The wildly creative avant-garde dance company Pilobolus has transformed itself into an international entertainment juggernaut. Featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Sesame Street, and The Academy Awards, and nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for the video for OK Go’s All Is Not Lost, the company continues to explore new ways of using the human body as a graphic and expressive medium. Program will include The Inconsistent Pedaler, an absurd, acrobatic, and lyrical collaboration between Pilobolus, fiction writer Etgar Keret, and filmmaker Shira Geffen that opens up a mesmerizing physical world.
Celebrity Series is pleased to offer an artist post-performance talk on Friday, October 27, with Renee Jaworski, Pilobolus co-artistic director, and company members. This 20-minute talk, moderated by Peter DiMuro of The Dance Complex, will be held in front of the stage immediately following the Friday evening performance. In anticipation of the engagement, DiMuro shares his perspective on this phenomenal company.
By Peter DiMuro
I’m having a hard time fathoming that Pilobolus is almost 50 years old. As a young student at the American Dance Festival, I saw them over several years in the 1980s. They were a favorite of then director Charles Reinhart, who along with co-director Stephanie Reinhart, nurtured the group into becoming the next taste treat in dance.
The group’s history is well documented: a gaggle of Dartmouth students and their teacher, the amazing and still-going-strong Martha Clarke, fashioned quirky partnering and physical balances into crowd- pleasing performance. The technique was less about multiple turns and high battements and more about lessons from physics, Butoh, pure anatomy—and yes, we get to see a lot of it! The work could be poetic and intriguing, absorbing you in other worlds, and conversely very funny with a tinge of college boy humor that varied to the more astute over the years.
When the company was last presented by Celebrity Series a few seasons ago, we were treated to a very up-to-date, modern version of Pilobolus. I remember being pleasantly surprised at how the company had, in essence, been reborn. The efforts of the original jocks-turned-artists and their forays into group collaborations over their first 25 years or so had suffered.
Perhaps it was a natural evolution: bodies that created the initial experiments that were Pilobolus were no longer the bodies dancing the work. New, younger artists—many who studied the company in their dance departments but might have lacked the collaborative spirit and experience of the originals—were now in the drivers’ seat; the originals were now driving from the back seat.
But their last Boston engagement was thrilling. The company brought a very focused energy and effort that partnered its trademark physicality with 21st century production values, including great videos between the live work—projections within them offering a more dimensional experience for those of us in the theatre. A new version of the leadership team that seemed to include conceptual artists, choreographers, and production/design was in effect.
As a Boston-based choreographer, or perhaps more fittingly a non-New Yorker, I have always been inspired by and reveled at companies like Pilobolus, who have thrived by NOT being based in New York City. Pilobolus have created their works over the years in Connecticut, somewhat secluded, bringing their works out to perform, yes, at New York venues, but also worldwide. It is also interesting to note that all four works on the upcoming program were commissioned by either the American Dance Festival, based in Durham, North Carolina, or Jacob’s Pillow, in our own Berkshires backyard. It gives one pause about our own locally-grown dance.
The works we will see when Pilobolus takes the Shubert Theatre stage this month will include some lovely bodies, and in most of the evening’s repertory, we will see them on stages within stages: a tiny circular platform, in front of a small house backdrop, next to a bicycle. It will be interesting to see the expanse of the stage space cut off and have our eyes focused to the details, the theatrics. Only in Branches, recently viewed on the Inside Out stage at Jacob’s Pillow, do we see pure, prop-less, unadorned bodies. Perhaps this is a balance of a different kind, with the program serving as a metaphor for the balances we see between and among the bodies.
I look forward to seeing you there and chatting with the company afterward!
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