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Dance Review (LA): Pilobolus at the Music Center of Los Angeles

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Pilobolus is a unique dance company based in Los Angeles. I have seen them on numerous occasions including at the Hollywood Bowl and at a concert in Milan, Italy. They never fail to thrill. Pilobolus was founded by three young men and an open-minded dance instructor at Dartmouth College. 38 years latter the company has emerged as a singular sensation that tours the globe displaying a combination of athleticism, dance, and gymnastics presented with humor and grace and incorporating an inspirational sense of harmony. One can’t help but be astonished at some of the feats this troupe can pull off.

What a pleasure to have them back at the Music Center, where a company of six (of eight available dancers) presented a retrospective of some of the dances Pilobolus has created. The company is often remembered for their wild machines that they explore for meaning, but this time, except for some chairs in their second piece of the evening (“Rushes”), the company depends on each others’ bodies to find meaning and movement.

The first piece, “Redline,” is one of their newer pieces and brings the six dancers, in military garb by Liz Prince, on stage to march and eventually brawl to the pounding music of Battles, D.J. Champion, and Autechre. The moves include martial arts, stomping, marching, and a most frightening move where the dancers fling their arms around like windmills.

The second dance was the aforementioned “Rushes” where the dancers slowly emerge from almost amoeba-like existence in a circle of chairs, to become a group performing a wave using the chairs. In the process the dancers literally wear each other or try each other on for size as they explore how best to use themselves and the chairs. Lots of humor here and plenty of ingenuity.

The third piece is called “Gnomen” and was dedicated to Jim Blanc who had died of complications from AIDS. The male quartets in black briefs seem to represent men trying to get together to battle a common enemy. The piece is both poignant and moving.

The last piece was called “Day-Two” and is one of their earlier pieces. In it the group was fascinated by how things came to be and what their use was. “Day-Two” is the second day of creation and the dancers literally grow out of each other. This idea of creation was brought to a climax in the curtain call, where the dancers slide on a watery tarp across the stage.

Pilobolus seldom disappoints, and while it might be argued it’s more gymnastics than dance, the troupe is thrilling nonetheless. The group performed at the Ahmanson Theatre under the auspices of Dance at The Music Center Oct 23-25.

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About Robert Machray