Leave it to Pilobolus!
Leave it to that irreverent and irascible bunch of brainy artists to take on the Mount Everest of literary classics–in 45 minutes. The work, no less than the 600 plus page Finnegans Wake, is just one of three premieres that the troupe has up its collective sleeve for its month-long season at The Joyce Theater, June 21-July 17.
First about “Rejoyce: A Pilobolus Finnegans Wake”:` Choreographed by Robby Barnett, Michael Tracy and Jonathan Wolken, and using a commissioned score by Paul Sullivan, “Rejoyce” took over a year to create. Never having previously read the Joyce epic, the trio of artists spent the last twelve months reading and re-reading it independently, reading it aloud to each other, studying critical material on it and listening to recordings of the novel by its author. The result is a lyrical journey into the dream/nightmare world of the mind’s interior. Although inspired by the novel, and recalling scenes from it, the dance does not follow its chronology. Using movement and theater, “Rejoyce” reflects the magical spirit of Joyce, his wild, antic and acrobatic wit.
The other two premieres were non-collaborative creations. Choreographed and performed by Alison Chase, “A Portrait” incorporates an original score by Norwegian composer Birgitte Grimstad, photography by Indian designer and photographer John Panikar, and masks by Carol Sivin to create a kaleidoscopic exploration of a woman’s mind. The third new dance will be Jonathan Wolken’s “Bedtime Stories,” a work for six dancers. Commissioned by the 1993 American Dance Festival, the dance is a suite of allegorical stories or scenes suggesting the sexy, funny, heartbreaking, touching sides of relationships–or lack of relationships–between people.
Marking yet another departure for Pilobolus, six students from The Juilliard School will share a bill with the company when they perform Felix Blaska’s and Robby Barnett’s “Slippery Hearts,” which was commissioned by and premiered at Juilliard this past spring. Based on Ford Maddox Ford’s novel, The Good Soldier, the dance explores the elusiveness of relationships. The music is by Lou Conti, who extracted sections from the novel’s text, and then translated them into German to create the series of songs that form the score.
The season will also feature the revival of the adventurous solo from “The Empty Suitor,” as well as Pilobolean classics such as “Untitled;” “Alraune,” and “Day 2.” More recent works that will be seen through the month include last year’s premieres: “Sweet Purgatory;” “Solus” and “Duet 1992,” as well as “Televisitation;”and “Clandestiny.”
Famed for being named after a genus of phototropic fungus, Pilobolus was founded in 1971 by Dartmouth undergraduates Moses Pendleton and Mr. Wolken, who met in a dance class taught by Ms. Chase. Steve Johnson, also an original Pilobolus,member left to become a brain surgeon in Denver. The duo was soon joined by Mr. Barnett and Mr. Tracy, also students of Ms. Chase, followed in 1973 by Ms. Chase and Martha Clark. Although Ms. Clark left five years later, the company’s other artistic directors continued to perform as a unit until 1982, a year which marked their gradual exodus from the stage.
In 1991 the company inaugurated the Pilobolus Institute, an educational outreach program which has already provided over 25 weeks of educational services to schools, colleges, and universities, including projects for the Juilliard School, the Connecticut Board of Education and The Joyce Theater Dance Education Program, as well as an ongoing residency in the theater department at Yale University.
Pilobolus recently directed a program for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival entitled Men Dancers, a centennial celebration of the birth of Ted Shawn. Other activities in 1993 included co-directing the National Theater of the Deaf’s upcoming production Ophelia and the creation of commissioned work for the Lincoln Center Institute and the Ririe-Woodbury Co.
Pilobolus has received several prestigious honors, including the Scotsman Award for its performances at the Edinburgh Festival (1973); the Berlin Critics Prize (1975); the New England Theatre Conference Prize (1977); the Brandeis Award (1978); and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts Award for Excellence (1981). Individually, several of Pilobolus’ artistic directors have been awarded Guggenheim Fellowships and have choreographed for and set works on other companies, including those of La Scala, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Berlin Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Ballet de Monte Carlo, and the Joffrey Ballet. Pilobolus had been commissioned to create a new Nutcracker for le Ballet du Rhin in France, which was premiered in Mulhouse in February, 1993.
Some of the troupe’s most important peformances since its summer stint at The Joyce last year included its debut in Russia and China, as well as performances in Thailand, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore. In addition to domestic touring, the company spent a month in Italy, France and Switzerland this past winter.
Just prior to its New York season, the company will be seen as part of the American Dance Festival’s 60th anniversary season, June 10-15. After its Joyce engagement the troupe will travel to Aspen, CO for three days of performances, July 22-24, followed by a domestic tour beginning September 24 in Jacksonville, FL, September 24-26; Hanover, NH, October 3; North Dartmouth, MA, October 5,; Dallas, TX, October 15 &16; Buffalo, NY, October 19; Atlanta, GA, October 22-24; Boston, MA, October 27-31. In November, the company will perform in Madison, WI, November 10; Cleveland, OH, November 12 & 13; Hartford, CT, November 19 & 20. A European tour is planned November 30-December 12. (Exact cities and dates to be announced.)