Pilobolus and Good Crazy

August 5, 2009

If we think we know what’s going to happen at a Pilobolus concert, we’d be wrong. I admit I get tired of the weightless somersaults after a while, and the fantasy stuff can go on for too long. But there is always something at their performances that takes the imagination into another orbit, not to mention the awesome physicality. On Tuesday night, I liked the sheer entertainment value of the premiere, DOG•ID (though I have a pet peeve about eccentrically punctuated titles), and my son and nephew (21 and 15 respectively) enjoyed this piece the most.

   The shadow play is irresistible because there are so many surprises. And at the same time you get to see the behind-the-screen stuff too—dancers holding lights or running to the other side of the stage. Everything in shadow is deliciously ambiguous for at least two seconds, so when a huge hand reaches down from above, it seems both benevolent and sinister.

   In the tradition of Pilobolus, the piece was a collaboration between alotta people—Steven Banks, Robby Barnett, Renée Jaworski, Matt Kent, Itamar Kubovy (hey wait a minute—isn’t he the executive director?) and Michael Tracy along with the nine dancers. They needed one more collaborator: an editor to tighten up each section and keep things moving along.

    Still it was fun to watch. But the piece I enjoyed more was Megawatt (2004). This is also a collaboration, but with only one lead person, Jonathan Wolken (one of the original Pils), with six dancers (of those only Andrew Herro is still in it). The choreography itself was interesting, and the structure tighter. The entrance of all six dancers inchworming to the beat along the floor, was done with such humor and gusto that it hooked me right away.

As the piece progressed, you felt you were seeing the evolution from low life to human—or not quite human, or maybe too human—forms of life.       Each dancer had a compulsion to keep moving, sort of like St. Vitus’ dance of medieval times. The partnering looked like insects mating, a bit like Robbins’ The Cage, where the female had to kill the male after mating—but all in fun of course.

   I just loved seeing how each dancer threw themselves into it differently. The two women, Jenny Mendez and Annika Sheaff, were especially articulate in their compulsive convulsiveness. I found this whole twitchfest satisfying. There was  something so free and true about each dancer’s bursts of energy, contained only by the followable choreography. It was a good kind of crazy.

Megawatt, photo by Robert Whitman, Courtesy Pilobolus