Dance Recommendation: BIG FIVE OH! (Pilobolus’s 50th Anniversary Tour)

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by Nia Liat on January 18, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Dance,Theater-Regional

Pilobolus, the groundbreaking, legendary, international dance sensation, returns to Pepperdine in Malibu on January 25, 2023 (the company’s 15th time there!), the MAC in Chicagoland On Feb. 5 and many more locations as part of the company’s “Big Five Oh!” tour celebrating a half century of radical creativity and boundary pushing. (See below for cities and dates.) This is one of America’s greatest dance companies, and must be seen for their strength, fluidity and awesome choreography.

In this exciting 50th anniversary program, Pilobolus — that feisty arts organism — questions its own “givens,” turns its traditions sideways, and brings its past into the future. As fresh and vibrant as ever, the legendary company puts the “Oh!” in BIG FIVE OH!, and continues to morph its way thrillingly into audiences’ hearts and minds. The celebration ranges from signature works from vintage classics to the company’s trendsetting innovative work in shadow. The hand-picked selection of awe-inspiring pieces from the company’s exciting repertoire, include The company will perform MegaWatt, Solo Suitor, The Ballad, Behind The Shadows, and Untitled at Pepperdine (the selections change at each venue, so we’ve listed a few more pieces):

•  “The Ballad” (2022). This deeply moving piece, commissioned by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), was made in collaboration with storyteller Darlene Kascak.  Dance and spoken word narration marry to explore the rich history of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s relationship to the natural world and the ongoing brutalization of indigenous children.

•  “Behind the Shadows” (2021). Since Pilobolus’s innovation of physical shadow theater at the 79th Annual Academy Awards in 2007, many have copied the techniques and images. A new medium of expression has been embraced by the international performing arts community. For the “Big Five-OH!” Pilobolus offers a shadow performance unlike what audiences have seen before and reveals the technique behind the innovation.

Pilobolus. “Megawatt” (2004). Photo by John Kanebug.

•  The high voltage “Megawatt” (2004). Created in the last decade of founder and choreographer Jonathan Wolken’s life, this work exemplifies his later work. “Big Five-Oh!” dedicates this “Megawatt” to his memory and his everlasting contribution to Pilobolus and dance theater. For this tour, “Megawatt” has been updated to expand its unfettered exuberance and frenetic expression of life-affirming creative drives and resistance to stagnation by casting dancers in roles that gently subvert stereotypical gender-associated movement vocabulary.

Pilobolus. "On the Nature of Things" (2014). Photo by Robert Whitman

•  “On the Nature of Things” (2014). This work showcases the awe-inspiring strength of three dancers as they contort themselves into living statues, balancing on a small pedestal platform and relying on one another to form gravity-defying tableaus. Playing with the inherent restraint of the small performing area, the dance explores forbidden desire.

Pilobolous. “Branches” (2017). Photo by Ben McKeown.

•  “Branches” (2017). Commissioned by the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, “Branches” premiered on the Pillow’s iconic Inside/Out stage set against the Berkshire hills. It is scored entirely with natural sound and looks at the competition and struggle between animals using the comedy in our Darwinian world in a way that is inherently unique to Pilobolus.

Pilobolus features Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Quincy Ellis, Paul Liu, Hannah Klinkman, Zachary Weiss and Marlon Feliz. The dancers are led by artistic directors Renée Jaworski and Matt Kent.

Pilobolus is named after a barnyard fungus that propels its spores with extraordinary speed, accuracy and strength. The dance company was founded by a group of Dartmouth College students in 1971 and they continually form diverse collaborations that break down barriers between disciplines and challenge the way we think about dance. Physically and intellectually, the company engages and inspires audiences around the world through performance, education and creative consultation.

Since its founding in 1971, Pilobolus has become known as one of the most imaginative and entertaining dance companies in the world. Composed of poetic athletes, dynamic dancers, acrobatic and shape-shifters who can twist their bodies together to create fabulous illusions, Pilobolus has performed in more than 60 countries and been the subject of a profile on “60 Minutes.” TV appearances include “CBS This Morning”, “NBC’s Today Show,” “MTV’s Video Music Awards, “The Chew,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in addition to performances at the Academy Awards and the Olympics.


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