Pilobolus recent visits to the American Dance Festival have offered elaborate collaborative works involving artists outside the dance world. These often have been engaging, but the troupes earlier pieces, emphasizing physical prowess in astounding feats, continue to be the more satisfying.
This summer, Pilobolus stages two premieres, one an instant classic in the old mold; the other a collaborative piece with little to offer.
On the Nature of Things begins in deep shadow with Mike Tyus slowly carrying the limp body of Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern to a small, circular platform. Tyus returns with an equally unresponsive Eriko Jimbo, placing her on top of Ahern, sparking them into revived energy.
What ensues is a slow-motion exploration of how many pairings and combinations can be made atop a confining space, the mesmerizing intertwinings and logic-defying balancings bringing to mind classical sculptures. Layered over these are are subtly shifting power plays, with Tyus seemingly in control at first, wreaking punishment on the pair for their mutual attraction. But Ahern defies attentions from Tyus, ultimately crushing him. Theres an Adam-Eve-Snake vibe, enhanced by near-nudity that displays the sensual beauty of the dancers physiques, creating a breathtaking work.
The other premiere, The Inconsistent Pedaler, is collaboration with writers Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret. Its a comic look at a doddering mans 99th birthday party, attended by a husband and wife and their (adult) baby. They all sprawl on the floor until a young woman begins pedaling a stationary bike that powers them into action. Pratfalls and mishaps indicate the old mans infirmities but then a stranger arrives to power the bike in some mysterious new way, causing the old man to fly about the stage as if reliving his youth. Despite some arresting moments, the piece seems unfinished and inconsequential.
Returning are Skyscrapers, in which six dancers tango to giddily changing backdrops and costuming, and Megawatt, the astounding, high-energy free-for-all with dancers hurling themselves into the air and onto the floor. The intriguing but too-long Korokoro, full of primordial beings evolving, finishes out the ultimately satisfying program.