Pilobolus Dance Theatre

January 24, 2003

Pilobolus Dance Theatre

Stanford University Memorial Auditorium
Stanford, California

January 24?25, 2003

Reviewed by Rachel Howard

Stanford’s Lively Arts scored a coup when members of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the university’s resident ensemble, asked to create a world premiere with the perennially popular Pilobolus Dance Theatre.

The Lively Arts leaders have every reason to stand proud. The as yet untitled new work, choreographed by company co-director Michael Tracy to Christos Hatzis’s skin-prickling score, may not have been the most breathtaking of dances on this generous sampling of Pilobolus past and present, but it held the imagination with its own dark mysteries.

The premiere’s title was not the least of its unknowns. Evoking the tug-of-war within intimate relationships, the work’s dramatic line traced a pattern of lulling waves rather than a story arc. As the music continually shifted between goose-pimple dissonances and agitated rhythms, two couples?the pairings were male/male and male/female?alternated between tentative tenderness and reluctant domination.

Spiraling emotions found form in encircling musculature. Otis Cook cradled Renee Jaworski, shadowed by Ras Mikey C and Mark Fucik. Dancers hoisted one another upside down, limning ovals in the sky as though toes were pencil tips. They held onto one another’s waists to make continuously turning cartwheels. Most poignant of all, they draped themselves over their partner’s heads like full-body blindfolds. By dance’s end the motif became touchingly literal as Jaworski and Fucik held their hands against Cook’s and Mikey C’s eyes.

From the quartet’s playing to the near-absence of gymnastic tricks, every element was tensely understated, and pregnant pauses resonated loudest. Still, it was difficult to discern how these two couples related to each other?were they parallel worlds or a community??even after Jaworski and Fucik traded partners.

2001’s Symbiosis wielded its secrets more freely, giving a heart-of-the-matter peek at intense intimacy. Musically similar to the world premiere, using episodic works by Hatzis again as well as Arvo Part, Jack Body, and Thomas Oboe Lee, Symbiosis is more endearing, with its winning Pilobolus mix of delicacy and humor. It was also a stunning showcase for Cook, whose gentle sensuality never faltered as Jaworski grooved while standing on Cook’s thighs or bounced Cook’s head in the air like a basketball.

created the same year that a gang of Dartmouth undergrads formed Pilobolus more than three decades ago, was pure physical comedy, played to the hilt with the addition of Matt Kent and Jennifer Macavinta in Kitty Daly’s yellow unitards and gym shorts. Marking the company’s twentieth anniversary in 1991, Sweet Purgatory stands as a fitting reminder of Pilobolus at its most affecting. The full company, clothed in Lawrence Casey’s daring fuschia and turquoise flora, made the work’s triumphant overhead lifts deliciously bittersweet.