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Pilobolus at The Chicago Theatre

by Susan Weinrebe
October 15, 2005
Chicago Theater
175 N. State Street
Chicago, IL 60601
312.462.6300

Pilobolus at The Chicago Theatre

Pilobolus Dance Theatre
www.pilobolus.com

Box 388
Washington Depot, Connecticut 06794
860.868.0538
At
The Chicago Theatre
www.thechicagotheatre.com
175 N. State Street 60601
312.462.6300

Susan Weinrebe
October 15, 2005


(See July 17, 2004 Pilobolus Review).
Pilobolus Dance Theatre likes to introduce itself with the somewhat off putting origin of its name: "Pilobolus (crystallinus) is a phototropic zygomycete - a sun-loving fungus that grows in barnyards and pastures."

I suspect it's their way of giving fair warning that the audience is well advised to watch the performance with humor and open minds. Any cobwebby past conceptions of what constitutes dance will need to be swept away, for Pilobolus nearly defies description.

Aquatica
Choreography: Michael Tracy in collaboration with Mark Fucik, Andrew Herro, Renee Jaworski, Cleotha McJunkins III, Jenny Mendez, Manelich Minniefee, Jan Kuribayashi, Jennifer Macavinta, and Matthew Thorton.
Performers: Josie Coyoc, Andrew Herro, Jeffrey Huang, Jun Kuribayashi, Jenny Mendez, and Manelich Minniefee.
Music: Marcelo Zarvos
Costumes: Liz Prince
Lighting: Neil Peter Jampolis
Commissioned by Dartmouth College and funded by the Carpenter Center, Long Beach, California.

Posed as though listening to a shell, a single dancer is surrounded by others who roll on stage like bits of flotsam carried on a tide of water. As the men rippled across the floor, their pale-colored costumes, with finny gatherings on the legs, contributed to the watery impression.

The two women wore brighter shades, apricot and raspberry, filmy bits of fabric that in no way impeded their climb to the top of a human pyramid and downward slow motion slither. Alternately delighted, frightened, or amazed, the facial expressions of the dancers contributed to the playfulness of the piece, while dreamy music and lighting contrived the effect of water. All softness and flow, Aquatica seemed too short at twenty minutes.

Ben's Admonition
Choreography: Alison Chase in collaboration with Ras Mikey C and Matt Kent.
Performers: Mark Fucik and Matt Kent
Music: Paul Sullivan
Costumes: Angelina Avallone
Lighting: Stephen Strawbridge
Funded in part from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.

Chosen as the 2002 winning entry title for the piece from audience suggestions, Ben's Admonition refers to Benjamin Franklin's exhortation to the Continental Congress, "If we don't hang together, we will surely hang separately."

Thus, two male dancers are revealed hanging from a single stout rope when the curtain rises. Using straps to hold on to, they are stripped to the waist as though ready for a barehanded struggle. Pants and boots that suggest military clothing reinforce the sense of aggression.

Circling each other, they feint, joust, slap, and gather momentum as they swing out over the audience, while heavy-toned music creates a growing sense of conflict as they fail to connect in any but antagonistic ways.

Classic approach-avoidance using two individuals, a microcosmic population, demonstrated how sharing a predicament doesn't ensure cooperation. As one dancer dropped off the rope and fell to the stage floor, it seemed that he was dying. However, another rope was dropped for him and both dancers ended with their heads pulled to the handholds, now their own nooses.

Moody and disheartening, Ben's Admonition was a counterpoint to the lyrical composition, Kiss, recently performed Hubbard Street Dance Theatre. There too, a rope was used to choreograph an aerial pas de deux. Remarkably, in Ben's Admonition, the inherently graceful curves and arcs of rope-swinging performers were transliterated into a metaphor for the momentum of gathering power for greater aggression.
Walklyndon
Choreography: Robby Barnett, Lee Harris, Moses Pendleton, and Jonathan Wolken.
Performers: Jeffrey Huang, Jun Kuribayashi, Jenny Mendez, Manelich Minnifee, and Edwin Olvera.
Costumes: Kitty Daly
Lighting: Neil Peter Jampolis

Cartoonishly dressed in chrome yellow unitards and blue satin boxer shorts, some with yellow circles and smiles on the backsides, Pilobolus lightened up after Ben's Admonition. Teasing choreography constantly tossed off the creative partnering, precision balance, and reciprocity for which Pilobolus is renowned. Plenty of movements with scrabbling, leap frogging, and vocalization punctuated the demanding physical combinations and made them seem like play.

Day Two
Director: Moses Pendleton
Choreography: Daniel Ezralow, Robert Faust, Jamey Hampton, Carol Parker, Moses Pendleton, Peter Pucci, Cynthia Quinn, and Michael Tracy.
Performers: Josie Coyoc, Andrew Herro, Jeffrey Huang, Jenny Mendez, Manelich Minniefee, and Edwin Olvera.
Music: Brian Eno, David Byrne, Talking Heads
Lighting: Neil Peter Jampolis based on a concept by David M. Chapman
Commissioned By: Peter, Ginevra, and Helen

Following a longish intermission during which people took the opportunity to marvel at the decorative elements of the pleasure domed entertainment palace that is The Chicago Theatre, Day Two was a second act worth the wait.

Before the curtain rose, torrential rain sound effects reverberated through the theater. Then, as though born in the soupy waters of life, Pilobolus appeared in flesh-colored body suits and thongs, like beings newly come into the world.

Day Two, of course refers to Genesis and the second day of creation when the waters were parted and sky and land came to be. Two poles were integrated into group formations, and, on these, the female dancers balanced in various complex ways as they were carried about the stage. As much as the bunching, balancing, and carrying proclivities of the group had been signature in the previous pieces, even more of that "see-what-I-can-do-and-you-figure-it-out" emerged in this final number.

The dancers burrowed beneath a cloth that had been laid on the stage, creating waves of motion until they burst forth, just as though the waters had been split dividing heaven and the earth.

Giant water slide that it was, Pilobolus made the most of the stage-sized opportunity to glide, spout, and cavort from wing to wing during the many curtain calls. It was as though freed from the constraints of the disciplined control needed to construct human puzzles made of body parts, they were letting it rip.

Pilobolus fills the stage with the intricacies of its choreography and demonstrates to the audience that there needn't be a box around our whole brain creating or viewing dance.


Pilobolus Dance Theatre
Photo courtesy of John Kane



Pilobolus Dance Theatre
Photo courtesy of John Kane



Pilobolus Dance Theatre
Photo courtesy of Howard Schatz

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