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2012

contemporary dance

IRVINE

La La La Human Steps, photo by Edouard Lock

Irvine Barclay Theatre

BARCLA Y THEATRE •

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Table of Contents 1. The Winter of Our Dance Content......................................... 3 2. About dance at the Barclay.................................................... 4 3. La La La Human Steps........................................................... 6

January 26, 2012 (from Montreal, Canada)

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Diavolo................................................................................... 12

Pilobolus................................................................................ 18

March 22, 2012

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May 17-18, 2012 (from Washington Depot, Connecticut)

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The Barclay’s Contemporary Dance Series and the Dance Initiative are sponsored by:

Cheng Family Foundation Anonymous Fund of the Pilobolus; photo by John Kane

Orange County Community Foundation Bobbi Cox Realty Mike and Kari Kerr Simon Foundation for Education and Housing Lynda Thomas

2012 Contemporary Dance Series

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The Winter of Our Dance Content This fall - in its U.S. debut tour and only West Coast appearance - Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s new company, Eastman, from Antwerp, Belgium literally swept over the audience of our series opening with stunning effect. The piece of dance-theater, entitled Babel, offered more of everything than even our most devoted subscribers could have wished: provocative characters, exotic live musical arrangements, and scenic elements that spoke volumes, all of it swirling together in a choreographed cacophony worthy of the show’s title. Babel deserved the rhapsodic audience response it received. We cannot promise this kind of transfixing experience every time. But we can promise to continue bringing you the latest, most current dance and performance from around the world. The winter resumes a season of exhilarating evenings of dance beginning with Montreal’s La La La Human Steps on January 26. It was ten years ago that the Barclay presented the U.S. premiere of the company’s major work, Salt. Ten years later, the theatre presents the U.S. premiere of the choreographer’s most recent endeavor, simply called Edouard Lock’s New Work. Jacques Heim’s high-flying Los Angeles troupe, Diavolo, makes its Barclay debut, at long last, on March 22. The featured work is Fearful Symmetries, the spectacular result of a much-applauded collaboration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The pioneering, ever-imaginative, and oh-so-pliable Pilobolus makes a special trip from its home on the East Coast to wrap up the season in May. A weekend of performances, featuring an array of work from its repertory, will demonstrate what astonishing creativity this legendary company is capable of.

photo by Alison Harris

It’s not too late to become a mid-season subscriber. Experience the rest of this season and enjoy priority access to the next. See inside for more details.

President Irvine Barclay Theatre

Irvine Barclay Theatre

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Irvine Barclay Theatre

Dance Initiative Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, photo by Lois Greenfield

The Barclay’s Dance Initiative marks an even greater commitment to dance by the theatre. The initiative’s components are designed to enhance the profile of dance in the region and to encourage the community’s engagement with dance. Irvine Barclay Theatre intends to grow its own programs and outreach activities, to develop new audiences, and to collaborate with members of the dance community. As a leading presenter of international dance, the theatre is planning to expand the number of companies and performances presented annually. It has launched a “festival” track featuring the kind of innovative work one would expect to see at major festivals including Edinburgh and Jacob’s Pillow, like November’s presentation of Colin Dunne’s Out of Time, the Irish step-dancing star turned contemporary dancer and choreographer. To assist in the development of the initiative, volunteer councils are being comprised of local dance professionals and educators, as well as dance enthusiasts and philanthropists. The first major outreach program, developed in conjunction with faculty from UCI’s Claire Trevor School for the Arts Dance Department, is already underway. The 10-monthlong Contemporary Dance Immersion project gives high school and university students unprecedented access to company classes and rehearsals, and opportunities to interact with artistic directors, dancers, and production and management staff of the premiere companies performing in the Barclay’s dance series.

2012 Contemporary Dance Series

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20 Years of Dance

1990-1991 Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Maria Benítiz Spanish Dance Co. 1991-1992 José Greco Flamenco

At Irvine Barclay Theatre, we believe that dance is an art form whose unique essence is capable of inspiring deep emotional response among most viewers and participants alike. Why? Because its power resides in the body and is universal and available to all regardless of nationality, status, language or culture. In its diverse and eclectic forms, it appeals as mass entertainment or as high art, and everywhere in between.

1992-1993 Bebe Miller Company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. Joe Goode Performance Group Maria Benítiz Spanish Dance Co. 1993-1994 Parsons Dance Company Lar Lubovitch Dance Company Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet Donald Byrd/The Group

For over twenty years, the Barclay has helped raise the dance bar to the benefit of audiences, dancers, choreographers and the art form itself. The theatre has presented some 80 different international and American contemporary, traditional and folkloric companies. Many have had their regional of even national debut here and have been welcomed back for return engagements or special projects and residencies.

1994-1995 Mark Morris Dance Group Parsons Dance Company Susan Marshall Dance Company Pilobolus Dance Theatre Le Ballet National du Senegal

As a producer, the Barclay has created eight editions of the New World International Flamenco Festival, curated a week-long Hawai’ian festival involving nearly a hundred Hawai’ian and mainland artists, and provided administrative and marketing support for the National Choreographers Initiative since its inception in 2004.

1995-1996 Compagnie Maguy Marin Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Paul Taylor Dance Company Stephen Petronio Dance Company Ballet Folklorico de Chile Dancers & Musicians of Bali

As a facility, the Barclay has been and remains host to a diverse group of local dance companies including Festival Ballet Theatre, Backhausdance, Arpana Dance Company, Maple Ballet and the former Ballet Pacifica. Because of its ideal size, scale and sight-lines, unmatched for dance in Orange County, the theatre is also a desired venue by educational programs and local studios. UCI has created impressive work here. The Wooden Floor has presented a fullyproduced recital performance each year since the theatre’s opening in 1990. Each June, local studios including Focus Dance Center, Pacific Dance Center, Classical Dance Center, Maple Conservatory present literally thousands of children in year-end recitals.

1996-1997 Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Parsons Dance Company Joe Goode Performance Group Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal 1997-1998 Rosas Streb/Ringside Batsheva Dance Company Mark Morris Dance Group La Tania Flamenco Ensemble

Outreach programs have included residencies, master classes and workshops, daytime performances for school audiences, lectures and demonstrations. Examples range from the extraordinary performances and residency activities of Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech at the theatre and at St. Joseph Ballet’s, then new, facilities to the current Contemporary Dance Immersion program for high school and UCI dance students organized by UCI faculty and supported by the Barclay’s contemporary dance series.

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1998-1999 Ballet Preljocaj Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Mark Morris Dance Group Momix 1999-2000 Eliot Feld: Ballet Tech La La La Human Steps Parsons Dance Company Doug Varone and Dancers

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2000-2001 Streb/Ringside Pilobolus Dance Theatre Sasha Waltz Garth Fagan Dance 2001-2002 Joe Goode Performance Group Mark Morris Dance / Yo-Yo Ma Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Dayton Contemporary Ballet American Indian Dance Theatre New World Flamenco Festival Companía Domingo Ortega Yaelisa & Caminos Flamencos Companía Bélen Maya 2002-2003 Sean Curran Dance Company Ballet Preljocaj Momix Philadanco Trinity Irish Dance Company Music & Dance of Manipur New World Flamenco Festival Companía Juana Amaya Yaelisa & Caminos Flamencos Companía Andrés Marin 2003-2004 Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Pandit Birju Maharaj Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia New World Flamenco Festival Jerez Puro Israel Galvan & Company Antonio Canales 2004-2005 Hawaii Festival Ulukou: Waikiki Revisited Ke Aka: Reflections National Choreographers Initiative 2005-2006 Savion Glover: Classical Savion Julio Bocca: Boccatango Seoul Performing Arts Company National Choreographers Initiative New World Flamenco Festival Los Farrucos Y Una Batita de Cola Companía Antonio el Pipa

