Pilobolus –The Joyce Theatre

Pictured (L to R): Nile Russell, Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Jacob Michael Warren, Krystal Butler, Heather Favretto, Zachary Eisenstat. Photo by Megan Moss Freeman.

Pilobolus is performing two programs during its three-weeks at the Joyce Theater this summer, and each piece is unique while being ineffably consistent with the style of the company. It is dance in the broadest sense of the word, rhythmic movement. Yet, the company borrows from gymnastics and acrobatics, and sometimes, the closest parallel one can find is the Moscow Circus in the old Soviet Union.

The five pieces in program A are distinct and appeal to both dance mavens and neophytes. “On the Nature of Things” is a classical study in movement. Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Krystal Butler and Quincy Ellis move to Vivaldi in a piece in which the lighting, costumes and partial nudity create the illusion of Italian Renaissance sculpture come to life.

“Walklyndon” makes an almost perfect counterpoint in that is it cartoonishly silly. There is no music and the dancers dress in bright yellow leotard and the large satin shorts preferred by world-class boxers. It is a slapstick routine that brings belly laughs, and the action is are quick-paced as a good French farce. It is easily my favorite from this program.

Before the intermission, the company presents “Rushes.” Lifts, catches and general feats of strength worthy of a carnival sideshow are sprinkled throughout the piece as if they were as simple as can be. In addition to the dancers (Buchsbaum, Butler, Ellis, Zachary Eisenstat, Heather Favretta and Jacob Michael Warren), twelve chairs become active participants in the performance. They are slid, carried and entangle the dancers in a creative and clever use of props that raises the bar.

Following a well-earned break to allow the audience to catch up and the dancers to breathe, the four men dance “Gnomen.” The piece takes advantage of the strength of the dancers and their ability to make it look easy (a theme that runs throughout). It’s simply wonderful.

The last piece in the program is “Branches,” a piece just two years old. The sound is all natural, from bird calls to running water. The dancers become various animals, and it is a most non-traditional piece while remaining within the parameters of traditional dance (unlike Walklyndon that steps outside the boundaries).

Between the pieces, to allow for costume changes, a brief video is projected onto a screen brought onto the stage by a couple of people and returned to the back as the next piece begins, “Pilobolus is a Fungus” uses video from biology classes showing x-rays of people eating, a shrimp moving, and the pilobolus fungus being a fungus. “Magnifico” is a black-and-white animated short that will appeal to fans of Tim Burton movies. The final short is “Up!” The best description comes from YouTube where you can view all of the short films, “Functioning as individuals in a group – or pixels on a screen – participants wielding umbrellas fabricated with multi-colored LED lights, created a performance piece together that was projected in real time on a large screen.”

Running Time: 2 hours including a 20-minute intermission.

Advisory: Both programs include pieces involving partial nudity. A family friendly program will be performed Saturday, June 22, at 2 pm.

Pilobolus is performing at the Joyce Theatre, 175 8th Avenue at 19th Street, New York City, through June 29, 2019. For more information and tickets, visit the Joyce website.

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