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Dance troupe PIlobolus arrives on campus

Cassie Belek | Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Although the dance company Pilobolus takes its name from a fungus, the graceful, weight-sharing movements of the company bear little resemblance to the fungus that comes from cow manure.

Pilobolus traces its roots to a dance class at Dartmouth College in 1971. It has grown into three different branches since then – the touring Pilobolus Dance Theatre, the educational Pilobolus Institute and the administrative Pilobolus Creative Services. The company spends half the year performing and the other half rehearsing and creating new works. And tonight it will perform on the Decio Mainstage Theatre at 7:30 in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

It was the Pilobolus Dance Theatre that was featured at the 2007 Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Behind a white screen the company’s silhouettes formed the logos from various movies from the past year, such as a shooting gun for “The Departed,” a high-heeled shoe for “The Devil Wears Prada” and a penguin for “Happy Feet.”

Pilobolus can also be seen in a Hyundai commercial advertising the car company’s Santa Fe model. As the dancers contort into different shapes using the same screen and silhouette techniques as the Oscars, a voice-over describes the essence of both the new car and Pilobolus: “Flexible, agile and for whatever shape life takes.”

The physically demanding works feature dancers from a variety of backgrounds. Some come from athletic backgrounds while the majority comes from backgrounds in modern dance or ballet. Some didn’t begin dancing until college and one even served time in the military. The seven current members of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre come from all over the country and world including New York, Kansas and Japan. The dancers even maintain a MySpace site in which they update friends and fans on performances, auditions, weddings and births.

Tonight’s performance includes several dances created throughout Pilobolus’ 36 year history. “Aquatica” (2005) is the story of a girl on a beach who gets sucked underwater into a mystical oceanic world. Pilobolus’ website describes “Shizen” (1978) as a dance that “explores coupling as a biomorphic reflection of the natural world.”

“Walklyndon” (1971) is one of Pilobolus’ first works and it takes inspiration from slapstick and vaudeville. The website describes “Megawatt” (2004) as an “electrifying experience.” The piece uses the music of Primus, Radiohead and Squarepusher.

Limited seating is available for the show and tickets can be bought by calling 574-631-2800.