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2006-2007 Richard Alston Dance Company Joe Goode Performance Group Les Grands Ballets Canadiens Compania Nacional de Danza II Ballet Folklórico de Mexico Hungarian State Folk Ensemble Les Ballets Africains National Choreographers Initiative New World Flamenco Festival Companía Juana Amaya Sin Fronteras / Savion Glover Companía Rafaela Carrasco 2007-2008 Jazz Tap Ensemble Whirling Dervishes of Turkey Tango Fire Cois Ceim Dance Company Shen Wei Dance Arts Mark Morris’ Dido & Aeneas Rubberbandance Group National Choreographers Initiative New World Flamenco Festival Companía Maria José Franco Andrés Peña & Pilar Ogalla Companía Juan Ogalla 2008-2009 Joe Goode Performance Group Aspen Santa Fe Ballet National Choreographers Initiative New World Flamenco Festival Somos Flamencos Companía Antonio el Pipa 2009-2010 Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Grupo de Rua Akram Khan Dance Company Alberta Ballet Virsky Ukranian Natl Dance Co. Dulsori National Choreographers Initiative 2010-2011 Ballet Preljocaj Momix Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Aszure Barton & Artists Tango Inferno National Choreographers Initiative 2011-2012 Semana Flamenka Eastman: Babel Colin Dunne: Out of Time


“Edouard Lock’s New Work” United States Premiere

La La La Human Steps Edouard Lock, artistic director

photos by Massimo Chiarradia

Montreal, Canada

www.lalalahumansteps.com

January 26, 2012

Thursday at 8pm

sponsored by Bobbi

2012 Contemporary Dance Series

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Leading contemporary dance group La La La Human Steps was founded in Montreal in 1980 by Édouard Lock. To mark more than 30 years of groundbreaking dance, Lock has created a new work that brings

“They deliver at speeds no human being should be capable of; they are fearless and ultra-chic”

together two great tragic operas: Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

THE TIMES

Set to a score by acclaimed English composer Gavin Bryars, complex dance timed to micro moments will unite two operas into one seamless ode, played live by a quartet of piano, viola, cello and saxophone. La La La Human Steps owes its international reputation and numerous awards to the unique choreographic language developed and constantly reinvented by company founder and artistic director, Édouard Lock – famed for his diverse collaborations with the likes of Opéra de Paris, David Bowie and Frank Zappa. Altered structures of ballet within a complex amalgamation of choreography, music and film are the main ingredients of the Lock style. This romantic and technically challenging new work will be no exception, inciting audiences to see the body in movement in entirely new ways.

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Édouard Lock

(La La La Human Steps Founder, Artistic Director and Choreographer) began his choreographic career at the age of 20, creating works from 1974 to 1979 for a variety of Canadian dance companies and institutions, including Groupe Nouvelle Aire, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal. In 1980 he founded La La La Human Steps, a company that has garnered strong national and international recognition and that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. Over the years Mr. Lock has been invited to create works for some of the world’s leading dance companies, including the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, the Nederlands Dans Theater and Het Nationale Ballet of Holland. Mr. Lock co-conceived and was Artistic Director for David Bowie’s world tour, Sound and Vision, in 1990. He also collaborated with Frank Zappa on the Yellow Shark concert – an occasion that marked Mr. Zappa’s final performances – alongside Germany’s Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt’s Alte Oper, the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna’s KonzertHaus.

At the invitation of the Opéra de Paris, Mr. Lock choreographed the 2003 production of Les Boréades, interpreted by La La La Human Steps at Palais Garnier. Two art films based on Mr. Lock’s work have also been made: La La La Human Sex duo no 1 in 1987, directed by Bernar Hébert and winner of six international awards; and Velásquez’ Little Museum in 1994, again by Mr. Hébert. In September 1997, the Toronto International Film Festival presented the documentary Inspirations by British director Michael Apted, featuring Mr. Lock alongside other major figures of contemporary art and architecture such as painter Roy Lichtenstein and architect Tadao Ando. The film adaptation of Amelia, directed by Mr. Lock, had its American premiere at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival and at Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and its European premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The film has won awards from numerous international festivals, including the Chicago Film Festival, the Rose d’Or Festival in Switzerland and the Prague International Film Festival. The film was also nominated at the International Emmy Awards.

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2012 Contemporary Dance Series

La La La La Human Steps was founded in 1980 around a three-week series of performances in the small theatre l’Eskabel in Montréal’s St-Henri district, which led the troupe to The Kitchen in New York City, the epicentre of contemporary dance at the time. Since then, the troupe has become one of the world’s most recognized dance companies, thanks to the unique choreographic language it developed. Choreographic complexity, the alteration of balletic structures and the intertwining of choreographic, musical and cinematic strands are among the elements that create a sense of perceptual distortion and renewal, that encourage audiences to both reinvent and rediscover the body and its dance. The company requires that its dancers constantly redefine, question and renew themselves, to bring out performances that move from extreme physical challenge to the greatest of lyricism. The Montréal troupe has collaborated with institutions both prestigious and eclectic, from the Opéra de Paris to Frank Zappa. Since Human Sex in 1985, which catapulted La La La Human Steps to the forefront of the international dance scene, the troupe has performed: New Demons (1987), Infante, c’est destroy (1991), 2 (1995), Exaucé/Salt (1998), Amelia (2002) and Amjad (2007) on international tours in the major capitals of Europe, Asia and America. Over the last 15 years, the company has received the co-production support from many international dance festivals to produce Édouard Lock’s creations, such as Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, deSingel in Antwerp, the Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, the ImPulsTanz in Vienna, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Montréal High Lights Festival, the LG Arts Centre in Seoul and the Saitama Arts Theater in Japan.

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Review:

Edouard Lock debut in Amsterdam By Victor Swoboda Special to The Gazette January 7, 2011

tently evoked the Dying Swan, a coy but highly effective little homage from Lock. The participation of the world-famous artist came after she searched for some high-profile choreographers to prepare pieces for her in a one-off show. Lock was considered. Although the two were unable to collaborate on that show, Lock felt there was potential to work together.

AMSTERDAM – La La La Human Steps began its fourth decade auspiciously in Amsterdam this week with the world premiere of Edouard Lock’s latest major work largely involving new dancers, a distinguished guest artist in the person of Diana Vishneva of Russia’s Maryinsky Ballet, and, most significantly, choreography of great depth, subtlety, range of movement and emotional resonance. Publicized rather oddly only as “Edouard Lock’s New Work,” the 95-minute piece could well be his finest creation. On Thursday (Jan. 6), throughout the second performance of the three-day Amsterdam run, there was evidence that Lock pushed beyond the parameters that he established in Amelia (2002) and Amjad (2007), works that emphasized brilliant duets for men fiercely gesticulating and women on point spinning like tops. Never fear, the new work had plenty of gesticulation and fantastic spinning by both the women on point as well as the men – the 12-member cast outfitted in familiar La La La black was a marvel. But at times for purposes of dramatic contrast, Lock allowed body lines to become looser, more relaxed, without the relentless tension seen in the earlier works. Instead of extended clinches, couples in duets separated for longer intervals and at a farther distance on the big Het Muziektheater stage (comparable to Salle Wilfrid Pelletier’s). Lock also unusually had his dancers often sprawling on the floor. Indeed, after the onstage four-member band played

an overture of Gavin Bryars’ music (his pseudo-Baroque score was a highlight throughout the work, with a particularly poignant saxophone), the curtain rose on the floor-bound arched figure of Talia Evtushenko, her arm raised plaintively. Regularly the floor came into play during intense exchanges between couples. Each time that the dancers came together after separating or rose up from the floor to find each other, there was dramatic, emotional reconciliation (frequently followed immediately by another breakup – these were people bound by an emotional vicious circle). Lock is the most unsentimental of choreographers, but his work nonetheless regularly shows people trying desperately to make connections with other people, however brief or in vain. This was certainly evident in this latest piece, which was inspired, according to the publicity, by two classic tales of love, Dido and Aeneas, and Orfeo and

