At The LA Music Center's
Ahmanson Theatre, "Pilobolus Dance Theatre" is a stunning combination
of acrobatic athleticism, wit, humor, and sensuality that makes for a hugely
entertaining evening. The company consists of six dancers, only one of whom
studied dance from youth. The others are from other professions, such as musicians,
gymnasts, etc. who came to dance in school, and bring their particular experiences
to the stage. The dancers react to, and feed off each other, as they rebound
to the motion of the group. They're much more dependent on each other than ballet,
and use their bodies to create structure on stage. As much as anything, they're
visually striking contortionists.
The program opens with
the new piece, "The Brass Ring." The music is by several different
composers and seems to be a spoof on human dynamics, people attracting and repelling
each other. It opens with the mock drama of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for
the Common Man." The six dancers are paired off into couples with the girls
upside down against the men's backs. They roll the women over the top of the
guys. One is held straight out, where she playfully kicks at him while a couple
in the background do upside down cartwheels. This piece has a lot of lifts,
straight up, out and a lot of over the shoulder cartwheels and wraparounds.
The groups of bodies form jungle gyms, roll together, and bounce off each other.
The sensuous, sassy movements are closely interwoven as they feed off each other.
The other new piece on the program is "Ben's Admonition." It features two male dancers in a mysterious piece performed to slow, rhythmic percussion, and virtually colorless centrally lit figures. The dancers are lowered on a rope, upside down. They right themselves and swing on the ropes. It's like two friends who get hung up in their own separate struggles. They push off each other, come together, while one swings around the other. He pulls himself up, thrusting his legs out as he spins, then they both swing separately on their own ropes. What's especially striking about this is the tremendous upper body strength needed to make this seem so smooth and effortless. The bodies wrap around and oppose each other, while forming geometrical shapes with an endless variety of constant movement.
"Walklyndon" is a fun piece with dancers running across the stage, hitting, bouncing off, and dragging each other. Two guys act like they're hitting each other and flinch as you hear the slaps. One of the men lies on the floor, and raises himself perfectly parallel to it with only his arms. Another guy steps on his head and his legs snap up like a seesaw. A girl steps on his legs, they go down and the head snaps up. They both step on each end, and the midsection pops up. All five dancers run over him, back and forth across the stage, before finally bringing the dog along in this slapstick comedy.
Returning from intermission sound effects of wind, rain, and percussive rhythms fill the theatre as you take your seats. "Day Two" is primitive, steamy sensuality with sultry, jungle rhythms. The dancers are in flesh colored unitards, forming a single line, where they lean back and sit on each others' laps like chairs. They do overhead spinning lifts, using their bodies to form geometric shapes. They form a line, joined at the shoulders, spin and whip around before splitting off one by one in flying leaps. It's like a living, breathing organism with soft, sweeping stretches followed by sharp thrusts and snappy hand motions. More over the shoulder cartwheels as they all run back and forth, across and off the stage. The tarp on the floor rises up with bodies, they all stand as one to throw it off, rising out of the floor. The lights go off, then they return, sliding very fast across the watery floor. They and slide in the water, one guy spins and makes a perfect circle of his body on the floor, and they splash water on the first couple rows of the audience in this tremendous conclusion to the "Pilobolus Dance Theatre" at the Ahmanson. The Music Center Dance Series continues with "The Diavolo Dance Theatre" tomorrow, Pilobolus on Sunday, and The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago in two separate programs June 26 - 29 at The LA Music Center.