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Pilobolus at the Joyce

by Marian Horosko
July 6, 2008
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
Where: Joyce Theater, Eighth Avenue at 19th Street
When: June 30 to July 26
What: A small extraordinary group of dancers with a unique repertory
Pilobolus, named after a sun-loving fungus, germinated in the fertile soil of Dartmouth College in Washington Depot, Connecticut, in 1971 and has become a one of a kind modern dance company.

Like other modern groups, Pilobolus performs in a vocabulary of invented moves. But theirs resemble early European Commedia del Arte street theater, acrobatics, circus balancing acts and athletic feats. They reinvent themselves every year adding twists and turns, tender, fantastic feelings, subtle or with outright hilarious jokes, while performing with exceptional lighting, costumes (scant) and musical composites.

New this year, is "Laterna Magica" by one of its three company artistic directors, Michael Tracy (Bobby Barnett and Jonathan Wolken are the current other two), in collaboration with several company members, not an unusual process to this group, to music by five contributors. The work is delightful whimsy, fresh and set in a mid-summer never-never land at dusk, where catching fire-flies and placing them into lanterns is an earnest endeavor for two female dancers, who protect them from playful predators. It is an addition to the wide range of moods and ideas that the company embraces. It was a weaker but easy opening.

Favorites from the repertory are included in the season including the solo, "Pseudopodia," (1973) now performed by Jun Kuribayashi, conceived by Jonathan Wolken. Kuribayashi makes his entrance and exit in roll-overs and proceeds in his silken style, of weight-defying balances with musical and dynamic phrasing. "Memento Mori" (1973) continues to grow in depth with its bickering old couple coming to a compromise. A brilliant touch by Wolken was to use the cawing voice of Florence Foster Jenkins, would-be soprano whose recitals became a hot ticket when she performed at Carnegie Hall.

A mesmerizing finale "Megawatt" (2004) by collaboration is a non-stop, full-company breathtaking panorama of dancer-contributions, one more striking than the next. The wonder is how a small company with many appearances can uphold the level through such physical enervating performances. But they do.

Pilobolus travels extensively. For more information: www.pilobolus.org.
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