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Eurydice. Lock took not their plots, but their evocation of passion and poignant awareness that all relations, not matter how intense, are slaves of human mortality. At intervals, two large vertical screens were lowered in parallel showing a pretty young woman on one side in a touching visual conversation with a version of her old self on the other. Aging and its ultimate end were inevitable, and no amount of spinning or vigorous movement, the entire work implied, could delay one’s fate. The final statement on this came in a closing duet with Vishneva and veteran company member Jason Shipley-Holmes, the coolest and most reliable of partners. With a lyricism unusual for Lock, the two calmly bid an extended farewell, Vishneva demonstrating the relaxed ease, fine line and expressiveness that make her outstanding as Giselle and Odette-Odile. The last image of Vishneva alone on the ground, her body arched over her one extended leg, pa-

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Vishneva spent an intensive month in Montreal preparing her role. Rehearsals regularly lasted until midnight. Though she was accustomed to memorizing big parts (she’s performing three large-scale classical ballets this year including La Bayadere with the Maryinsky in Ottawa in February), Lock’s work was demanding even for her.

that was dropped because of an injury to her partner. But the performance this week showed unusual polish for a Lock premiere. Equally up to the challenge were the splendid company members hired last year – Diego Castro, Mi Deng, Sandra Muhlbauer, Marcio Vinicius Paulino Silveira, Grace-Anne Powers, Alejandra Salamanca Lopez, William Lee Smith and Kai Zhang. Statuesque veteran Zofia Tujaka rounded out the formidable cast.

“This feels like ballet for the 21st century,” Vishneva said in a back-stage interview after the show. “After this, classical ballet feels like slow motion.” Almost everything connected with the rehearsal was a challenge. “First I learned the steps slowly, but then I was having sleepless nights wondering how I could ever perform them fast the next day. And we rehearsed without mirrors or music. Never had I worked that way! I heard the music for the final duet just two days before the premiere. But Edouard asked me to trust him, and I did. I danced through his eyes.” Vishneva will dance in selected cities on the company’s European tour and also in Montreal in May (but not in Toronto). Undoubtedly Lock will fiddle with the work before it gets to Montreal, hopefully adding a slow duet for Vishneva

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Photographs by: Deen van Meer HET NATIONALE BALLET & HET MUZIEKTHEATER AMSTERDAM


Dance Review:

nationalpost.com

La La La Human Steps in Toronto By Dana Glassman

Special to National Post May 27, 2011

La La La Human Steps

Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto

A

single spotlight hovers on a creature. She twists and twitches, her chiselled muscles ready for action. The stage is spare, the lighting dark and right from the start there’s no mistaking Montreal choreographer Édouard Lock’s trademark style. As the visionary behind La La La Human Steps, Lock is famous for pushing his dancers to twist and turn with dizzying ferocity, and this is emphasized more than ever in his new untitled work. The company hasn’t performed in Toronto since 2007, but after touring Europe and other cities in Canada, they took to the stage May 26 for the first of six performances. At one point in this high-octane piece, two female dancers dressed in black strapless bodysuits appear en pointe. Their legs bourrée stiffly, but their Gumby-like arms flutter and flap so quickly your eyes can barely keep up. The fact that the cast of 11 dancers, both male and female, maintain these speeds for an hour and a half straight is nothing short of brilliant. The program notes indicate the work is inspired by two operatic love stories, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice. There’s no obvious narrative here, but Lock clearly loves playing with crazy contrasts. Any traditional views on love are shattered — these dancers appear purposely passionless, as though sending a message that love

Talia Evtushenko and Marcio Vinicius Paulino Silveira in a new work by La La La Human Steps.

photo by Edouard Lock

is not to be trusted. The dimly lit stage adds to the ominous mood, making it challenging to see the dancers faces. This becomes frustrating at times, but it’s clear Lock has consciously decided the focus should be on the dancers’ strong pointe work and powerhouse pirouettes. Lock commissioned composers Gavin Bryars and Blake Hargreaves to deconstruct the score, and a four-

2012 Contemporary Dance Series

member band plays onstage behind the dancers. The pseudo-Baroque music is lively and melodic, but it’s juxtaposed with the harsh sounds of dancers purposely panting and slapping their skin. There’s also a mysterious video component. Two gigantic screens featuring women’s faces, one young and one old, appear at different intervals. Are these images meant to be a metaphor for the rapid pace of life?

Whatever the intent, the overall effect is far less interesting than watching the risk-taking dancers/athletes tackle Lock’s intricate footwork. Overall, this is a bold, take-noprisoners work. It’s well suited to show off a company that for 30 years has pushed boundaries and wowed international audiences by fusing ballet with modern dance. But this piece is far from perfect. For instance, there are sequences that appear overly

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repetitive. Combine that with frustratingly dark lighting and the audience is left at its conclusion feeling somewhat cold. As Lock forges into his fourth decade as artistic director/choreographer of La La La Human Steps it would be nice to see him incorporate some more adagio movements into his works. The dancers are more than capable of lingering on balances and slow extensions and this would provide a dramatic contrast to the hyperkinetic choreography they’re used to. Also, there have been ballet aficionados in the audience wondering why Russian prima ballerina Diana Vishneva was not able to perform with the company in Toronto after joining them in Montreal and on the European tour. While that would have been a bonus, the company’s current roster of stars, notably Talia Evtushenko, Mi Deng and Jason Shipley-Holmes make up for Vishneva’s absence. Despite the above quibbles, it was great seeing La La La Human Steps back in Toronto. The relatively small 868-seat Bluma Appel Theatre offered the audience a rare opportunity to see the dancers up close. No doubt many in the audience will return to see the works of two other Canadian choreographic trailblazers, Marie Chouinard and Crystal Pite, on the same stage next season. La La La Human Steps performs at Toronto’s Bluma Appel Theatre until June 1. For more information, visit canadianstage.com.

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derstand the story, it didn’t flow, but if you flipped through it too fast you missed the progression. But at just the right speed your brain was only slightly behind the moving images and you were left with the impressions of the story while still visually seeing every detail.

La La La Human Steps: ‘Amelia’ by Cecly Placenti February 4, 2005

Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn

If it is at all possible to set a stage on fire with lightning-fast pointe work and unbelievably quick partnering sequences, Montreal-based La La La Human Steps would be the company to do it. On February 4, Edouard Lock brought his provocative “Amelia,” with its multi-media projections, 3D animation, and 600 lighting changes, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the result was an unabandoned whooping ovation. Set against shifting lattice-work panels or simply an empty stage, this abstract work for pointe is a powerful and totally unique mix of intertwining solos, intricate duets that seem to defy the laws of physics, breathtaking speed, and complexity of movement. In the hometown of Balanchine and his quickfooted ballerinas, I never imagined women could move with such velocity and power on such a small surface of satin. Choreographer Edouard Lock believes that dance, like language, has its power not in the meaning of the words or steps, but rather in their syntax or structure. In “Amelia” he uses repetition, modification, and the partial isolation of moments through lighting to create the world in flux as he wants us to see it. This piece, while having to do with memories of a transvestite he once knew, deals more with the actual act of remembering. “When the body is in flux it has a relatively abstract and incomplete shape. Memories tend to be like

that as well for me,” said Lock. The choreography, while often repeating certain gestures and using hundreds of intricate upper body movements, was constantly unfolding. The dancers seemed to move at speeds of quick to quickest for the entire 90 minute ballet. As a result, the audience was forced to imagine the overall shape of the movements or phrases. Without time to process every little thing that was unfolding before your eyes, you were left with an impression, a memory of what you just saw. It reminded me very much of those flip-books I’d had as a child. If you thumbed through the pages too slowly you didn’t un-

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Another component of memory that intrigues Lock is how it simultaneously hides and reveals. The highly detailed choreography and the slight impurity resulting from high speed, as well as the use of fluctuating light sources to reveal things only partially, highlighted that facet of memory. Juxtaposing that with the revelation of body shape and line inherent in pointe work was a highly original and interesting idea. Respectful of classical tradition, Lock’s choreography takes ballet and pointe technique to its outer limits and produces something completely new. There is quite a lot of pas de deux work in “Amelia” that relied on weight and timing. Traditional partnering emphasizes strength, while Lock’s duets exist through timing and cooperation. With partnering at such high velocity, the tempo is achieved through a mutual dependency between both dancers executing very small shifts of weight. At any given point in the duets, if the man had let go of the woman, she would have gone spinning to the floor.

