Let there be light

The Connecticut-based modern dance company Pilobolus are back in Israel to perform their latest work ‘Shadowland.’

Pilobolus 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of John Kane))
Pilobolus 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of John Kane))
‘Art can entertain but you don’t have to entertain with art,” said Damon Honeycutt.
Seated beside cast member Molly Gawler on the day of the Israeli premier of Pilobolus Dance Theater’s Shadowland, Honeycutt, who is the dance caption of production, seemed charged with energy. The two dancer/creators have recently embarked on a world tour that will take them across Europe over the next eight months. The first steps of this journey include a short tour around Israel, with stops in Herzliya, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and Haifa. All together, Shadowland will be performed 14 times in Israel.
Shadowland is a narrative tale of a young woman, called “Dog-girl”, who goes on a quest to find herself. Employing shadows and a wide array of images and lighting tricks, the creators of Shadowland present an alternate, magical universe on stage. “The piece is about the veils we hide behind and about letting our true nature out. I think everyone can connect with the feeling of thinking you aren’t good enough,” said Gawler.
Last year, Pilobolus visited Israel with a mixed program of the company’s enthralling repertoire. Known for their acrobatic abilities and knack for creating just about any shape by contorting their bodies, Pilobolus walk the line between entertainment and contemporary dance. Perhaps because of this balance, they are one of the most viewed and praised troupes in the world.
“That’s what drew me to Pilobolus in the first place,” said Gawler, who joined the company in 2007 and plays the lead role in Shadowland.
“The philosophy of the company and the fact that they believe that art is for the people is really important. Our shows are accessible and Shadowland is no exception. We love to take people on journeys,” she went on.
Believers in the two heads are better than one approach; Pilobolus has enjoyed a long history of collaborating with leading visual and performance artists. In this way, the company has bolstered their creative energy year after year. The list of previous contributors to the Pilobolus repertoire includes famed illustrator Maurice Sendak, Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkouai, juggler Michael Moschen and Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack, whose work Rushes is currently performed by the troupe.
One of the many cooks in the kitchen in the artistic process for Shadowland was Steven Banks, head-writer of the popular children’s cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
“Steven really knew how to add a sense of animation to the show,” said Gawler. “He knows how to tell a story so well.”
The creative process for Shadowland was slightly different from previous productions in that it included a large number of collaborating artists. During eight months of intense rehearsals, the ten dancers and six directors of the project threw their ideas into a pot, out of which Shadowland emerged.
“We worked with a lot of improvisation. It was crazy,” said Gawler, “but amazing to be part of such a big process.” The piece was premiered in Madrid in 2010 however changes continue to be made as the show progresses.
“It’s like working with clay,” said Honeycutt, “we are sculpting the material as we go.”
Shadowland, they explained, is an experiment for the 40-year-old American dance troupe. While the main company continues to rehearse and perform in America, the Shadowland cast will conquer Europe. This division and branching out is perhaps the next step for the company, explained Honeycutt. And though both Honeycutt and Gawler have toured extensively in the past, the Shadowland journey marks the longest and most intense tour of either of their careers. “I’ve never done anything of this magnitude before,” said Honeycutt with a smile. “But we have a great cast and we will just have to rely on each other.”
“As long as everyone has a spirit of adventure, we’ll be fine,” added Gawler.
Shadowland will be performed from December 5-9 in at the Jerusalem Theater, on December 8 and 9 at the Be’er Sheva Performing Arts Center and on December 9 and 10 at the Haifa Auditorium.
For more information, visit www.pilobolus.com.