Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 29, 2018

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, Pilobolus

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through July 1, 2018
by Josephine Sarnelli

Due to the rain, the free Inside/Out performance by Translucent Borders was brought indoors. Since no passes were available due to limited seating, the Box Office wisely suggested taking advantage of the archives in the Norton Owen Reading Room in the Red Barn, which is available to visitors at no cost.

Having seen Hubbard Street Dance perform Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite” at the Pillow, I spent my time until the Pre-Show Talk viewing the 1993 and 1995 archival footage of these performances. They were every bit as breathtaking as I remembered them and am anxiously awaiting the company’s return to the Pillow this season.

The Pre-Show Talk on Pilobolus traced its history back to 1971, when three male non-dancer students at Dartmouth founded the non-traditional performance troupe. Given their lack of dance background, they relied heavily on counter balance and created dance positions that seemed to defy gravity. They also redefined how people interact with one another through dance.  

“Come to Your Senses,” a program of new and old routines by Pilobolus, began with “Eye Opening” and involved an audience member. While offering very little movement, this recent addition to the repertoire was a humorous ice-breaker with dancers wearing eyeballs on their heads.    

Photo by Juliana Sohn
The four male dancers performed the 1997 iconic piece “Gnonmen.” Each dancer became impaired, only to be first shunned, but then revived by the collaborating partners. They seem to reach beyond the boundaries of what is physically possible with the human body, such as carrying one out-stretched dancer overhead by only his feet and head. The metaphysical overtones were evident as the lights went out on the kneeling performers to the sounds of church bells.  

The women’s trio was highlighted in “Warp & Weft” that used a large red cloth as a prop. This new work could best be described as an idea that has not yet fully germinated, and underutilized the talents of this threesome.    

The intimate duet “Symbiosis” gently wove two bodies into one. The tenuous start of the dancers’ relationship evolved into tenderness. The incredible poses and risk-taking movements highlighted the trust between the dancers that formed a foundation for any long-lasting relationship.

The finale involved all seven artists in the creative and celebratory “Branches” that was commissioned by the Pillow last year. The piece aptured the influence of nature on a visit to the Pillow and concluded with an on-stage water slide, as only Pilobolus could make possible!