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Pilobolus

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Photo by Tim Matson, courtesy of Pilobolus Dance TheaterAbout

Founded in 1971 by a group of Dartmouth College students, Pilobolus was unique from the start. Its founding members (Robby Barnett, Lee Harris, Moses Pendleton, and Jonathan Wolken) were new to dance. They were self-professed “jocks” who registered for a modern dance class with a new professor, Alison Chase, who encouraged them to explore their own movement styles and vocabularies. The name Pilobolus, also the title of their first choreographic work, came from a type of fungus whose means of growth and movement symbolized the group’s interest in collective creativity, metamorphosis, and kinetic interactions between bodies. In 1973, Alison Chase and Martha Clarke joined the company, and in 1974 Michael Tracy became another founding member. Immediately hailed for their inventiveness, wit, and sensational physicality, Pilobolus has grown into a popular, influential, and multi-faceted organization recognized for its distinctive artistic sensibility and approach to creation. Now based in Washington Depot, Connecticut, with offices in New York and Belgium, Pilobolus has three branches: a performing group that tours new works created in collaboration with different choreographers; an educational program that teaches classes and workshops in collaborative creativity; and Pilobolus Creative Services, which provides movement design for commercial applications such as advertising, business, and television. Through its community outreach, educational and commercial endeavors, and widely-seen performances (for instance on the 79th Academy Awards and the Oprah Winfrey Show), Pilobolus has expanded the audience for dance, and expanded the boundaries of what dance can be.

Pictured above: Monkshood Farewell, created in 1974, became a signature work defining the company’s groundbreaking aesthetic. Jonathan Mills writes, “The intense physicality of their movement and the unusual lifts performed in a theatrical setting without recognizable dance steps caused audiences to re-examine their definition of dance.” (Photo by Tim Matson, courtesy of Pilobolus Dance Theater)

Photo by Sara Davis, courtesy of Pilobolus Dance Theatre

 

 

Pictured right: Contradance, choreographed by Renée Jaworski and Matt Kent in 2010, was specifically aimed at families, and illustrates Pilobolus’s distinctive approach to story-telling and stagecraft. (Photo by Sara Davis, courtesy of Pilobolus Dance Theatre)

Photo by Nan Melville, courtesy Pilobolus Dance Theater

  


FURTHER RESEARCH

Essay by Joseph Mills -- Selected Resources


 

 

 

 

 

Pictured leftPilobolus, a trio choreographed by Steve Johnson, Moses Pendleton and Jonathan Wolken in 1971 as a class assignment, was the work that gave the company its name and introduced its inventive physicality to audiences. (Photo by Nan Melville, courtesy Pilobolus Dance Theater)