Sunday Snapshot: Midst of a Late Winter

IMAGE A ballet dancer balances on her pelvis against a veiled window. On a reflective surface with a reversed image, there appears to be four of her. IMAGE

You may remember Melissa K. Dooley, her work, and background in dance and photography from our Sunday Snapshot last month of her photo: Ballerina Lounging in Central Park. When Melissa added this recent shot to our Flickr photo pool, I couldn’t resist showing off another of her lovely photos. I find what Melissa calls a ‘kaleidoscope’ effect (achieved with Photoshop) reminiscent of a Rorschach ink test… and equally as mesmerizing!

Melissa took this self portrait in April of this year (2011). “After a long day at the ballet studio, I was [Read more…]

40 Years of Pilobolus Dance: Origins, Partnering, Programming

I recently contributed a guest review of Pilobolus: The Human Alphabet at one of my favorite blogs, Picture Books and Pirouettes.

If you want to know more about the blog and its author Kerry Aradhya, simply visit PB&P. You can also see Kerry’s guest article here at Dance Advantage – a year-in-review of dance-related picture books for 2010.

In conjunction with the review, I thought it might be fun to dig a little into Pilobolus history as well as my experiences with their work. A quaint little post on the company actually already exists way back in the Dance Advantage archives but this seemed a good time for an update.

Pilobolus Dance Theatre

In 1971 Alison Chase chose a small group of students from her beginning modern dance class to represent Dartmouth College at a symposium for modern dance in New York City. Original members of the collective that would become Pilobolus included Moses Pendleton, Jonathan Wolken, and Steve Johnson. They were later joined by Robby Barnett, Michael Tracy, and Lee Harris when Johnson graduated and went on to pursue a medical career and soon after Alison Chase and Martha Clarke became the first female members of Pilobolus.

Pilobolus first performed as the opening act for a Frank Zappa concert at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Though on the fringe of modern dance, the company gained recognition and acclaim for their unique collaborative approach to choreography, innovative and often acrobatic weight-sharing techniques, and humor.

Pilobolus Dance Theater: Pseudopodia

Watch this video on YouTube.

Pseudopodia (1973) Choreographed by Jonathan Wolken. A tumbling tumbleweed solo set to an all-percussion score. Performed here by Pilobolus dancer Jun Kuribayashi.

If, over the last 40 years, you’ve been fortunate enough to see them live as I have, you probably understand the worldwide appeal of Pilobolus. The company’s artistic directors and dancers have managed to create “a profoundly serious artistic enterprise that has successfully reached out to a popular audience.”

They’ve inspired and paved the way for other dance companies, including the offshoot, MOMIX (founded by Pendleton and Chase), and continue as innovative leaders, expanding their artistic, educational, and commercial programs, initiatives, and collaborations.

Lanterna Magica – Pilobolus Dance Theatre

Watch this video on YouTube.

LANTERNA MAGICA (2008) is a full company work choreographed by co-Artistic Director Michael Tracy. This work immerses us in the luminous spirit of the natural world and uses ritual and mythology to create a mysterious and irresistible sensual celebration of the supernatural.

Pilobolus Institute

As the educational arm of the organization The Pilobolus Institute conducts community workshops, lecture demonstrations, master classes, and performances for non-dancers, trained students, and professionals alike.

From the website: “Workshops given by the Pilobolus Institute are not training in dance but rather in methods of effective group creativity that use physical expression as their medium. We begin by eliminating preconceptions of what dance should be. We watch what is unique about every body that moves, and in doing so discover infinite forms of what is beautiful and possible.”

You can read about The Pilobolus Institute’s recent work at a school in New Haven, Connecticut at the Pilobolus Blog. See this group of boys from Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School perform their work in the video below.


Watch this video on YouTube.

Pilobolus Partnering

Most who watch Pilobolus perform are struck by their unique and seemingly impossible feats of partnering and weight-sharing, moments where two or more dancers balance or distribute their weight between one another. Pilobolus is known for creating both still and moving body structures which are constructed with base principles of balance and counterbalance.

During my post-college teaching career, I was twice able to take a master class with former Pilobolus dancer, Mark Santillano, now a long-time faculty member at Mercyhurst College. His Pilobolus-style partnering class began with some basic get-to-know-your-partner counterbalance exercises. It’s quite possible you’ve played with these concepts before:

  • Grasping the forearm of your partner (just above the wrist), begin with your bodies face to face and standing close together. [Read more…]