Pilobolus is known for its highly flexible members who become entangled in one another in unusual and difficult positions. They are described by co-founder Robbie Barnett as a modern dance troupe for people with no interest in modern dance.
“I’m not interested in dance,” Barnett said in a phone interview. “I’m interested in our dance company.”
Pilobolus — named after a genus of fungus — was founded at Dartmouth College in 1971 by Barnett, Lee Harris, Moses Pendleton and Jonathan Wolken, none of whom took more than one dance class. They were only interested in the athleticism of dance.
“We were all sporty people,” he said.
This interest has kept them going and growing, touring the world, appearing on everything from Oprah to the Academy Awards, and in commercials for General Motors, Mobil and Toyota, among Pilobolis others. In 1997, they won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding achievement in cultural programming. Pilobolus has a repertory of over 100 pieces. The main touring company typically consists of seven individuals. They hold annual auditions and, while some have stayed with the company for over a decade, Barnett usually hopes for around a five-year commitment.
The dancers showcase their talents to a variety of musical accompaniment. “Everything from Radiohead and Squarepusher to Bach,” said Barnett, adding their choreography is anything but traditional. The company doesn’t often move specifically to the music, but rather allows the music to evoke certain moods or feelings.
"The human body is a marvelous thing — especially if it belongs to a Pilobolus dancer," wrote dance critic Lindsay Christians in the (Madison, Wis.) Capitol Times earlier this month. "In just shy of two hours in Overture Hall, the eight astoundingly flexible members of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre transform into futuristic soldiers, vivid cartoons straight out of ’The Cat in the Hat,’ and odd characters in a waiting room. One woman ’becomes’ a dog."
It’s all part of the act, Barnett says.
“Entertainment comes in many forms,” Barnett said. “We like to move people and challenge them.”
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