In Penn & Teller, the comedic magician-escape artists, Pilobolus has found an intriguing match. Together they made a strange and unforgettable hybrid. Commissioned by the ADF, [esc] received its world premiere on the 20th at DPAC, where it was received with howls of approval from the audience. The first section is structured like a classic escape act, with audience members helping to build a box and secure four dancers in various ways. They then release themselves through feats of agility and magic, which I won’t spoil here.Following immediately was Licks, by Trish Sie and Renee Jaworski and the dancers. It is another ADF commission, also having its premiere. Licks is pure dance, with ropes, to a mixtape of high energy music. The theme is again escape, which always requires previous capture or restraint, as we have just seen. Many variations on escape and its predecessors are gorgeously danced out in classically elegant Pilobolean choreography, with its flow through recombinant structures and groupings. The ropes, although we know the dancers are manipulating them, seem as alive as the people (as do the kites, in a charming video preceding [esc]). The ropes come in handy to visualize another of Pilobolus’ ongoing preoccupations, the behavior of wave forms not normally visible to the naked eye. Together, [esc] and Licks are a little bit spooky, with a slightly dangerous feel, especially Licks. The program’s first half includes the marvelous, funny, Molly’s Not Dead (1978) for six dancers in red, orange or yellow Lycra bodysuits. Both the shape-making and the silly carrying-on in this are first-rate. All Is Not Lost (2011) romps light-heartedly with the coolness of imaging technology. The dancers mount a special glass table and a video camera underneath captures their images and flips them upright to project them on a screen beside the live action. It is a blast to see the dancers from underneath, especially when the group is making like a crayfish. Following this was the fantastically beautiful, and beautifully danced, Ocellus (1972), choreographed by some of Pilobolus’ original members for a male quartet. All this richness, and then two world premieres. A very good night at ADF.
The American Dance Festival teamed up with the North Carolina Dance Festival to present some fine work by several of the state’s choreographers on the 19th. Dance artists have a particularly tough time making their work, and getting audiences, because it takes so many resources. It was great to see “the home of an art form” giving some respect to these choreographers.