Modern dance troupe Pilobolus celebrates 50 years, vintage mixes, new at The Egg – The Daily Gazette


Turning 50 is no small feat for any dance company. But Pilobolus is that exceptional group of dancers who know no limits. Fans may be excited to see five of their creations on Friday (November 12) at The Egg as part of the Dance in Albany series.

“We’re so grateful to be live,” said Matt Kent, co-artistic director with Renee Jaworski. “We live for it. “

Usually the company, which includes four men and two dancers, has a “robust touring program and travels the world,” Jaworski said, “but this past year has been lighter because of COVID. “

This performance is the penultimate stop on the company’s six-week fall tour; their two-month spring tour begins in February.

Still, being able to look back this season on an exceptional corporate lineage has been gratifying. Friday dances will be a mix of vintage and novelty and will include “Megawatt” (2004), “Shizen” (1978), “Day 2” (1980), “Beyond the Shadow Class” (2007) and “A Solo du claiming empty “(1980). Although some of them have been updated, the company will present for the first time its shadow work which will be” like an invitation to the public to see behind the screen, “said Jaworski.

The dancers will use a mobile screen on wheels. The audience can see what looks like an elephant or a huge hand pointing at a small child. Then the screen will move and they will see how the dancers had to pose to achieve the effects.

“It will be a different geometry,” she said. “The dancers had to learn to position themselves so as not to touch each other but to work to create the image. This is called a transformation.

Although this technology is new to the company and the audience, it will become one of 120 pieces created over the past five decades and toured in more than 65 countries. Hard to believe when you consider how the business started.

In 1971, Moses Pendleton, Jonathan Wolken and Steve Johnson were enrolled at Dartmouth College (NH) in a dance composition course taught by Alison Becker Chase.

“They weren’t trained dancers,” Jaworski said. “But Alison saw that they were physically intelligent and had an interesting approach to movement as their partnership came from their fear of being alone on stage. They were climbing on top of each other or standing on top of each other.

They also had a connection to biology in that Wolken’s father had a biology lab and studied pilobolus crystallinus, a light-loving fungus that, when it launched its spores, traveled up to 45 mph in the first. millimeter of flight and adhered to whatever they landed. to.

“So when they [the dancers] would create parts, they weren’t like what you would do with one body, but would create characters, animals or biological shapes, ”she said.

And being skiers, pole vaulters and fencers, their movements were always very athletic. The first dance they created in class, they called it “Pilobolus”. Eventually, Pendleton, Wolken, Chase and two other men and a woman formed the company to create dozens of dances, all with this particular style of movement.

There were, however, significant differences from other dance companies. Instead of having a choreographer, each dancer has their own voice and owns their movement by sharing their ideas, Jaworski said. This method of doing a dance continues today.

“None of the dances are based on an idea, but we ask ‘What story do we want to tell’,” Kent said. “We play, experiment and what interests us, and then we build on that and share. The time of a dance is variable. We have dances that last five minutes and ‘Shadow Land’ lasts seventy-five minutes.

Unlike classical ballet which has to adapt the choreography to the length of a musical piece so that the movement is married to the music, Kent said they can create a dance and then build the music on the movement. They even created a dance that had no soundtrack, only the sound of the dancers’ feet hitting the ground. Some scores are original and they work with a composer, others are musical collages of tunes from rock bands, and they have a sound engineer. For this tour, the music is recorded.

Another difference with classical ballet is that the dancers do not have daily lessons.

“We leave it to the dancers to guide their own training,” Jaworski said. “We want them to have fun, play and be curious about other styles of dance and movement in order to keep an open mind. But dancers are on the move and have to stay strong and flexible to be expressive.

In recent months, the company has also been addressing social issues, including Black Lives Matter and Native Americans. Because the company is based in Washington, Connecticut, it is located on the ancestral lands of the Schaghticoke tribal nation. The company paid tribute to them and met Darlene Kascak, an Indigenous storyteller, and created a dance last summer based on one of their legends.

Kent and Jaworski will give a pre-performance talk on Friday at 7:15 p.m.

To attend, wearing a mask is mandatory as well as social distancing. Since guests have to take an elevator to get to the theater, allow extra time to get to your seat and for post-show departure.


WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, November 12
O: The egg, Albany
HOW MUCH: $ 36
MORE INFO:; 518-473-1845

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