The music and singing seemed to coexist with the dancers, but neither inspired nor cued them. The use of music and song in no way detracted from the dance, although the dance was not dependant on the time sequences of the music. The razor-sharp lighting employed throughout the piece could be seen as almost interfering with the dance, but in my opinion it enhanced and highlighted it. The audience was left with the job of putting all the elements together. As in nature, nothing necessarily cooperates with anything else, but overall it works. That is the same with the theatrical elements of “Amelia.” Watching a dance in which the dancers seem to be on the edge of their control, the choreographer seems to be stretching his own creative limits, and the elements of lighting and sound seem to challenge another perspective, all inviting the possibility of failure, La La La Human Steps invites us to enter a new and exciting reality.

To say these dancers were beautifully proficient is an understatement. They moved with the surreal precision of an animated cyberdoll. In contrast to their precision were pieces of film created by recording information from parts of the dancers bodies and storing them as data. Then the image of the dancer was recorded separately. The two—data and—image were then brought together onto film and used almost like a partner. Performing onstage with the dancers were three musicians and a vocalist singing the lyrics by Lou Reed set to a score by David Lang.

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photos by Richard Termine


Fearful Symmetries Trajectoire Barclay debut

Diavolo

Jacques Heim, artistic director Los Angeles, CA

www.diavolo.org

March 22, 2012

Thursday at 8pm

sponsored by

Lynda Thomas photo by Kristi Khans

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2012 Contemporary Dance Series

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“World class: exacting choreography. Elegance, power, beauty with the thrill of danger, a special way of dancing...” –Hannoversche Allgemeine, Germany

Fearful Symmetries

Trajectoire

Fearful Symmetries, starts and ends as a cube. This cube symbolizes the beginning of consciousness, representing mankind’s relationship with wisdom, truth and science. Fearful Symmetries illuminates the parallel between mathematics and the human soul by creating a metaphor of bodies and geometry interacting.

Set on an abstract Twenty-First Century Galleon, the group is set adrift – sink or swim – upon the ever-shifting landscape of human relations in modern society. A visceral and emotional journey, Trajectoire examines tremendous loss and abandonment. At journey’s end, the piece shows the transcendence of the human soul against all odds.

Like a sculptor carving a raw piece of stone, the performers act as abstract factory workers to discover and explore the possibilities of the cube and their environment.

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Diavolo

company members are dancers, gymnasts, actors, athletes, and above all, teammates. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Jacques Heim, they collaboratively develop work on oversized surrealistic sets and everyday structures. Heim’s childhood struggles and his journeys as a French-Jewish man have shaped his thematic choices within the urban landscapes. Themes of isolation, fear, destiny, survival, faith, modernization, destination and danger help to illustrate the effect of our surroundings on our daily lives. The structural elements and surrealistic set pieces of Diavolo create a sense of daring and risk-taking through dramatic movement that juxtaposes human fragility and survival. Only through working together with the elements of danger created by, and on, architectural environments does Diavolo accomplish its metaphors for the challenges of relationships, the absurdities of life and the struggle to maintain our humanity in the shadow of an increasingly technological world. Jacques Heim founded Diavolo in Los Angeles in 1992. Diavolo made its European debut in 1995 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where they were named “Best of the Fest” by the London Independent and Critic’s Choice by The Guardian. The company was honored to perform live at the 10th annual American Choreography Awards in 2004. In 1998, the company opened the performance series at the new Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles and 1999 saw the creation of Diavolo’s first full-evening length work, Catapult, which also coincided with Diavolo’s first full North American tour. During the summer of 2001, Diavolo invited Jelon Viera, artistic director of DanceBrazil and the Capoeria Foundation, to Los Angeles to conduct an intensive Capoeria workshop with the company. In spring 2002, Diavolo created a second smaller company to perform in a cabaret-style show, which ran for eight weeks at the New Shinagawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo, Japan. The commercial arm of the company, Diavolo Creative Productions, has also created unique performance events for such corporate clients as Wells Fargo Bank, Honda, Sebastian Inc. and General Motors. Due to the unusual and innovative way that Diavolo works with architectural structures, the creative team at Cirque du Soleil was inspired to hire Jacques Heim to choreograph a show in Las Vegas, entitled “Ka,” which opened in February of 2005 and is still running. In 2007, Diavolo was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a performance to Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Foreign Bodies” and a second commission based on John Adams’ “Fearful Symmetries,” which premiered at the Hollywood Bowl in September 2010. The Los Angeles Times declared its premiere at The Hollywood Bowl “one of those rare events that define the art of this city when the levels of vision and support are equally exceptional.” The 2010-11 season marked Diavolo’s twelfth U.S. tour. In addition, Diavolo has performed internationally in Scotland, Japan, Chile, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria.

Jacques Heim, artistic director, was born in Paris. He moved to the United States and earned a BFA in Theatre, Dance and Film from Middlebury College. He was awarded a Certificate for Analysis and Criticism of Dance from the University of Surrey in England. Heim moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and attended California Institute for the Arts, receiving an MFA in Choreography. In 1992, Heim founded Diavolo Dance Theater. In the summer of 2001, Heim was one of three choreographers chosen to create a piece during the Ballet Pacifica Annual Choreographic Workshop. He has been named one of the “Faces to Watch in the Arts” by the Los Angeles Times and one of the “100 Coolest People in LA” by Buzz Magazine. Heim was the Artistic Director for the 2005 Taurus Stunt Awards and returned in 2007 to stage a movement/stunt piece; “The Car.” In 2002-2004, Heim choreographed the long-running KA, a permanent show for Cirque du Soleil, which premiered in April of 2004 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. In 2006, Jacques created choreography for “The Stones,” a theatre piece produced by Center Theatre

photo: Rose Eichenbaum

Group at the Douglas Theater. In September 2007 he choreographed

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“Foreign Bodies,” based on a score by Esa-Pekka Salonen for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. He has recently worked in television on BBC America’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and Bravo’s “Step Up and Dance” and has been invited to be a Creative Director for the Opening Ceremony of The 16th Asian Games, in Guangzhou, China.

