International dance troupe Pilobolus approaches modern dance in such an astounding way, it may cause the viewer to look twice.
Pilobolus has performed in over 60 countries and thrilled audiences with television appearances at the Academy Awards, the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Olympics as well as film appearances in ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Snakes on a Plane.’ Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston, Pilobolus will perform humorous and Houdini-like feats at the Citi Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Friday, October 24 through 26! May not be appropriate for young audiences. Click here for more information!
I had the honor of interviewing Executive Producer of Pilobolus, Itamar Kubovy on the show’s foundations and what makes Pilobolus so fascinating. Take a closer look at their ‘On the Nature of Things’ dance here.
Before I address Pilobolus, I notice that you have a successful career in film and television. Please tell me what it was that drew you to becoming the Executive Producer of Pilobolus.
I have always believed that groups of artists who work together for years make more intimate and powerful work. There are few such opportunities in the US. I worked in Europe for many years where this type of resident ensemble is more common and searched for it in the US.
Before Pilobolus, the closest I found was in American network television where a show like ‘The West Wing’ requires the same group of writers, actors and directors to work together telling hundreds of diverse stories over the lifetime of the show.
In Pilobolus, the opportunity existed both to bring in many influences from the outside and increase the scope of the company’s interests. Many arts organizations are open to diverse influences. What makes Pilobolus unique is that it actually brings those influences and ideas into the studio to make things together, physically. From MIT robotics to the comics artist Art Spiegelman to the rock band, ‘OK Go,’ this is an ensemble that is willing to go further out on a limb than any I have known before.
Pilobolus not only has an extraordinary history, but it is an experience. Please tell me about how this concept of dance was established. I understand that Dartmouth College students founded it in 1971.
Pilobolus started as an expression of the collaborating imaginations of four college students in a beginners dance class offered at Dartmouth in 1971. Since its first days, it has remained an organization that believes in making dances through the gathering of interesting and diverse people who agree to lock themselves up in a room for a given period of time with our incredible dancers and emerge only when something interesting and performable has taken form.
Now, this dance troupe has been everywhere from ‘Sesame Street’ to the Olympics to the Academy Awards and to the Ellen Show. What do you think it is about Pilobolus that fits so many different venues? What is so astonishing about this experience?
I think Pilobolus always works from a place of ignorance, bringing people who have seen and made much in their lives to the woods of Connecticut to investigate an enticing idea with as much innocence as we can. The results often involve the process of discovery and tend to be accessible to a very wide audience.
This will be your 11th appearance with Celebrity Series of Boston. You must know Boston pretty well.
We love performing in Boston. And that’s not just lip service. We’ve always found our audience to teach us a huge amount about our work. The laughs, gasps, rattling of paper—it all teaches us about the work we are making. In Boston, we can really encounter a crowd that makes us better at what we do and allows us to sharpen our performances.
Your new dance piece was created in association with Penn and Teller. Tell me about what the tone for Boston will be? Will there be a concentration of stunts and magical comedy? How often is there a new routine and how long does it take to establish it?
The work with Penn and Teller, like many of our pieces, was an experiment. We wanted to see if we could take the amazing grace, ribald humor, and physical intelligence of these master magicians, and see how it can fit into a dance concert.
As soon as we started working, we realized that we wanted to try out something that Penn and Teller could never do themselves. Houdini was the link, and we decided to do Pilobolus/Penn and Teller versions of classic Houdini escapes as a dance. The result is amazing, very funny, physically unimaginably hard, and a general delight.
Rather than setting the tone for the evening, we really program each evening to take the audience on a journey. The Penn and Teller piece we made, titled [esc], opens the second half and is truly something completely different.
Regarding new work, we try to work on three or four works a year. Sometimes we are just doing initial exploration, and sometimes really heavy lifting on a piece in intensive rehearsals, but we aim to premiere two new short works every year.
Pilobolus is meant to challenge how audiences think about modern dance. What do you think audience should take with them experiencing this type of dance?
The great thing about dance, in contrast to language-based theater, is that more of each work can be left open to be completed in the minds of the audience.
Pilobolus make their way to the Citi Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Friday, October 24 through 26! Click here for more information and visit celebrityseries.org for more information on their dynamic 76th season!