Pilobolus has absolutely perfected performance art! After thirty-nine years, Pilobolus still brings innovation that challenges their artists and thrills audiences, which I got to experience first hand this past Monday evening at The Joyce Theater in New York City. This evening, Pilobolus adds to their superior athletic and dynamic reputation by flaunting their fluidity and grace on top of their ability to tell a story.
The opening piece, Lantera Magica, takes the audience to a fantasyland of enchanted creatures. Appealing to the family audience, fireflies drift your imagination into a mythical land. The colorful costumes and brilliant lighting perfectly complement the graceful dancers, which moves the audience into a tale of fairy like creatures and discovery.
Pseudopodia, a male solo choreographed to pounding drums, diverts the focus away from the show's theatrics and toward some gravity-defying technique! This is an amazingly dynamic juxtaposition of music and movement. The hard, pounding drum is paired with the fluid, flame-like movement of Jun Kuribayashi. His gasp-inducing solo begins as Jun Kuribayashi somersaults on stage like a fireball, his body rolling like a continuous flame. Not once does the audience hear his body touch the stage. He flows with effortlessness, while commanding the stage with complete control. Bravo!
The first act ends with the much anticipated Contradance, a new work that's a collaboration with Grammy winner Dan Zanes. Contradance continues with the family and story telling theme of the evening by showcasing the ensemble's subtle strengths and talents to portray sweet characters, who convey a moral story. (Yes, dancers, you better act!) Even though this piece isn't a momentous, gravity defying piece that is often associated with Pilobolus’s reputation, I appreciate the softness and sweetness of the characters and the company’s embrace of magical stories that really appeal to a younger audience.
The evening is arranged much like a double feature at the movies. The first act is a G rated movie for families while the second more is a sophisticated highlight of the extreme strength and power of the company. Upon entering the stage in the fourth number, Gnomen, four intertwined men roll onto stage, demonstrating a huge feat of weight and balance. The men showcase extreme endurance, but execute it with much sensitivity. Arial lifts and arm balances make the audience gasp in awe, but more impressive is the emotional execution of the movement. Choreographed by Artistic Directors Robby Barnett and Jonathan Wolken as a dedication to fellow dancer James Blanc, I also sense that the dancers pay tribute to Wolken, who passed in the spring. The somber and inward mood of the piece creates a division between the performers and audience. As a viewer, you observe the pain of loss and devotion to relationships, but also admire the beauty of graceful physicality and emotional strength.
Megawatt, the finale performance, demonstrates strength and physicality, but in the most raw and abandoned manner. It is truly an underground piece choreographed to the music of Primus, Radiohead and Squarepusher. The dancers enter head first in upside-down army crawls (like my new dance term?), which sets the tone of organized chaos. Creating a full spectacle for the senses, Wolken's killer choreography directly mimics the music. The audience sees, hears, and feels melody and tempo through a non-stop exhilarating display of high energy and seemingly impossible tricks. Although constantly impressed by the insane acrobatic stunts of all the members, I am most thrilled by Eriko Jimbo. One of the smaller members, she moves with fearless abandon and well matches the physicality of the "Lebron James size" men. Work Eriko! Megawatt leaves the audience rocking out in there seats.
Pilobolus is performing at The Joyce Theater until August 7th and provides a show that will entertain all ages and artistic preferences. Go see it!
Photography by Sara D. Davis
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Katherine Gibson
Venue: The Joyce Theater, NYC
Show Date: July 19, 2010
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