Trust Anyone Over 30
Brass Ring, Night of the Dark Moon, Ben's Admonition, and Day Two
The Joyce Theater
June 23, 2004
© 2004 by Nancy Dalva
published June 28, 2004
Pendleton, the primus inter pares Pilobolus founder, once told me that
he thought nudity was much less obscene than a skin colored leotard. He
also uttered the interesting phrase, when some event or other failed to
materialize, "There's always the body." By which he meant his
body, the occupation of first and last resort in an art without technique.
(He later put on some clothes and got much more conceptual, but that's
his story, not the story of Pilobolus.)
While Pilobolus was invented by Pendleton and two other Dartmouth gentleman
jocks in year 1971, it was about three years later that the collective
really coalesced, with personnel that were to morph it from antic commune
to brand name to a franchise with a host of spin-offs. Thus the company
is arguably now 30, that age we once all found so suspect. There are only
two vintage works programmed for their summer month at the Joyce Theater,
an annual affair.
Day Two is 24 years old. It is a primordial ritual, and takes
place--although the stage is bare—outdoors, in a saturated world.
As I recall, and I may have the details muddy, it was group choreographed
in Washington, Connecticut, during rain of biblical proportion. On the
second day, everyone ran around outdoors in the nude. Squish! Ooze! Merge!
The most exciting part of the dance is now the pelting sound score that
is played before the curtain goes up. It quickens the pulse.
But the dance does not. As performed now, Day Two is a perfect
example of simulation: it has the moves of the original, but none of the
conviction. The people who first danced it were, after all, doing their
own thing, or things; they had made the work. This is not to fault the
current troupe of six, but they are clearly doing someone else's thing.
Thus even their almost nudity (they wear skanky nylon briefs as a concession
to community standards) is a kind of costume.
The three other numbers on the bill were versions of other Pilobolus standards.
The Brass Ring (2002), by Michael Tracy in collaboration with
the original cast, is the group frolic to arty upbeat music (including
Scott Joplin), until lapsing at the end into romance (Fauré). It
is vaguely reminiscent of Paul Taylor's Big Bertha, without the
The other two pieces are the brain children of founding mother Alison
Chase, working in collaboration with her original casts. (In other words,
once these dances are made, however communally, they're done, and everyone
else, whoever dances them, does it the same way.) Ben's Admonition
was titled by the winner of a "name this dance" contest, who
was referring to Benjamin Franklin's warning to the Continental Congress,
"If we don't hang together, we will surely hang separately."
It is apt, for the work involves pendant performers. That is, two very
buff bare chested, army green-trousered, combat-booted guys achieve ballon
via dangling black loops that look like circus equipment, but also like
manacles. Hanging from their wrists, they can escape gravity, and perform
a kind of aerial copueira. (Unfortunately for the piece, manacles, combat
boots, and army garb are no longer generic signifiers, but, in combination,
grimly specific reminders.)
The other item was the world premiere, by Chase in collaboration with
the entire current company: Mark Fucik, Renée Jaworski, Andrew
Herro, Janniefer Macavinta, Manelick Minniefee, and Matthew Thornton,
in Night of the Dark Moon. The program says three of them performed,
but I was pretty sure I saw four people. It's possible I was hallucinating,
though, because it's that kind of work. Surrealish, if one can use such
a term, it arouses a suspicion that it is based on a short work of South
American magic realism one ought to have read, but hasn't. It is, in fact,
purportedly a retelling of the Orpheus legend, but you could have fooled
me. In brief: A woman in red evening dress, whose face is concealed by
black veiling, is slung up in the sky in a white fabric sling representing
the moon; she interacts with a couple in Brazilian party dress; meanwhile,
two towering Goths in tight pants, studded Victorian great coats and very
high heeled t-straps serve a mysterious purpose. The interest—that
is, the interest it takes in itself—is in eerie pictural composition.
There is stage smoke. Or fog.
Pilobolus once was all about the body, and the pleasure of being in the
body. The choreography was a matter of gymnastics, various plays on the
principal of the lever and some ado about props. (The production values
were excellent. Kind of like Alwin Nikolai, but with sex.) Everything
was made communally, as some works are still, but a commune where one
communard is old enough to be everyone else's father or mother is not
the same as a commune where everyone skinny dips because no one's father
or mother is around. From the evidence of the second program of this season,
today their visual theater looks like Robert Wilson Lite, and their visceral
theater, for all the capable aplomb of the performers, is pale. Pilobolus
started out as granola, and ended up as berry-flavored Special K.
[The company will be at the Joyce Theater, with four alternating programs,
through July 17, 2004.]
Position to Celebrate.
Volume 2, Number 23
June 28, 2004
©2004 by Nancy Dalva
is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good
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