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Pilobolus brings new perspective to contemporary dance, performs in Beaver Creek Wednesday

By Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the Daily
The Evolution of the Eye is set in a classroom and features zany characters.
Special to the Daily

Pilobolus isn’t your typical dance company. To begin with, three men with hardly any dance experience started it in 1971 at Dartmouth College, after taking a dance composition class Alison Becker Chase taught. Each man’s background played a vital role in Pilobolus’ look, feel and mission. One was an English literature major and cross-country skier. Another was a philosophy science major and fencer. The third was a pre-med student and pole vaulter.

“The original guys were very physically intelligent,” said co-artistic director Renee Jaworski. “They were interested in adrenaline and height and what they were capable of doing with speed and physics and science and the way the body worked in the world.”

See Pilobolus at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Wednesday, March 11. Tickets for the family-friendly show cost $68 for adults and $25 for students and can be purchased at vilarpac.org or over the phone at 970-845-8497.

They named their dance company after a fungus that grows on cow dung. This light-loving fungus shoots spores that accelerate up to 45 mph in the first millimeter of their flight and adhere to wherever they land. They move faster than a bullet out of a rifle, Jaworski said.

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“That was part of their mindset: fast, powerful, (seeking) out the light. They were coming at it with a new and fresh way of telling stories.”

After 49 years, Pilobolus still consists of performers, movers and collaborators who “don’t think in one genre. We want diverse perspectives. We may not be looking for the most highly trained dancer — maybe they’re trained in martial arts or acting. We want people who think in all dimensions in their body, including upside down (and people) who are influencing their art with other genres, like film, art and books,” she said.

The company is a nonprofit dedicated to community outreach and education. It’s goal: to bring different people together to experience multiple ways of communicating.

“Nonverbal communication is the most honest and interesting way to get at the heart of a subject. It’s universal,” she said.

As a result of their powerful perspective, the dancers have performed on Broadway, at the Oscars and at the Olympics.

Pilobolus utilizes videos in between their dance pieces to transition audiences from one world to the next. Wednesday’s show includes five pieces: two company classics and three new ones. 

“Each piece has something to wonder about,” Jaworski said. “It’s about looking at the world and all the beings in it with awe,” she said.

The company created one of the new pieces, “Warp and Weft,” in collaboration with indie rocker and host of Song Exploder podcast Thao Nguyen.

“It is Pilobolus’s first ever all-woman trio,” said Matt Kent, the company’s co-creative director. “The women of Pilobolus create a world where entities and identities overlap and interact, combine and divide in dynamic, humorous, and powerful ways. Out of the darkness, three characters emerge, join together, fight to stay connected and eventually express their true identities in unity.”

The evening begins nontraditionally, with all nine performers warming up and engaging audience members “in a loose, comfortable, ‘welcome to our home kind of way,’” Jaworski said, before they slip into costumes and “perform.” Yet, their performance isn’t about just following choreography:

“They’re living an experience up there on stage,” she said. “They truly immerse themselves in that world.”

The first piece revolves around an examination of the evolution of the eyeball and includes a zany classroom with characters wearing eyeballs on their heads; shadow play; and a model of an eye that the performers take apart and put back together. The show ends with “Branches,” in which dancers slowly hike through the natural wonders of the world — and all of its beauty, absurdity, aggression and “dirt.”

“Right now, we humans have found all these short circuits for our social and spiritual needs,” Kent said. “We think we are connecting but in fact we are more isolated than ever. The message of this show is about connecting to each other, about how amazing the world is when we just put down our phones and look around.”

While pushing the human body beyond its norm, using shadow and light and employing principals of physics, Jaworski said Pilobolus creates magical worlds. It also presents multiple questions, without one specific answer.

“It allows people to step out of their everyday (experience) and engage different synapses, so they can approach personal and worldwide problems with a little different eye,” she said.

The night ends with a playful and childlike feeling, as dancers spin and slide on a watery slip-and-slide made for the stage.

“We like to leave our audiences with a whole rollercoaster of emotion that they’re walking away with and can unpack later,” Jaworski said. “But the last thing you’re going to see is just joyful and a ton of fun.”

If you go …

What: Pilobolus: Come to Your Senses

When: Wednesday, March 11, 7 p.m.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek 

Cost: $68 for adults, $25 for students. For a limited time, buy three tickets to this show and get the fourth one for free. This show is part of the Pay Your Age ticket program for ages 18-30. To purchase you must do in person at the VPAC box office with valid proof of ID. 

More information: Visit http://www.vilarpac.org or call 970-845-8497


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