Three years ago, the Connecticut-based Pilobolus Dance Company set out on a journey that shook up the troupe’s well-established routine. For more than four decades, the company had functioned as a single unit, rehearsing, performing and touring together. With the tour of Shadowland, a multi-media performance that plays with shadows, music, dance and theater, a new branch of Pilobolus was born.
As Shadowland conquered Europe, the rest of the cast stayed home in America, continuing to rehearse and perform regionally. Shadowland’s maiden voyage included a tour through Israel that included stops in Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba. The experiment proved to be worthwhile.
Shadowland has enjoyed two years of sold-out performances around the globe. This week, Pilobolus returns to Israel to perform Shadowland in Tel Aviv as part of the 2013-2014 season of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
The name Pilobolus is taken from a fungus that founder Jonathan Wolken’s father was studying at the time that the company was established. The fungus grows on cow dung and is known for its speed, accuracy and strength.
Wolken met his six fellow founding members of the company while studying at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Over the years, they dispersed to pursue other interests, including the establishment of Momix Dance Company, also in Connecticut.
Like its fungal namesake, the company has steadily and surely grown over the past 42 years.
Unlike many other longstanding modern dance companies, Pilobolus is not afraid to mix in with pop culture. The troupe’s television appearances have afforded the company access to a wide audience, drawing first-time dance viewers into the theater.
To the intricate movement language, the company adds splashes of pure entertainment,keeping audiences’ eyes glued to the stage.
What was once a fringe, experimental venture has turned into an internationally recognized creative force. Over the years, Pilobolus has performed on nearly every American talk show, the TED conference and the Academy Awards. The company is known for its unique blend of acrobatics and dance, creating nearly every shape under the sun out of the combination of the dancers’ bodies.
Since the company’s inception, many artists have been invited to collaborate on projects. A few years ago, Pilobolus hosted Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack in Connecticut, where the duo created Rushes. The piece brought together Pinto and Pollack’s magical aesthetic with the energetic physicality of the dancers.
Shadowland is a perfect example of the work that has made Pilobolus famous. The show tells the tale of a woman called Doggirl, who travels through a mysterious land filled with strange creatures. Throughout her journey, the main character seeks to understand herself and the world around her.
To assist them in the creative process, the directors of Pilobolus called on celebrated children’s writer Steven Banks, known best for his work on the hit cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. To Shadowland, Banks brought his sense of animation and narrative.
Banks is one of many collaborators that contributed to Shadowland, joined by six directors from within the company, as well as 10 dancers. The result is a fun, dynamic show that is suitable for all ages.
Pilobolus will perform Shadowland at TAPAC from December 25 to 27.
For more information, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.