By: Kendal Griffith
Pilobolus, what is it, you ask? By definition, it is a genus of saprophytic fungi notable for the forcible ejection of the entire ripe sporangium. In the dance world, it is a company known for its dynamic, intriguing, and strange choreography which relies on its intertwining, risk-taking, and organic dancing.
During an interview with Matt Kent and Renee Jaworski, Co-Artistic Directors and former company dancers, they explained the meaning and background of how Pilobolus came to be. “Pilobolus was founded at Dartmouth College were four men who hadn’t been dancers before, took a dance class and began to create pieces using nontraditional vocabulary. They were interested in science and the natural world around us,” said Matt Kent.
“The Company has been together for 50 years and we are celebrating our “Big Five-Oh! The company officially started in 1971. So we are celebrating our 50th anniversary over the next two years. We wanted to start celebrating a little before but Covid sort of putting those plans on the back burner for a while so we started celebrating just recently in October opening with the premiere of our Big Five-Oh in Asheville, NC” said Renee’.
“We draw inspiration from so many different places. Some of our most interesting collaborations have been with people without any dance training” said Renee’. Pilobolus has drawn this inspiration from acts like magic, martial arts, circus arts, poets, authors, storytellers, and the list goes on.
In their work with Penn and Teller, they created a Houdini-type piece based on the escapes Houdini became famous for. Their repertoire also includes dances inspired by Native American storytelling, shadow work, and, during the pandemic there was even a dance created in one of the dancer’s basements on Zoom.
In addition to doing outdoor concerts, the Pilobolus dancers lived in a pod of isolation where the dancers, choreographers, and directors lived together. It harkened back to the old days of communal living which Matt said was nostalgic and life-changing. After a period of time, the dancers were able to dance mask-less and enjoy what they do best, which is improvisation.
Shadow work is one of the company’s signatures. In this process, the dancers are tasked with
creating random things. Like an elephant, for instance, one dancer will move their body in a creative way to replicate the trunk while another will show a different piece like the ear. In their one-of-a-kind piece, “Behind the Shadows,” they reveal how this is done.
Join Pilobolus at the Newberry Opera House on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 at 8:00 P.M. We are excited to have this truly original company back on our stage again. From “Megawatt”, a high energy kick-off with music by Primus, Radiohead, and Square Pusher to the “Solo for the Empty Suitor” as a softer-toned duet entitled “Shezan.” Their show promises to be a roller coaster of emotions. It’s not clear if “Behind the Shadows” will be presented this time but this author certainly hopes so!