International dance troupe Pilobolus approaches modern dance in such a unique and fascinating way, it may cause the viewer to look twice. Get a closer look at Pilobolus here.
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.’
Celebrity Series of Boston presents ‘Pilobolus’ performing humorous and Houdini-like stunts at the Citi Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts from Friday, October 24 through 26! This show is not for young children. Click here for more information and tickets!
I had the honor of interviewing Executive Producer of Pilobolus, Itamar Kubovy on where the title Pilobolus comes from, how the dancers prepare for each intense performance, and what Pilobolus plans beyond their Boston visit.
I understand the title Pilobolus is named after speedy barnyard fungus. In the dance, I can see the symbolism behind the name. Is there an interesting story behind it?
Jonathan Wolken, the co-founder who named the company, had a scientist dad studying the Pilobolus fungus in his biology lab, an organism about ¼ of an inch tall that grows in cow dung and has a large eye at its tip that always leans toward light. When the time is right to reproduce, the fungus shoots its head off of its body at the fastest acceleration known in nature. This alacrity as well as this attraction to the light inspired Jonathan to name their first dance, and the fledgling company, after the phototropic fungus.
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.
It seems like a quite a physically demanding job for these dancers. What kind of routine keeps the dancers in shape and how do they best prepare for a performance?
When our dancers are in the studio, they work nine to five Monday through Friday. They are lifting each other and working with tremendous physical intensity for close to 40 hours a week. The additional prep they are doing involves body maintenance, stretching, group work, and yoga. Regarding the prep right before the show, we warm-up with an open curtain so the audience coming in watches the dancers move on the stage. Both the audience and the dancers need some time to prepare and we try to share that time. It makes the show all the more exciting when the lights go down.
I imagine that live performances and sometimes dangerous stunts can hold some surprises every once in a while.
They do, but the work these people do together day in and day out really limits the risk based on the trust they build between each other. Most importantly, these dancers really know how to instantly adjust when something goes wrong. While we certainly have our moments of injury, we have a great deal of confidence going into every show.
How is trust developed with other members of the group?
Trust is mysterious, but there is no doubt in my mind that the physical giving of one’s weight and balance to another person, literally putting yourself entirely in their hands over and over again speeds that process up. Some of the principals in which our process is based is the human physical connection by sharing, giving, and taking weight. Trust is a powerful by-product of caring touch.
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.
I understand you are on a national tour. Are they any future projects in the works besides touring?
We are constantly in development on several projects on different time lines. Currently we are devising a number of digital human pixelization projects that are all inspired by our work on the Umbrella Project . We plan to make two new shorter dances this year, as well as start on a new, large-scale, full-evening project that we plan to premiere in 2016. We are also planning to finally bring our show internationally touring show, Shadowland to the US very soon.
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!