Review: Pilobolus Opens FirstWorks Festival
Monday, September 27, 2010
This, with a night's repertoire that spanned from Pseudopodia, a strong, undulating solo work created in 1973, to Hapless Hooligan in Still Moving, this year's genre-bending work created in collaboration with Pulitzer-Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Speigelman. One felt, with the full house at PPAC, on a rambling tour of the variations this astonishing ensemble provides, yet always feeling essentially at home in the aesthetic.
Athletic equipoise, equality
After nearly 40 years as a dance ensemble, Pilobolus' identity grounds itself in the human body and how it can be lever, engine, and soul of an idea. Pilobolus broke ground in the early 1970s by creating dance where each body served another in works of athletic equipoise, and where emotion and shape emerged from circus-like balances between strong male and female bodies.
The translation to emotion
Which is why, in the night's opening Contradance (a 2010 work commissioned by the American Dance Festival) when cautious lovers were borne aloft by fellow dancers on a rocking chair that becomes a small boat, the sweet undulation of dancers as waves made the moment all the more poignant. Or how the wrapped-together sensuality of 1992's Duet leveraged two bodies with such equality that it took long, loaded moments to realize they shared the same gender.
Maintaining the strong, solitary dancer
In the second half, however, two new pieces reminded how even when Pilobolus stretches, it keeps that single, strong, solitary dancer of Pseudopodia intact.
Hapless Hooligan played in and out of the scrimmed world of Art Speigelman's pen and ink storytelling, relying nearly exclusively on the shapes of the dancers, silhouetted in fantastic settings.
The piece, a comic delight, gave way though to the evening's strongest piece, and finale, Megawatt (2004). Against the rough electronic pulse of Primus, Radiohead, and Squarepusher, the ensemble crawled, rolled and spasmed in breathtaking forms that brought voodoo possession and electro-shock therapy together in an underground club zeitgeist. A piece of constant, relentless, and finally joyous electricity, each Pilobolus body, strong lightning rods, drew bolts down onto the stage. The riotous response by the house, itself charged by this ever-remarkable group of artists, was proof yet again of the Pilobolus moment realized.
Let's hope they return to Providence soon.
- Pilobolus Opens FirstWorks Festival September 25
- FirstWorks Festival Line-up Announced
- FirstWorks Announces 7th Season to Run Sept 25-Nov 13
- Review: Trinity Rep’s Camelot
- Trinity’s Curt Columbus Previews Season