Pilobolus is unique in the movement world in that everything this ensemble of performers/dancers/acrobats creates is devised collectively. The results, as seen on Sunday night at The Egg, are astonishing.
The dances — five were shown — are imaginings that only a slew of artists, working closely together, could fathom. Each piece is meticulous rehearsed and brilliant in its nod to the quirkiness of humanity, while at the same time celebrating our ability to support one another’s vision. Surely, Pilobolus demonstrates that together, with a singular focus, we could all accomplish great things.
Pilobolus is one of the nation’s most popular ensembles, attracting 700 patrons to The Egg. (That’s a large crowd for dance.) But just a couple of years back, it looked like this daring ensemble, which is 41 years old, had run its course. Its works looked dated and dull.
Since a shake up of its top artistic staff, Pilobolus is renewed — revived in a way that is almost miraculous. Only “Gnomen,” from 1997, remains vintage Pilobolus. And that work, with four men, holds up beautifully.
The piece, which is both funny and magical, finds this quartet rolling onto the stage as one large ball. They unwind, but only three can stand. The fourth, with curled feet, requires support. Once he is steadied, they move into a silly bit with Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern, whose head, pointed into the ground, become a human corkscrew.
As the men move from one muscular feat to the next, they save the best for last — Jun Kuribayashi appearing to glide through the air and float. Not only does this illusion take strength, but a confidence in partnership.
This is something that is demonstrated in every dance, including one of its most innovative, “All Is Not Lost.” This work for six is performed atop of a raised glass table. A video camera position underneath the table captures the action, which is projected onto a large screen. If watching the dancers, it looks like a jumble. But if watching the screen, it appears the performers are scaling heights as they squirm, slide and crawl through the eye of the camera. To music by OK Go, the dancers end by creating kaleidoscopic images with their limbs, butts and feet. Best of all, the dancers are having as much fun as the audience.
“Rushes” is equally wondrous. This is a charming work of six oddball strangers traveling at sea. Sitting in a circle on small chairs, the piece starts with three as stooges, engaging in a seamless series of slapstick antics. It moves onto a synchronized polka with chairs, then a dream sequence for the man with a suitcase and then a skate, without skates, for one of the lonely, ever-fainting young female voyagers.
Ending with a haunting bit of music by Avro Part, the dance feels somewhat sad, but hopeful in that it seeks to connect.
The evening also featured “Automaton,” a depiction of a technological world seeking the human touch, and “Transformation,” in which a sleeping girl is turned into a dog by a giant hand.
After all these years, Pilobolus is growing ever better.