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Pilobolus archive comes home

Revolutionary dance company began at Dartmouth

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.

The Pilobolus Dance Company, founded at Dartmouth in 1971, has come full circle with the donation of its archive to the College. (photo by John Kane)

"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 '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 '72, Michael Tracy '73, Jonathan Wolken '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.

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. 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, Theater Professor and 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."


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Last Updated: 12/17/08