Tonight Chuck and I went to see Pilobolus in Worcester. I wish I could tell you they will be in town for a week or two so you could rush out and secure tickets, but unfortunately it was just the single performance. The Pilobolus * Dance Theatre began at Dartmouth College in 1971. They have been dazzling audiences ever since. Tonight’s performance was at the recently reborn Hanover Theatre. The five dances the company of seven performed tonight were first conceived in five different years, ranging from 1971 to 2008. Each one was separate and distinct and each one immediately drew you in.
The Pilobolus dancers were stunningly sensual, while never overtly sexual. No gaunt, fragile waifs, they were staggeringly athletic with strong, beautiful bodies. They clearly know and understand every muscle within their corporeal instruments and seem to push them to both a physical and artistic limit. I am not a dance enthusiast or devotee. One need not be so in order to appreciate the instantly accessible dances, many open to multiple interpretations. The feelings evoked ranged from whimsical and witty to meditative and solemn all the way to figuratively electrifying with tonight’s finale piece “Megawatt” (2004).
The five men and two women dancers move individually, in pairs, triads, quartets and en masse. Sometimes they appear to be one form, tumbling as if a multi-bodied human wheel. At other moments, two dancers become the axle for the third dancer between them to glide and walk in midair. Frequently performing in a pair of triads consisting of one woman and two men each, the movements of each trio were sometimes identical, but more often complementary. The movements of one triad might be several beats behind the first group, which came to feel like echoes or reflections and afforded the opportunity to absorb the powerful performances. The few times the dancers were deliberately synchronized were jaw dropping. How could they possibly move in such unusual and taxing ways simultaneously? In the contemporary vernacular of popular culture, it would be easy to compare Pilobolus to the Transformers, but without the CGI effects!
The pacing of the show was unusual and very satisfying. The curtain fell after each dance and the house lights were brought up. A few moments later the lights dimmed once again and the curtain rose on the next piece - a sort of visual and emotional palate cleanser, if you will. The choreography was sensational. Clearly the dancers rehearse such that every move is second nature, yet it constantly felt intuitive, creative and spontaneous. The costuming was light, in that it was delicate and unintrusive. The lighting was simple, yet effective and the dancers sometimes danced in the shadows or darker sections of the stage, again reminding me of echoes and providing depth, with just a hint of wistfulness that we might be “missing” something! My only minor complaint was with the sound. The music itself for the four accompanied dances was great. But the sound system of the theater, or perhaps that of the dance company, had a slight and occasional tinniness or buzz to it.
As the title of this post indicates, The Hanover Theatre was not standing room only tonight. It should have been. Both Pilobolus and the theater itself deserved a full house. The Hanover is perfectly sized and the 1904 building has been exquisitely restored to its glorious historical reincarnation of 1925 . The staff and volunteers are all welcoming, cheerful and obviously enthusiastic supporters of the venue. We were seated in the center orchestra section on the aisle. The seats were comfortable, there was generous (and much appreciated) legroom and the rake of the hall allowed for unobstructed views of the stage. We toured the lower balcony level at intermission and in between admiring the elaborate plaster, gilded and wrought iron decorations, enjoyed the view from the loge and boxes. Parking, at $10.00, was easy in the Federal Square garage across the street. And having Worcester’s finest managing the crosswalks and traffic on Main and Southbridge Streets allowed arrival and departure to go smoothly, even graciously.
The audience tonight consisted of all ages from perhaps nine to nineties. Dress ranged from men in jackets and ties and women in dresses and evening accessories to folks in casual everyday jeans and sweaters. The Hanover may have been at well less than capacity, but we raised the roof as we leapt to our feet, offered sustained applause, loud whoops and Bravo’s, when the dancers joined hands for their final bow!
* While in performance the Pilobolus dancers were sufficiently clothed; they are less so on the website. Nothing indelicate, but I have been advised the site may be NSFW (Not Safe For Work)!