‘Pilobolus Dance Theater’

Performing dance company storms the Redfern


After performing for the 79th Academy Awards, the Olympics, the Oprah Winfrey Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Pilobolus Dance Theater took to the stage on Tuesday, October 15 in the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College.

Sophomore and dance major at KSC, Emily Mann, said before the event started, “I’m so excited to watch this performance. I have to attend this for my class but I know if this wasn’t a requirement I would definitely still have gone—this dance company is known for their amazing expressive work.”

What made this performance even more special is that KSC Alum, Shawn Ahern, was performing with the Pilobolus Dance Theater. Director of the Redfern Arts Center, Shannon Mayers said, “The last time Pilobolus Dance Theater was here was in 2007, many have not been on stage except for one. It’s a thrill for us to see him with Pilobolus on stage tonight.”

Contributed Photo / Ivan Singer

Contributed Photo / Ivan Singer

According to the theater’s website, Pilobolus.com, “Pilobolus is a modern performance company founded by a group of Dartmouth College students in 1971.” The name of the company, Pilobolus, is named after a barnyard fungus that propels its spores with extraordinary speed, accuracy and strength.

The company is based in Washington Depot, Connecticut with offices in New York and Belgium. Pilobolus Dance Theater has toured its 115 pieces of repertory to more than 64 countries over the last 42 years.

Quoted from the Redfern Arts Center playbill, “Pilobolus Shadowland, the company’s evening-length show currently touring Europe, the Middle East and Asia, has been seen by more than half a million people in the three years since it was created.”

While the audience filled in the entire Main Theatre, a projector screen pulled down from the stage. A video clip of a skeleton swallowing food and organism cells scattered across the screen. Moments later, the stage went black. All six performers, two women and four men, rose on stage. A single gray lighting reflected off of the dancers while they incorporated three mirrors into their piece.

The opening piece was called, “Automaton.” It told a story of a dance that questions the difference between human and machine; and through the use of mirrors, allowed viewers to view multiple angles at the same time. The performers’ bodies worked together to create a moving airplane through the use of body language and structure. They then transformed into a robot who then turned back into a human questioning themselves in the mirror.

After the first piece was complete, the projector screen pulled down yet again and the imagery of kites soaring through the sky emerged. Once the clip was over, a completely different type of dance was performed.

“Transformation” was a shadow piece where two dancers performed behind a white screen and in the form of their shadows, created what seemed like an imaginary world. It started with a sleeping girl who was woken up by a giant and she then magically turned into a dog and walked into the sunset with a giant man. These transformations were done entirely by body positions which the audience filled with laughter and amazement.

Unexpectedly next, was the performance “Rushes.” According to Pilobolus.org this piece is “An isolated community of broken dreams.” This performance was set in the 1950s where a circle of chairs surrounded one light hanging from the ceiling. What astonished the audience the most was when Ahern had a performer draped across his shoulders as he stepped onto each chair.

For each chair he stepped off of, another performer would slide that chair in front of him so he could continue his path to turn out that one light.

During intermission, one audience member said, “Each piece is so unexpected, I can only imagine what the next piece will bring,” while another said, “This is a brilliant unpredicted work of living art.”

The next performance imitated Houdini and his magic tricks in the performance called “ESC.”

One performer was stuffed in a bag and locked in a box while another was shoved into a suitcase. Two performers were chained to a pole and another was duct-taped to a chair with a bag tied over her head. Each performer succeeded in their trick  to escape and the crowd went wild.

For the dancers’ last performance, they did a piece labeled “Day Two,” which “enacts the second day of the creation of the world, from its earliest forms of life to the moment at which the creatures of the earth take flight into the air,” as stated on the website Pilobolus.com.

The performers, confident in their bodies, all graced the stage topless and reenacted the creation of the world. To some, it may seem shocking that both men and women did not have tops on but, “It would have not been as good of a piece if they had clothes on,” a Keene resident said.

As the last performance ended and the performers took a bow on stage, the audience rose from their seats and applauded with a standing ovation.

Mann said, “This was the best performance at Keene that I’ve ever been to.”



Deanna Caruso can be contacted at dcaruso@keene-equinox.com

Share and Enjoy !