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Pilobolus Comes Home

Dance troupe returns for Montgomery residency, performances
Pilobolus Dance Company
Pilobolus is known for its innovative use of weight-sharing to construct elaborate poses. (Photo by Howard Shate)  

Who were those shadowy figures forming first a gun, then a shoe, and even a Volkswagen minibus between award presenters on Oscar night? Silhouetted behind a curtain, the iconic shapes that formed from bodies melting seamlessly together were the product of Pilobolus, a unique dance company founded at Dartmouth in the early 1970s which went on to become an international success. Now, more than 35 years after the troupe first emerged from a Dartmouth dance class, Pilobolus is coming back to the College.

The company's visit to Dartmouth will be marked by the world premier of B'zyrk, a Dartmouth-commissioned work; the unveiling of the Pilobolus dance archive, which the company donated to the College's Rauner Special Collections Library; a Montgomery Fellow Lecture on Wednesday, April 4 in 105 Dartmouth Hall at 3:30; and an April 2 through 6 residency by Pilobolus Artistic Directors Robby Barnett '72, Michael Tracy '73, and Jonathan Wolken '71, supported by the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Endowment. Other events to celebrate the homecoming include "Leaving Tracks," a symposium on historicizing modern dance, a Hood Museum of Art exhibition of Pilobolus dance photographs, and a day of community dance workshops.

Pilobolus, best known for its whimsical and theatrical compositions that rely on collaborative choreography and the surprising use of weight-sharing to construct elaborate poses, is named for a fungus. The fungus pilobolus grows on a stalk as a small bladder, pressurized by cell sap and topped by a cap filled with spores. When the fungus ripens, the spores shoot out of the cap at 45 miles per hour, a process that inspired Pilobolus, the first choreographed work by the company founders.

B'zyrk is one of five Pilobolus works commissioned by the Hopkins Center, and its April 4 premier will be followed by a discussion with the company members. Jeffrey James, director of the Hopkins Center, says of the company's work: "Pilobolus has captured audiences' imaginations with one-of-a-kind creations—lithe, jaw-dropping explorations of the mutability of human bodies. At Dartmouth, we are very proud of their ever-evolving success story, which began, like many a campus project, with students exploring ideas that profoundly intrigued them. We're delighted to celebrate the company's past with the new archives and to help propel Pilobolus's future by supporting the creation of new works."

Pilobolus Dance Company
PHOTO BY GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Pilobolus Dance Theatre morphs into the Volkswagen bus from Little Miss Sunshine at the 79th Academy Awards on Feb. 25, 2007. Pilobolus Artistic Directors Robby Barnett '72, Michael Tracy '73, and Jonathan Wolken '71 are in residence at Dartmouth as Montgomery Fellows from April 2 through 6. (Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

April 4 will also mark the opening of the Pilobolus dance archive—a record of photographs, choreography, business dealings, and correspondence—that the Rauner Special Collections Library is showcasing in Baker-Berry Library. Jay Satterfield, special collections librarian, emphasizes the myriad scholarly uses presented by the archive. "By documenting the social and business world surrounding the creation of a dance, a dance archive provides new layers of understanding of the creative process and contextualizes the final production," he says. "The documents in the archive open new frames for study and reinterpretation by capturing not the dance, but the context surrounding it." The reception inaugurating the exhibition will be held on Tuesday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Hood Museum of Art. It is free and open to the public.

The week-long celebration of Pilobolus and its Dartmouth homecoming, dubbed Pilobolus @ Play, involved cooperation across the College, including the Hopkins Center, the Hood Museum of Art, the Dartmouth College Library, the Leslie Center for the Humanities and the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Endowment. More information about the celebration.

By GENEVIEVE HAAS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08