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Machines Of Movement, With Bruises By Victoria Looseleaf

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TONEHENGE. Mayan architecture. Factory workers gone amok. These are but some of the disparate images conjured in Jacques Heim’s latest dance piece, “Fearful Symmetries,” for his hyperphysical Los Angeles troupe, Diavolo. Known for humongous, custom-built sets that are not exactly travel-friendly, like a two-and-a-half ton aluminum wheel and a 17-footlong rocking boat, Diavolo, believe it or not, spends most of its time on the road, often in Europe, and is rarely seen at home. But “Fearful Symmetries,” set to the modular pulse of John Adams’s 1988 Minimalist score of the same title, is an exception. It will have its premiere next month at the Hollywood Bowl. The second part of a planned trilogy, this collaboration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic promises to go further than Part 1, “Foreign Bodies” from 2007, which The Los Angeles Times’s erstwhile dance critic Lewis Segal called “one of those rare events that define the art of this city.” He went on to describe that work, with music by Esa-Pekka Salonen, as “a life-cycle set in dangerous times,” encompassing sex, aggression and a fast-changing landscape. “For the longest time I’ve been fascinated about the beginning of the universe,” the French-born Mr. Heim, 46, said during a break in rehearsals at Diavolo’s studio east of downtown Los Angeles. “In ‘Foreign Bodies’ it was more the beginning of the beginning — actual foreign bodies, bacteria, were entering the system. The meaning of ‘Fearful Symmetries’ is basically the evolution of time through the metaphor of factory workers.”

Kevin Scanlon for The New York Times

The Los Angeles troupe Diavolo, clockwise from left, Philip Flickinger, Briana Bowie, Garrett Wolf, Trevor Harrison (foreground), Omar Olivas, Anibal Sandoval and Melinda Ritchie

The workers as viewed through the architecturally inclined lens of Mr. Heim’s vivid imagination. Think of Charlie Chaplin’s character struggling to survive in the industrialized world of the 1936 film “Modern Times” — but on steroids. Confronted with even greater obstacles, Diavolo dancers slither, leap and spin around structures designed by the architect Adam Davis. Mr. Heim, who choreographed Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” in Las Vegas, has lately been attracted to the cube. “Foreign Bodies” made use of an 800-pound one that divided into three pyramids. The cube in “Symmetries” involves four aluminum and wood columns as well as two U-shaped pieces that can be deconstructed, reconstructed and reconfigured by the dancers, often atop a three-part, twoand-a-half-ton motorized “field” that rises and tilts toward the audience at a 17-degree angle. “Swan Lake” it’s not.

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But the opus does feature a number of heart-stopping swan dives by dancers from on high into the waiting arms of sure-footed partners. “My process has always been the structure first,” said Mr. Heim, who was a street performer in his native Paris before attending college in the States; he earned a master’s degree in choreography from the California

Kevin Scanlon for The New York Times

The Los Angeles troupe Diavolo, led by Jacques Heim.

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Institute for the Arts in 1991. “I think about what the structure is and how I respond to it, ” added Mr. Heim, dressed in black and sporting a graying ponytail. “Then the themes come toward the end of the improvisational process. But working on this project, the music came first.” That music is what its composer calls “a big boogie-woogie.” It has been used for more than a dozen dance pieces, including settings by Peter Martins for New York City Ballet and Ashley Page for the Royal Ballet. But Diavolo’s ultra-athletic, high-octane account differs by dint of the sheer physical demands. At a recent rehearsal, the performers — five men, five women — gripped slots in the cube to break the columns apart before pushing, pulling and twirling them in what occasionally resembled the teacup ride at Disneyland. At one point two dancers were caught between a pair of pillars. As they were on the verge of being squeezed, as if in a vise, doom loomed. But like the beautiful assistant who climbs into a magician’s box in order to be sawed in half, the dancers disappeared, only to pop up around another geometric configuration. Bramwell Tovey, who will conduct at the September performance and who worked with the Royal Ballet for five years, wrote via e-mail that the choreography brilliantly captured “the relentless minimalism of the score, with its multilayered complexities and powerful emotional core.” Over the years, though, Diavolo, founded in 1992, has had its naysayers. Of a New York appearance in 2001, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The New York Times, “Diavolo was all too obviously long on novelty and short on depth.” Chris Pasles, in The Los

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Published: August 27, 2010 Angeles Times in 1997, said the company’s “inspiration is not consistently high,” adding, “When their imagination fails, the results are structurally inorganic.” And not all Diavolo dancers have relished the rigors of so-called crashand-burn choreography. Jones Welsh was with the company off and on for five years. “I wanted to give my body a break,” said Mr. Welsh, who now has his own movement theater troupe, Leonix. “I felt that doing the work was overbuilding my muscles, and working with set pieces was like lifting weights all day. As for being a dancer, you lose flexibility, the bulk of your body loses the dancer line, and having that sense of grace as a dancer isn’t as pronounced.” But Diavolo’s current performers don’t object, even though bruises, strains, friction burns and worse are not unusual. The rehearsal director Briana Bowie recently lost the tip of her middle finger missing her mark by seconds; within a month, however, she was performing again. Garrett Wolf, 33, who’s been with the troupe for a decade, said he liked the adrenaline rush. “Diavolo and Jacques have always been about high risk, trust and teamwork,” he said. “But since we don’t have crash mats and wires, at the least we’ll have one partner, if not two or three. I was supposed to retire last May, and I’m still here. It’s part of my makeup.” Mr. Heim calls his performers gladiators. “Because I care about my dancers, I’m pushing them further than they can be pushed — mentally, physically, emotionally. If they can do that, then they become giants.”


| ENTERTAINMENT

September 10, 2010

Diavolo meets John Adams at the Hollywood Bowl Dance Review:

By Lewis Segal

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ince its formation in 1992, the Diavolo ensemble has used portable architectural units to create movement theater about our relationship to an unstable environment. Artistic director Jacques Heim has sent his fearless performers plunging off a rocking platform, bursting out of trapdoors inside a staircase, scrambling over fast-evolving pyramids and hanging onto wheels of every possible size at every possible height and angle. To say Diavolo is exciting is redundant -- the question is always whether there’s anything deeper than the high-risk gymnastics and advanced theater technology on view. The answer was mostly yes at Hollywood Bowl on Thursday when this Los Angeles-based company premiered “Fearful Symmetries,” a major collaboration commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the second installment of a projected Diavolo trilogy that began with “Foreign Bodies” three years ago. The 10 cast members proved brilliant at making precisely coordinated feats look improvisational, even reckless -- but, at their freest, they remained under the thumb of two master manipulators (not counting Heim). One was Adam Davis, who designed the giant cube that became the focus of the piece. This mysterious structure held all sorts of hidden panels, apertures and crevices, but quickly opened up to evoke a whole cityscape, then divided into rectangular platforms that became everything from towers to surfboards. (Mike McCluskey and others engineered the unit.)

Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

plateaus and canyons to be investigated, and the search continued with no cube in sight. Stay tuned for Part 3 -- to premiere, one hopes, before Dec. 21, 2012, when (Nostradamus and the Mayans warned us) we’ll definitely need all of Diavolo’s lessons about enduring environmental calamity with grace and high spirits. Besides “Fearful Symmetries,” this final night of the Bowl’s classical season included danceless orchestral performances of two works originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. As orchestrated by Berlioz, Weber’s “Invitation to the Dance” has served great male stars from Vaslav Nijinsky to Nikolai Tsiskaridze in a ballet titled “Le Spectre de la Rose.” Tovey’s leadership enforced vigorous attacks

at the work’s massive structural junctures, but a rather tame interpretation of its sweeter moments. Nice playing but little surge. The 1919 suite from Stravinsky’s “Firebird” had atmosphere galore, plenty of sizzle in the Infernal Dance and impressive surety in the transition from the shimmer of the Berceuse through the fervor of the finale. But the dance impetus virtually evaporated in the Dance of the Princesses. String playing sounded especially admirable -- particularly in the high exposed passages of the Dance of the Firebird. Besides colleagues previously mentioned, Diavolo on Thursday included Briana Bowie, Philip Flickinger, Ashley Hannan, Melinda Ritchie, Anibal Sandoval and Chisa Yamaguchi.

Adam Davis designed the giant cube that became the focus of the piece. This mysterious structure held all sorts of hidden panels, apertures and crevices that would quickly open up to evoke a whole cityscape.

