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Shadowland combines images project­ed on screens with chore­ography to create what the company calls “part shadow act, part dance, part circus and part concert.”

The New York Times has called “athlete-illusionists” contort themselves into impossiblelooking sculptural shapes. The concept for Shadowland came about after the group did a car commercial in silhouette. Could shadow play drive a whole show? “We didn’t know if we could do it, so we just went into the studio and started fooling around with shadows,” says Mark Fucik, the Shadowland creative director who joined Pilobolus as a dancer in 2001 and has worked for the company ever since in various roles. Shadowland came together in 2009 in collaboration with Steven Banks, lead writer for the animated TV series SpongeBob SquarePants. It has toured the Middle East, Australia and Asia and spent four years traversing Europe. It’s now on its first North American tour. Dancing in shadow to tell a story is exacting work, Fucik says. Stacking bodies in 56

artsLife | WINTER 2016

just the right way — even standing at just the right angle — makes a big difference. “For the dancer, it’s learning how light reacts with your body. If I’m off by just half an inch, the whole image is wrong.” The illusions the dancers produce are both strange and thrilling. Pilobolus Executive Producer Itamar Kubovy explained the mechanics of shadow-dancing this way in a BBC interview: “When you walk away from the screen, you become larger in shadow, and when you walk toward a person, you become smaller in shadow, which is the opposite of what we normally experience. So when these artists are appearing to touch each other in shadow, they may be 5 feet away from each other.” The Times praised the effect in a review of the show’s 2015 U.S. premiere: “Visually and mechanically, Shadowland is deft, teeming with clever tricks of the body, scenery and light.”


artsLife Winter 2016