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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pilobolus: A Marvel Series Event

You may have heard of them before. No, not as the phototrophic zygomycetes – otherwise known as sun-loving fungi that tend to grow in pastures. Pilobolus is the modern and experimental Connecticut-based dance company that will be taking center stage at Jackson Hall tonight.

The acclaimed dance company originated nearly 40 years ago at Dartmouth College between a few classmates who wanted to take the norms of dance to new heights.

“Our performances differ from most traditional modern dances,” said artistic director Robby Barnett. “This isn’t like ballet, where there’s a specific set of vocabulary in our dance – our choreography is invented in a form of organized free play.”

Pilobolus represents a collaborative choreographic process that is created specifically through teamwork and shared inspirations, Barnett said. They use acrobatics and athleticism to provide an artistic expression of the human form and movement.

“If we’re working in the middle of February and we’re colder, then we have a different set of expectations,” Barnett said. “The performance becomes inspired by the weather, the music and the various ideas that we all connect with.”

The show consists of five separate performance pieces that create a balance between the theatrical and physical aspects of dance. It will explore themes such as nature, sex and death.

“These are all very common themes,” said rehearsal and artistic director Renée Jaworski. “Humanity is what you see on the stage, and what’s interesting about Pilobolus is that you see the interaction and relationships.” Jaworski said within every relationship there is sexual tension, and then there is the threat of death.

“There is no set rule to the dance and choreography of Pilobolus,” Jaworski said. It’s no surprise either, since the four founding members of the company had no dance training prior to their new creative movement. “When we go into the studio, we go into a completely blank slate – as if we don’t know how to dance. The dance then becomes more accessible and relatable to the audience,” Jaworski said.

Known for pushing the boundaries of motion and innovation, Pilobolus truly reaches the peaks of success. The company has been featured on programs such as “The Conan O’Brien Show” and the 79th Annual Academy Awards. They even made commercial appearances for popular brands like Ford and Toyota.

In 1997, Pilobolus won a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in cultural programming, and was later honored to be the featured profile on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

“I’m proud of everything we’ve done,” said artistic director and co-founder of the company Jonathan Wolken. “It’s been 40 years of hard work, talent and good fortune. The ground was well fertilized for the appearance of creatures like us.”

So what exactly can you expect to see onstage tonight – besides a whimsical spectrum of raw entertainment?

“The interesting part of any performing art is that it interacts with the audience,” Wolken said. “We don’t have a meaning that a piece wishes to express, but we hope for people to see into it themselves and make their own meanings.”

Who knows exactly what they’ve got up their sleeves? Whatever it is, it will be immersed in creative theatrics, mind-bending body movement, pop culture and a ton of dance. More information about the event can be found at pilobolus.com.

VANNA LE can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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