A Dance Organism Called Pilobolus

Written By ArtBurst Team
August 23, 2016 at 7:04 PM

You know your dance/music/acrobatic companies well. Of course you do, because you are the kind of person who can’t wait for the next Cirque du Soleil tent to go up in downtown Miami, damn the traffic on Biscayne Boulevard. And when you visit Orlando? You stop to “ohh” and “ahh” one more time at the Blue Man Group. You might even be enough of a hardcore fan of multi-media experiences to have been digging Momix for the past 30 years. But, as with everything from which life germinates, there is an origin, a seed beneath it all. Or, in this case, a fungus: Pilobolus. Like the spore vessel from which it starts, sometimes traveling a great distance (for a bunch of spores, at least) to survive, Pilobolus Dance Theatre began in 1971 as an experimental dance company at Dartmouth College. Since then, the propagation of its success has reached far and beyond. On Friday and Saturday, Pilobolus will land once again in Miami and, for the first time, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the Knight Masterworks Season. After leaving the group’s headquarters in Washington Depot, Connecticut, and heading to Manhattan by car, Itamar Kubovy, executive director of the modern performance company since 2004, tells Artburst via phone, Pilobolus still adheres to its roots in that it’s “six or seven individuals who essentially are kind of the creative core of the company in its various activities and manifestations. But around that core, we’ve got lots of projects that we’re engaged in, with a couple of different groups of dancers. So, it’s the same core of imagination and collaboration working with different groups in different kinds of venues.” The nine people on stage in Miami, seven dancers and two production members, continues Kubovy, are what constitute the Pilobolus Dance Theatre. “They are involved fundamentally in the creation of new works,” explains Kubovy. “And this is what distinguishes the artists that will be in Miami. Every single one of them is not just an incredible dancer, an incredible actor, an incredible performer, but each one is also a very deep, creative artist, generating original material that is becoming incorporated into the group’s efforts.” And what the Pilobolus dancers have created has been getting more and more exposure in recent years. Remember those cool human shadows made to showcase movies at the 2007 Academy Awards? Those were the Pilobolus guys. You may have also caught them on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in the “Late Night with Conan O’ Brien,” or in the 2011 Grammy-nominated video for the song All Is Not Lost,, performed by alternative rock band from Chicago OK Go (they were up against Adele, and she won the award a few weeks ago). “Our intention and vision is to bring this process that we have developed to as many people in as many different venues,” continues Kubovy. “We don’t really discriminate in terms of our vision between the different stages that we like to perform in.” Kubovy himself, coming from the worlds of philosophy, stage, and cinema, has been generating stuff for Pilobolus, such as the International Collaborators Project, a new series that makes possible some very hip pairings, like having the company work with the lead writer for the “SpongeBob SquarePants” animated series, Steven Banks. To bring more people, all kinds of people, into the Pilobolus community, that is the responsibility of Lily Binns, co-executive director for development. “Pilobolus brings people together in almost everything that we do,” says Binns, a former book and magazine editor and author. “In the arts, in the educational programs that we offer. We are a non-profit company, and we invite people to come in and be a part of the exciting works that we’re making.” In tune with the philosophy of what Binns cleverly calls this “art organism,” rather than organization, Pilobolus will be hosting two workshops in South Florida: a free, reservation-required Modern Dance Master Class at 11 a.m. on March 3 at the Peacock Foundation Studio in the Ziff Opera House, and on March 4, a dancers-only Master Class at the Bienes Center for the Arts at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale. As for whether Pilobolus has inspired or opened doors for other artistic groups that followed and became worldwide sensations, Kubovy says: “Many people have told us that that is the effect that our work has had historically. It’s nice to be told, to hear that. It’s always a flattering and exciting thing when creative work leads to more creative work.” The experience of how the Pilobolus dancers contort their bodies and play with our senses is perhaps best summed up by Kubovy in describing the public’s reactions. “A couple of years ago, I think it was The Los Angeles Times, that said that the sound of an audience in our concerts is different from the sound of an audience at any other dance concert.” Pilobolus Dance Theatre at the Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; tickets cost $25 to $90; 305- 949-6722; This article first appeared in the Miami New Times.

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