Rapidly Spreading Dance Fungus Pilobolus Poised to Invade Miami
Here are a few signs you're a dance/music/acrobatic company superfan: You can't wait for the next Cirque du Soleil tent to go up in downtown Miami, despite the hellish traffic it creates on Biscayne Boulevard. When you visit Orlando, you stop to "ohh" and "ahh" one more time at the Blue Man Group. You've been digging the multimedia experiences of Momix for the past 30 years.
But here's something you might not know. As with everything from which life germinates, there is an origin, a seed beneath it all. Or, in this case, a fungus: Pilobolus. Like the spore vessel from which it starts, sometimes traveling a great distance (for a bunch of spores, at least) to survive, Pilobolus Dance Theatre began in 1971 as an experimental dance company at Dartmouth College.
Since then, the propagation of its success has reached far and beyond. On Friday and Saturday, Pilobolus will land once again in Miami and, for the first time, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the Knight Masterworks Season.
After leaving the group's headquarters in Washington Depot, Connecticut,
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and heading to Manhattan by car, Itamar Kubovy, executive director of
the modern performance company since 2004, says
Pilobolus still adheres to its roots. It's comprised of "six or seven
individuals who essentially are kind of the creative core of the company
in its various activities and manifestations," he explains. "But around that core,
we've got lots of projects that we're engaged in, with a couple of
different groups of dancers. So, it's the same core of imagination and
collaboration working with different groups in different kinds of
The nine people on stage in Miami -- seven dancers and two
production members -- are what constitute the Pilobolus
Dance Theatre, Kubovy says.
"They are involved fundamentally in the creation of
new works. And this is what distinguishes the
artists that will be in Miami. Every single one of them is not just an
incredible dancer, an incredible actor, an incredible performer, but
each one is also a very deep, creative artist, generating original
material that is becoming incorporated into the group's efforts."
the Pilobolus aesthetic has been getting more and more
exposure in recent years. Remember those cool human shadows made to
showcase movies at the 2007 Academy Awards? Those were the Pilobolus
guys. You may have also caught them on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Night with Conan O' Brien, or in the 2011 Grammy-nominated video
for the song "All Is Not Lost" by Chicago alt-rock band OK Go. (They were up against Adele, and she won
the award a few weeks ago).
"Our intention and vision is to bring
this process that we have developed to as many people in as many
different venues," continues Kubovy. "We don't really discriminate in
terms of our vision between the different stages that we like to perform
Kubovy himself, coming from the worlds of philosophy, stage,
and cinema, has been generating projects for Pilobolus, such as the
International Collaborators Project, a new series that makes possible
some very hip pairings, like having the company work with Steven Banks, the lead
writer for the SpongeBob SquarePants animated series.
Bringing more people -- all kinds of people -- into the Pilobolus community is the responsibility of Lily Binns, co-executive director for
"Pilobolus brings people together in almost everything
that we do -- in the arts, in the educational programs that we offer," says Binns, a former book and magazine editor and author.
"We are a
non-profit company, and we invite people to come in and be a part of the
exciting works that we're making."
In tune with the philosophy of
what Binns cleverly calls this "art organism,"
Pilobolus will be hosting two workshops in South Florida: a free,
reservation-required Modern Dance Master Class at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 3, at
the Peacock Foundation Studio in the Ziff Opera House, and on Sunday, March 4, a
dancers-only Master Class at the Bienes Center for the Arts at St.
Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.
As for whether Pilobolus has
inspired or opened doors for other artistic groups that followed and
became worldwide sensations, Kubovy says, "Many people have told us
that that is the effect that our work has had historically. It's nice to
be told, to hear that. It's always a flattering and exciting thing when
creative work leads to more creative work."
The experience of how
the Pilobolus dancers contort their bodies and play with our senses is
perhaps best summed up by Kubovy in describing the public's reactions.
"A couple of years ago, I think it was the Los Angeles Times, that said
that the sound of an audience in our concerts is different from the
sound of an audience at any other dance concert."
Theatre performs at the Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center for the
Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Friday and Saturday at 8
p.m.; tickets cost $25 to $90; 305- 949-6722; arshtcenter.org.
--Juan Carlos Pérez-Duthie, artburstmiami.com
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