Even more dominant in “Fearful Symmetries”: the 1988 score of the same name by John Adams -- an intricate, churning and often threatening showpiece that challenged Heim and the cast to match its scale and intensity. Even those of us who saw preview showings of the work weren’t prepared for the way conductor Bramwell Tovey and the Philharmonic asserted Adams’ fierce authority on Thursday. And by failing to embody the darkness in the music, parts of the last third of the Diavolo performance looked arbitrary and insufficient. Before those lapses, however, acts of collective and individual heroism fused with the music in ways at once startling and uplifting -- Omar Olivas leaping across tilting preci-

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pices; Trevor Harrison avoiding obstacles with one dynamic flip after another; Garrett Wolf fighting for survival inside an imploding cubicle; Shauna Martinez forcing the whole set to pivot open for her as if breaching the gates of hell. Watching them, did we think of 9/11, Katrina, the firestorm in San Bruno? Why not? The best moments in “Fearful Symmetries” showed a familiar landscape suddenly becoming dangerous and people forced by an unexpected loss of control to discover new capabilities and relationships. In form, the piece depicted a search -one that initially focused on the cube, with Diavolo exploring inside, outside, above and below it. By the end, even the ground had opened, forming new

Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

The Diavolo ensemble expertly made precisely coordinated feats look improvisational, even reckless, in its performance of “Fearful Symmetries” at the Hollywood Bowl.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Diavolo founder Jacques Heim takes his play very seriously Knocking around with Descartes by MOLLY GLENTZER While the Houston Symphony has enticed audiences with the video-enhanced production The Planets, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has more or less body slammed them, commissioning the daredevil dance company Diavolo to create movement theater to accompany three works by California composers. Houston audiences will get a sense of that excitement Friday — minus the philharmonic — when Society for the Performing Arts brings Diavolo to Jones Hall. The program includes Fearful Symmetries, set to a 1988 score its composer, John Adams, once described as “seriously aerobic.” The second installment of a planned trilogy, it debuted with the philharmonic in September. Diavolo’s signature is human interaction (read: struggle) with supersized sets that founder-director Jacques Heim calls metaphors. In Fearful Symmetries, the focus is a cube designed by architect Adam Davis and engineered by frequent Diavolo collaborator Mike McCluskey (who rebuilds antique race cars and small planes for a living). The cube splits into columns, platforms and a cityscape. “It’s about searching - where do we come from, where are we going - using the metaphor of the cube as the place where the answers are,”

the congenial Heim said last week. Funny enough, the idea sprang from something far less complicated: a box of children’s building blocks Heim happened upon in 2005 when Diavolo, on tour in Aspen, used an elementary-school classroom as a dressing area. He got so absorbed with the toys that he missed that show. “Three of the blocks were pyramids, and after a couple of hours of playing with them, I realized they made a cube together,” he said. “Sometimes ideas come up in very simple ways. I have this child inside me. The Little Prince is my own little bible.” That basic geometry lesson led Heim to the work of René Descartes, the 17th-century mathematician and philosopher. Descartes penned the phrase, “I think, therefore I am” but also saw the body, minus its soul, as a mechanical being. Heim was mulling his first piece for the philharmonic, and Descartes’ ideas were perfect fodder. A cube that breaks into three triangles became the set for Foreign Bodies, to a score by Essa-Pekka Solanen. It was about the beginning of the universe, with a metaphor about geometric volume, Heim said. The Fearful Symmetries cube breaks into six parts. “It starts as a cube but finishes as a question: What is on the horizon? What’s in the future for us?”

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He’s harsh on himself, he said, and this piece is a step forward. “Foreign Bodies was a decent piece. But Fearful Symmetries is a great piece. It has so many more aspects. It’s more theatrical, and the dance vocabulary is more interesting.” Friday’s program also includes last year’s Bench, the duet Knockturne (based on door-play), Humachina (with a 2.5-ton aluminum wheel) and a new version of Tete En L’Air, which involves a giant staircase. Diavolo’s 10 dancers - five men and five women - create all of the movement under Heim’s direction. “I’m an architect of movement rather than a pure choreographer,” he said. Heim didn’t take the usual route to the concert hall. Growing up in Paris, he said, he was “a little red bull” who got expelled from six schools and performed on the streets. His parents shipped him to Middlebury, Vt., to study theater in 1983. But he barely spoke English - so Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare were out of the question. A friend steered him toward dance. Though he was “completely dyslexic,” he said cheerfully, he fell in love with movement. “It’s a beautiful, powerful form of theater.” He earned a master’s in fine arts at California Institute for the Arts in Valencia, then founded Diavolo in 1992. Working with the philharmonic

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has pushed him artistically. “Usually the structure comes first in my work, the music last. So at first I was very worried,” he said. “But having restrictions gave me great freedom. I knew how the pieces were going to begin and end. And it gave me the mood.” The trilogy’s third section is yet to be formed, but he’s already thinking about the set. “It might look like a cube but just be a structure,” he said. No stranger to big projects, Heim choreographed Cirque du Soleil’s Ka. He’s also a creative director for the 16th Asian Games opening ceremony in Guangdong, China on Nov. 12. Diavolo’s Houston visit will be

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special for the company, he said: It’s the final show for four of his longtime dancers. Replacing them hasn’t been easy. Diavolo’s style demands balletic lines and grace along with extreme acrobatic and aerial skills. “They cannot be afraid of blood. Sometimes you have to go to the hospital and get stitches and come right back,” Heim said. “You have to be a little bit of a gladiator.” They also have to be handy behind the curtain. While they may have help in some cities, they dismantle their own sets and even load them onto the truck. “It’s about trust and teamwork,” Heim said. “There are no divas in this company.”


Pilobolus

Exclusive West Coast Engagement

Pilobolus Artistic Directors:

Robby Barnett Michael Tracy Jonathan Wolken (1949-2010)

Washington Depot, Connecticut

www.pilobolus.com

May 17-18, 2012

photos by John Kane

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Pilobolus (crystallinus) is a phototropic zygomycete - a sun-

The physical vocabularies of Pilobolus works

loving fungus that grows in barnyards and pastures. It’s a feisty thing only 1/4 inch tall - that can throw its spores nearly eight feet. Right over a cow. It is also a highly unusual dance company.

are not drawn from traditions of codified dance

Pilobolus, the arts organism, germinated in the fertile soil of a Dartmouth College dance class in 1971. What emerged was a collaborative choreographic process and unique weight-sharing approach to partnering that gave the young company a nontraditional but powerful new set of skills with which to make dances.

movement but are invented, emerging from intense periods of improvisation and creative play.

Today Pilobolus is a unique American arts organization of international influence. It has not forsaken its original impetus, and remains a deeply committed collaborative effort with its artistic directors and over twentyfive full and part-time dancers contributing to one of the most popular and varied bodies of work in the history of the field. Nearly four decades of creative production testify to the company’s position as an arts collective of remarkable fruitfulness and longevity.

Pilobolus (Duet 92)

Pilobolus is based in Washington Depot, Connecticut and performs for stage and television audiences all over the world. Pilobolus works appear in the repertories of major dance companies - the Joffrey, Feld, Ohio, Arizona, and Aspen/Santa Fe Ballets in the U.S., the Ballet National de Nancy et de Lorraine and the Ballet du Rhin in France, and Italy’s Verona Ballet - and the company has recently begun a series of major creative collaborations, including new productions with the famed writer and illustrator, Maurice Sendak; the Israeli choreographic team, Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak; the remarkable American puppeteer, Basil Twist; and head writer for SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Banks. Pilobolus has received a number of prestigious honors, including the Berlin Critic’s Prize, the Brandeis Award, the New England Theatre Conference Prize, and a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in cultural programming. In June 2000 Pilobolus received the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in choreography and in 2004 the company was featured on CBS 60 Minutes.

