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Body Movers: Pilobolus Returns to Dallas

by Danielle Georgiou 15 Jan 2014 10:34 PM

Invention, discovery, athleticism, illusion: Enjoying Pilobolus does not require technical dance knowledge. The company can still pack that much wow into a single show. Danielle Georgiou talks with associate artistic director Renee Jaworski as Pilobolus heads to Dallas for this weekend.


American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/ADF 2011)Photo credit: Sara Davis

On Friday and Saturday, January 17 and 18, Pilobolus returns to Dallas for the first dance show of 2014 at the Winspear Opera House. The company, which is based on exploration and discovery, has been creating new definitions of what dance can be since 1971, and will present an evening of new and old favorites this weekend.

But what always stays the same with Pilobolus is how they are able to manipulate the human body in inventive ways. That mission is why it has become one of the world’s most beloved dance illusionist companies, and a Dallas and TITAS favorite. You might have even seen them on TV, from the Academy Awards to 60 Minutes.

I was able to get in a quick interview with Associate Artistic Director Renee Jaworski as the company travels to Dallas.

Danielle Georgiou: What do you think makes Pilobolus stand out from other dance companies? What makes you all so appealing?

Renee Jaworski: To enjoy a Pilobolus show you don’t need to have any prior knowledge of a specific dance genre. You just need to bring your self and your life experience.

DG: One of the main goals of the company has been to work collaboratively, to bring in guest choreographers, musicians and designers. How important is the collaborative process to you? How does this process work?

RJ: Collaboration is everything to us. We look around for people whose work we admire, in all kinds of different fields, performers and non-performers alike. We look for smart innovative thinkers and reach out to them and see if they would be interested in making something with us. If they are, then we get in a room together and we don’t come out until we have made something cool.

Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

DG: The Pilobolus performer is very athletic, dynamic, technical and always interesting to watch. When you are auditioning people, what are you looking for? Are you searching for a dancer, or for someone who more than just a technician?

RJ: You are absolutely right. We look for all of those qualities but also it is important to point out that our dancers are fully involved in the collaborative process, so we are looking for performers who are also creators.

DG: It must be difficult for trained dancers to adjust to Pilobolus’ style. What kinds of things do they have to learn or unlearn?

RJ: That is an interesting question that I just asked our newest apprentice, Derion. He said “I have to approach the movement as if I never learned dance moves, but I have this fully capable body. If I don’t come at it with preconceived ideas of how I should do it, I am able to develop how to do it through experience.”

DG: And then, there’s the question that a lot of people bring up, and I get asked when I give lectures on modern dance (I teach Dance History and Composition at local colleges in Dallas), is Pilobolus even considered dance? For my students, your work has inspired them to learn more about what dance can be, because for most of them — who are beginning students or have had no previous dance experience at all — Pilobolus is an example of the art and athleticism of dance. How do you feel about being constantly asked that question, and what are your own thoughts?

RJ: We love that question. When Pilobolus started in 1971, people asked whether or not it could be considered dance. Now you can find Pilobolus in Dance History books. As of late, we are being asked that question again which means that we continue to push our own boundaries.

DG: You all have toured to Dallas numerous times, are you excited to return?

RJ: Dallas audiences have always been so warm and enthusiastic, we look forward to it every time.

DG: What can we expect from your show here in Dallas?

RJ: We are bringing a program that is one part energy, two parts sexy, with a dash of whimsy.

DG: Now, that’s how you pitch a show! I can’t wait to see it!

Their program features work that sounds just like what Jaworski said. Licks, which they premiered in 2013, is a piece by Jaworski in collaboration with Trish Sie, a video and film director. In Jaworski’s own words, “It’s a fun piece full of crazy movement.” Transformation is an excerpt from a longer work, Shadowland, which is currently touring Europe. It’s a great surprise to have the piece here in the States. Automation, a collaborative piece with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, comments on the attachment we have with technology (maybe check out Her after seeing this show). The program ends with All Is Not Lost and is one of Jaworski’s personal favorite pieces, Rushes, a quirky piece from Inbal Pinot and Avshalom Pollak.

Pilobolus will be performing for two nights at the Winspear Opera House, Friday, January 17 and Saturday, January 18 at 8:00pm.