After five decades, Pilobolus continues to delight audiences. They are celebrating their golden anniversary in "Big Five Oh!"
Pilobolus always electrifies, mystifies and intoxicates.
The ground-breaking dance ensemble did it again on Friday night at The Egg in Albany — pulling the audience into a mind-bending sweep of its amazing 50-year history as one of the most collaborative, athletic and charming troupes out there.
The company has frequented the area often and each time draws a crowd that, sadly, most dance groups no longer can gather. And they wasted no time in showing the audience why in “Megawatt.”
The 2004 piece for the now six-dancers ensemble (obviously the pandemic has reduced their ranks) was an instant knockout. To music by Primus, Radiohead and Squarepusher, the dancers squirmed onstage on their bellies using just their shoulders to drag them forward. As they made it across to the other wing, they appeared to be zapped by an electrical current that flipped them over to cross the stage on their backs.
The synchronization and rhythms of the movement held ones attention. Then they surprised as they writhed and shimmied to high-voltage jolts that are charged by the electronic music.
The dance was an act of endurance for the dancers who have few quiet moments to restore themselves to calm. It was a wild ride, that when it was done, has the crowd cheering.
The pleasant evening continued with the primal “Shizen,” a 1978 work performed by Quincy Ellis and Hannah Klinkman, that evoked thoughts of early life. The audience watched as two independent bodies were strangely drawn to each other and then survived and thrived on synergy.
The work, cast in shadowy light to meditative music by Riley Lee, also amazed as it takes a strength that is beyond the capacity of most. Much of the movement was painfully slow, a demonstration of brawn and control. Yet the subtleness was apropos.
The evening, which was one of the first full programs of dance since the pandemic, also featured the glorious 1981 “Day Two,” which appeared to refer to the day when God created the sky. The dancers first flashed in a glowing light (day one) and instantly take flight, leading the audience through to the explosion of Earth into a planet of land and sea (day three).
To music by Brian Enos and David Bryne and the Talking Heads, the dance had many delightful scenes of flights and one of the best endings to a dance piece ever — the ensemble glided on their butts across the stage on a stream of water.
The company also performed the slapstick solo from Michael Tracy’s “Empty Suitor” from 1980 with Paul Liu as the bungling gentleman with top hat and cane to Ben Webster’s interpretation of “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
And the company also pulled from its 2009 “Shadowland” for its newest piece “Behind the Shadow.” Created by its current co-Artistic Directors Renee Jaworski and Matt Kent, the work, like all that Pilobolus does, enchanted, this time, with optical illusions.
If Pilobolus keeps this up, it will flourish another 50 years. Let’s hope.
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