Click on the image to play the video

Pilobolus (Psuedopodia)

The physical vocabularies of Pilobolus works are not drawn from traditions of codified dance movement, but are invented - emerging from intense periods of improvisation and creative play. This process has been the source of much interest, in response to which the company inaugurated the Pilobolus Institute, an educational outreach program using the art of choreography as a model for creative thinking in any field. The Institute offers sustained programs for both children and adults around the country, as well as a series of Leadership Workshops for corporations and business schools. The company continues to grow, expanding and refining its unusual collaborative methods to produce a body of over 100 choreographic works. While it has become a stable and influential force in the world of dance, Pilobolus remains as protean and surprising as ever.

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Science and technology

Babbage Dancing robots

Invitation to the dance Sep 20th 2011, 22:10 by The Economist online | NEW YORK

Most of this movement, it must be admitted, is the result of the skill of Wil Selby and Danny Soltero, the quadrotors’ pilots, rather than of the flocking software itself. But the DRL’s researchers still hope to learn something from the exercise. Dodging the dancer, for example, is providing insights into how the quadrotors might best fly through forests when they are doing their day jobs. And the lights sported by the robots—whose blink rate and colour mix varies with the intensity and emotion of the performance—are being adapted to give clues to human road users about a robot driver’s intentions in a project that might put a fleet of robot taxis on the streets of Singapore.

AS THE violins soar, a lone dancer lopes gracefully across the stage of the Joyce Theatre in New York. But this is no solo. Two UFOs playfully chase him and swoop through the air around him. Modern dance and robotics may seem an unlikely combination, but this summer a troupe called Pilobolus has been performing a routine called “Seraph” with the assistance of these special guests—aerial robots programmed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Pilobolus is known for dances that incorporate unusual elements. Few, though, have been stranger than the two four-rotored helicopters that accompanied Matt Del Rosario on the stage of the Joyce. The quadrotors, as they are known technically, are small surveillance robots made by a German firm called Ascending Technologies, and were controlled by members of the Distributed Robotics Laboratory (DRL) at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Robot flocking is one of the DRL’s specialities. Its researchers write programs that allow groups of machines to coordinate their actions without human intervention. In the ten-minute performance of “Seraph” the quadrotors flit, flirt, rage, mourn and rejoice—or, at least, appear to do so in the eyes of the audience—by varying their speed and the fluidity of their motion. When the choreography demands that the robots “act happy”, for instance, they flutter like butterflies, a move not strictly necessary for security surveillance. They also have to swing like pendulums and jump like pogo sticks.

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Mostly, though, it is just fun. According to Mr Soltero, people in the audience felt the two robots really had personality. As Itamar Kubovy, Pilobolus’ executive director, observed, “Looking at the same reality through different lenses can trigger ideas in different ways.” Who says art and science don’t mix?

About Babbage

Sara D. Davis

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In this blog, our correspondents report on the intersections between science, technology, culture and policy. The blog takes its name from Charles Babbage, a Victorian mathematician and engineer who designed a mechanical computer. Follow Babbage on Twitter »

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DANCE REVIEW - 3 1/2 STARS

Pilobolus returns with its wacky spirit intact January 30, 2011 By Sid Smith, Special to the Tribune

A gigantic white screen takes over the stage at the Harris Theater, and behind it are two moving silhouette shapes, a perky woman and a giant hand.

Renown, rule-bending Pilobolus marks 40 years January 21, 2011| By Sid Smith, special to the Tribune

Pilobolus is in its 40th year — once a rule-bending, countercultural collective and now a renowned, if tiny, institution. The troupe celebrates with performances Jan. 28-29 at the Harris Theater. Robby Barnett, an early member still with the company, discussed its origins and methods. On the founding: “Our standard stump speech is that we were a group of guys at an all-male school (Dartmouth College) who took a dance class because the teacher was female and good-looking,” Barnett said. “In fact, I was recruited, I had taken a theater class, and Alison Chase (an eventual member) taught movement for it and urged me to sign up. “As part of the class, we had to create a dance work, as a group, and everything about Pilobolus, in a way, is housed in the 10 minutes of that first dance,” he added. “Especially the focus on slow motion. When dancers are fast, they’re excited, aggressive and joyous, but the emotional spectrum is narrow. When they slow down, it’s like casting light to a prism, creating this chromatic emotional spray. It can be quizzical, insouciant and ambivalent. A willingness to stand still.” Pilobolus also brought gymnastics to dance and all sorts of visual innovations and monkeyshines, nudity a frequent tool. “We strove to create a sequence of images as opposed to a collection of steps, images assembled as if a series of blocks. We try to place this dream garbage together and make sense of it. Music was secondary. We liked to drape music over our pieces like a cape.”

On their collective approach: “One of the beauties of the ‘60s is that it involved an all-embracing aesthetic,” Barnett said. “It affected what we ate, the clothes we wore, the pottery we ate off, the way we ran our lives. We drank the hippie Kool-Aid. Our business is our art, and our art is our business. I don’t think every problem is solved by people all talking at the same time, but I believe in collectivity. You get in the studio and mess around until you come up with something.” On nudity (not part of the Harris programs): “We try to costume appropriately. If that’s your birthday suit, then that’s what we do. It’s likely to come up when you’re working on a piece in the warmth of summer.” On their base in Washington Depot, Conn.: “We live in a small town and work in an old Grange building next to a hardware store. I spend a lot of time in the mountains, and there are a lot of cows. We stay small. If someone comes along big and tries to eat you, you just hide under a rock because, by staying small, you’ve stayed alive.” Small and alive, they performed on the 2007 Oscar telecast and received the 2010 Dance Magazine award for lasting contribution to the art, the first collective to earn the honor. Of the fungus that gives the troupe its name, Barnett says, “My late partner, Jonathan Wolken (who died last summer), grew up in a biophysics lab, where his dad, a scientist, was interested in the eyes. Pilobolus, the mushroom, has a lot of photo receptors. It’s a kind of a primitive eye. We’re also photoreceptive. We seek light.”

From that, Pilobolus, in “The Transformation,” crafts a deliciously dark shadow play, a living cartoon that’s brief, brilliant and magical. Aided by quaint lighting effects, Eriko Jimbo and Nile Russell use their skills to make it appear their shadows are touching, often with the daintiest of gestures. Cute for a time, it’s more creepy, in the end, than precious. She’s changed into a half-woman, half-beast -- a scene right out of “Pinocchio” without a happy ending. Welcome to the wacky world of this one-of-a-kind, eminently cagey ensemble, members of a troupe now four decades old. As offbeat as they seemed at the beginning, Pilobolus, judging from the enjoyable programs sold out Friday and continuing Saturday at the Harris, has lost none of its je ne sais quoi. “Transformation” hails from 2009. The most lustrous piece on the program, “Gnomen,” dates back to 1997 and remains a tour de force celebrating physical invention and grand choreographic possibilities. Four men roll out intertwined into a living ball, and then enact a series of morality fables, each taking a turn as a sort of soloist pitted against the other three. One’s carried and soars as an airplane, for starters, but the conflicts and constructions gain in complexity as gymnastics, acrobatics and movement drama gloriously demonstrate the power of pure imagination. A human sand crab, a four-man wheel, and a lyric, fragile doll, upside down at times but moving in watery slow-motion are just a few of the images. By the finale, they seem swimming strands of DNA in a soaring finish of spellbinding beauty. The troupe opened with a relatively new work, “Redline,” a tumbling frolic tinged with gangsta gumption and streetwise colors. The less satisfying second half contained “Walklyndon,” an early work and new vaudevillian enterprise turning the group into latter day Keystone Kops, clad in yellow long johns and gym shorts, along with “Duet,” for two strong, beautiful women, Jimbo and Jordan Kriston, and the somewhat indulgent “Rushes,” a modest postmodern dramedy ingeniously employing its set consisting of miniature wooden chairs. ctc-live@tribune.com

