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>  News Releases >   2005 >   February

Pilobolus archive donated to Dartmouth

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 02/24/05 • Contact Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661

The modern dance company comes full circle as the record of its history arrives at Dartmouth, where it all began
Pilobolus
Courtesy of Pilobolus (photo by John Kane)

In 1971, the modern dance company Pilobolus came to life in a rehearsal studio in Dartmouth's Webster Hall, and went on to become one of the most successful dance companies in the world, with three touring companies and an educational program called the Pilobolus Institute. Thirty-four years later, the Pilobolus archive, a treasure that includes choreography notes, photographs and footage of performances and rehearsals, has returned to Webster Hall, which today houses Dartmouth College Library's Rauner Special Collections Library.

"Dartmouth and Pilobolus are connected," said Dartmouth Provost Barry Scherr, who is also the Mandel Family Professor of Russian, "and we're happy to welcome home their archives. Pilobolus has had a tremendous impact on the history of modern dance, and the dancers continue to amaze and inspire audiences with their performances and educational outreach efforts. We're very proud to strengthen our relationship by housing, preserving and utilizing these valuable archives."

"Pilobolus is thrilled and grateful that Dartmouth has welcomed the company back and ensured that its ever-growing legacy is now part of the College in perpetuity," said David Mechlin (Dartmouth Class of '72), president of the Pilobolus Board of Trustees.

Today, the company's artistic leadership is still shared by four of its original members: Robby Barnett (Dartmouth Class of '72), Michael Tracy (Dartmouth Class of '73), Jonathan Wolken (Dartmouth Class of '71) and their first and only dance professor at the time, Alison Chase. Their approach to dance in the early '70s, based on a collaborative choreographic process and a revolutionary weight-sharing approach to partnering, took the dance world by surprise.

Pilobolus promotional flyers from the 1970s

Pilobolus promotional flyers from the 1970s
Pilobolus promotional flyers from the 1970s. Credit: Pilobolus archive, Dartmouth College Library.

The Pilobolus archive at Dartmouth includes VHS, Beta and reel-to-reel videos illustrating the history of individual pieces from rehearsals to performances; interviews with the company's founders, publicity material, newspaper clippings, photographs, posters and playbills. Pilobolus' contributions to the field of dance continue, so the archive at Dartmouth will be dynamic, with new items added frequently.

Itamar Kubovy, executive director of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre, added, "Pilobolus has changed the face of modern dance, not only for its varied and unmistakable work, but by its unique collaborative process that we teach throughout the country to students of all ages and backgrounds. To have the Pilobolus archive at Dartmouth, where the company began, ensures the preservation of our process and history for generations to come, not to mention the continued growth and development of a company at the height of its artistic power."

The Pilobolus archive at Dartmouth contains material spanning the entire history of the company from its first days at Dartmouth to the present day. Having these materials collected in one place will allow scholars a focused look at what Pilobolus has achieved and the unique way in which this company has adapted and survived for the last 34 years. Special Collections Librarian Jay Satterfield said that Dartmouth faculty, staff and students as well as dance historians and enthusiasts worldwide will have immediate access to some of the archives, though complete processing may take several years.

He said the archive will be available to cultural historians interested in how theater and dance were reshaped in the 1970s and 1980s, to sociologists examining a successful model for collaborative creativity, to marketing specialists studying the history of advertising in the arts, and to scholars interested in gender roles in dance. It has relevance far beyond the history of modern dance.

"This archive represents an important piece of modern dance history," said Satterfield. "Theater and dance professors, as well as students and scholars, will certainly value its contents. As this archive grows, Dartmouth and Pilobolus will continue to work together to ensure its relevance to those who study and admire the creative process."

Over the next several years, Dartmouth will also commission new Pilobolus works, which will eventually become part of the archive, and will host numerous Pilobolus performances at the College's Hopkins Center for the Arts.

"The Hopkins Center couldn't be more pleased that Dartmouth will be the permanent home for the rich legacy of Pilobolus, one of America's most inventive forces in the world of dance," said Lewis Crickard, a theater professor and the Director of the Hopkins Center. "We're also thrilled that the College will be a commissioning partner with Pilobolus and that several new pieces will premiere here. The Hop has a long and notable tradition of presenting new work, and this opportunity with Pilobolus is particularly exciting since Dartmouth students will have an opportunity to participate in a variety of residency activities with this extraordinary company."

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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