by Anne Averyt, Burlington Writers Workshop
Review of Pilobolus at the Flynn on Friday, May 2.
At 40, the dance troupe Pilobolus is younger than I am and older than my companion for the evening. In fact, I think we split the difference and so did Pilobolus for that matter. The first half of the show, which an older I enjoyed, was a mix of an almost classical shadow play and a clever, techno-inventive performance. The second half was designed to wow a younger audience with a blend of escapism a la Houdini and a hint of heavy metal.
When I wrote the preview for the Pilobolus performance I was told by a friend that the stage would come to life with dancers “who leap, fly, confound, and amaze.” After witnessing Pilobolus in action I can say they didn’t disappoint. Their energy is inspiring and so is their originality, their athleticism and their sense of play. The dancers tumble, arch, twist, suspend and move their bodies in ways that bodies weren’t built to do.
Pilobolus is performance art — sheer creative entertainment. The program at the Flynn was a mixture of physical strength and flexibility, geometry and interpretive dance. The modern show was punctuated with old style video film on a drop down screen. The films ranged from a Petri dish of floating, undulating micro-organisms to a kite-flying flight of fancy, a kaleidoscope vision of the 1950s and an explosion of explosions. These were works of art presented as video commentaries for the dance performances.
I especially enjoyed the first dance of the night, which was an almost classical shadow play taking place on a darkened stage, the dancers’ spotlight illumined. Then came a techno-video dance sequence that created a kaliescope of bodies spread on the light table and beamed onto a screen. The performance seemed to defy gravity and left me trying to figure out — whose arm is that, what body does that leg belong to? But in the end, what appeared to be chaos was a creation of symmetry and beauty.
The intermission was followed by a modern-day Houdini performance that had the dancers locking and unlocking themselves by twisting, flipping and contorting. It was like a modern Rubik’s cube of illusion. Then came the finale, a tour-de-force high-energy performance that, according to my young friend, was danced to a music mix of Radio Head, Primus and (he guessed, though not entirely certain) Aphex Twin.
I wrote in my preview that someone told me it is hard to capture Pilobolus in words. After seeing the group, I decided to take the challenge. How does one describe Pilobolus? Imaginative, athletic, playful, creative, magical. Their work? Physically challenging, mentally puzzling. The experience of sitting in the audience? Energizing, unique, privileged.
Thanks Pilobolus, it was quite a ride …