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Tangled Up in You By Emily Macel Pilobolus Dance Theater delights and compels, mesmerizes and befuddles. When watching them perform, one’s mind is a flurry of questions like “How’d they do that?” and “Where’d that arm come from?” and “Who’s holding who?” But it’s more than just gymnastics or circus stunts. The inventiveness of these daring dancers has a 39-year history of more than 100 dance works, proving what you can do when you work together as a team—in ways you’d never imagine. Co-artistic director Robby Barnett talks about Pilobolus as an organism, using scientific terminology that you wouldn’t expect from a dancer. “We look for a kind of membroidian fractal application of our beliefs,” he says. The name Pilobolus itself came from a type of fungus that co-founder Jonathan Wolken studied. Though the terms might seem misplaced outside of a laboratory, when you watch the company dance together it can be like looking through a lab microscope. Like an amoeba, they have no fixed shape, but are in constant flux. Bodies move together, then separate from one large mass to a few smaller groups. Then they reunite, forming a new structure of limbs and torsos, balanced on heads, hands, and feet. Audiences are fascinated and presenters love to book them. It all started in 1971 with a dance composition class at Dartmouth College taught by Alison Chase. The company founders, Wolken and Moses Pendleton, met in that class; later that year classmates Robby Barnett and Lee Harris joined their team. Pendleton, Wolken, Harris, and Barnett presented their first

concert in New York that summer, performing the piece they’d developed in Chase’s class, Pilobolus. In 1973, Chase, who trained with Merce Cunningham and Mia Slavenska, left Dartmouth to join her former students full time; Harris left and was replaced by Michael Tracy, another Dartmouth peer. And the sixth member, Martha Clarke, had been a dancer with Anna Sokolow. The strength of Pilobolus—in technique, in organization, and in philosophy—is in its core. “The original Pilobolus was a group of four men twisted together like proteins trying to figure out how to move across the floor en masse,” says Barnett. “We clung to each other for moral and physical support. We had a single center as a compound creature. If your partner moved away you would fall down.” The creation of the company came out of the ethos of the 1960s. “Our generation had freedom to imagine what our lives could be. It was a physical life, a creative life, and we were doing it with people we enjoyed being with.” Though the company has gone through changes (Pendleton left in 1981 to form his own company, MOMIX; Clarke also left to pursue her own dance/theater work) the core values remain. The current company has seven performing members, three artistic directors, and a whole lot of collaboration. Although Jenny Mendez, who joined Pilobolus in 2004, started dance at a late age, she was immediately comfortable with the founders of Pilobolus. “They had no ballet experience, no modern experience, the company grew out of their own physical abilities. I related to that because I knew I liked to run and jump and fall.”

2012 Contemporary Dance Series

Dance captain Andrew Herro was also attracted to the physicality. A former athlete, he came to dance at Marquette University because he wanted to keep himself physically active. His athletic background has helped him, though. “I’ve got several pieces where I’m picking up two people at a time. If you get your body physically strong you have a lot more options available for you to work with other bodies.” For a piece like Megawatt (2004), performed to the music of Primus, Radiohead, and Squarepusher, Mendez says, “It’s 16 minutes

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of pure raw physicality; it’s about how much you can push yourself to roll, jump, flip, create these incredible movements onstage.” Though Barnett says there is no set technique, the dancers have terms for the ways weight can be shared and carried. For example, “reciprocals” are the way “you pick somebody up and put them on their feet, then they pick you up and put you back on your feet,” explains company member Annika Sheaff. “It’s unexpected and the audience can’t see how it’s happening or if they can see it, they can’t believe it’s happening,” she

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Annika Sheaff and members of Pilobolus in a field near their Washington, CT, studio, photographed for their 2010 calendar.

says. “Those magical moments are typical Pilobolus.” In repertory classics like Ocellus, Day Two, Gnomen, Pseudopodia, and Symbiosis, the dancers form amazing entanglements that yield shapes unlike two bodies in a typical dancer’s embrace. Nearly nude in many of these works, their muscles and limbs glisten. Though its obvious that a great deal of strength is required for a dancer to hold himself on a diagonal straight line hinged only on another dancer’s thigh, or for a woman to crawl up a man’s body like a spider and hang from his neck by her ankles, the dancing is always graceful, agile, and somehow natural.

Other works incorporate these balancing skills into something more theatrical and often funny. In one of the company’s earliest pieces, Walklyndon (1971), a dancer balances on his arms in a horizontal plank, while two dancers push his head and legs like a seesaw. This silent physical-theater piece is rife with slapstick humor. In Lanterna Magica the dancers are mythical creatures who flit around with a lantern on a long rod, tumbling and balancing, and just playing around. There’s no doubt that the dancers are having fun. In recent years, collaboration has grown with artists and choreographers outside of the company. The first came in 1999 with artists/

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authors Maurice Sendak and Arthur Yorinks to create A Selection, which is documented in the film Last Dance (2002). In 2007, the company in­vited Israeli choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak to create a work. The result was the quirky and riveting Rushes. “It was a strange experiment for Inbal and me because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Pollack says. “Pilobolus is a great group of people who have fun and are fun to be with and can do many things. They gave us the opportunity to go in a different direction than they’re used to going,” such as the use of costumes, sets, props, and character development. One dancer wears suspenders and carries a suitcase while hunched over, skittering around the space; three men climb onto one another to create a slot machine of their bodies and faces. It’s all darkly humorous mixed with astonishing lifts and balances, proving that the company is not only a troupe of dancers, but also of gymnasts, actors, mimes, and collaborators. This summer the company will perform a second collaboration with Pinto and Pollak during their season at the Joyce, July 13– Aug. 8. They’ll also premiere a collaboration with Steven Banks, the head writer of the cartoon Sponge­ Bob SquarePants. Last year Pilobolus worked with New York City puppeteer Basil Twist for Darkness and Light. The shadows-as-dancers in Twist’s piece was not the first time they experimented with shadow work. In 2006 the company got the gig of doing a commercial for Hyundai Santa Fe, creating silhouettes of campfires, bicycles, harps, and opera singers using only their bodies. “You’re trying to hit these specific shapes and perfect images. The process is really about finding what exactly makes that image come to life,” says Herro. The ad led to the invitation to make shadow images

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for the 2007 Oscars—from a women’s high heel shoe with a devil’s fork for the heel, to a van with passengers riding in it, to a firing gun. This type of gig involves an extended company that includes former members and those trained specifically for the commercial work. Five years ago the company hired its firstever executive director, Itamar Kubovy. In 2005, mother of Pilobolus Alison Chase was let go—a painful decision all around. When she asked the company to stop performing the works she’d helped to choreograph, it raised complex questions about choreographic rights. Pilobolus tours seven to eight months a year. In the past year they’ve been to New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, and Israel. The company often performs in the U.S. as well. This fall and winter they’ll makes stops in over a dozen states, from Vermont to California. Abroad or on home turf though, audiences can enter a place of euphoria watching the company perform. “We’ve been through plenty of ups and downs over the years, but at the moment the company is on a wonderful upswing,” Barnett says. “The thing I’m most proud of is Pilobolus the arts organism. It was like getting a fire going and keeping it burning. For all its quirks and faults and errors, the company has survived. We’ve made this creature Pilobolus, which in its turn does many things.”   Emily Macel, a former associate editor for Dance Magazine, is now based in Washington, DC.

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January 26, 2012

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2012 Contemporary Dance Series

* Irvine Barclay Theatre

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IBT Contemporary Dance 2012 Mini-Series  

Background information on the dance program at Irvine Barclay Theatre, including reviews, articles, and video clips of the 3 companies in th...

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