court location at 2 Daly Ave.

Abubo, now in his ninth season with the lab, has had his choreography showcased in Le Groupe’s Theatre Series and Studio A Series, but this will be the first time the Winnipeg-native has had his choreography featured at the festival.

In addition, Abubo will also share opening act duties with musician Sarah Harmer before Jane Siberry’s headlining performance at this year’s Westfest on Jun 12.

Abubo said he is thankful that Boneham and the lab have given him the opportunity to break through the glass ceiling of freedom of expression in the dance world, whether that is exploring gender roles, sexuality or new techniques.

“Rob is more than just an interpreter or dancer, he’s a great artist,” Boneham says. “He’s a running maverick.”


New works by Karen Guttman & Rob Abubo.

4:30pm. Mon, Jun 7 – Thu, Jun 10.

Arts Court (2 Daly Ave).

Tickets: $15.