Friday, February 28, 2014

Pilobolus at the Strathmore

When I heard that Pilobolus was coming to Bethesda, I had to see them. I knew that the group had started at Dartmouth, so of course I had heard a lot about them. Plus, I had seem some of their YouTube videos, and I thought the show would be really fun.

Well, I have to say I was disappointed. I had thought that the whole shadow-puppet performance was the group's thing. But it must just be one of many pieces they perform, because they didn't do any of that. Hmpf.

Instead, I was subjected to two hours of modern dance. I'm just not a fan on the art form, and Pilobolus gave into every modern dance cliché: epileptic fits, marching around like newborn robots, writhing on the floor, all accompanied by unpleasant music filled with the sounds of beeps, gongs, TV static, and water droplets hitting something metal. How original.

And then there is the nudity aspect. I guess I'm just a prude, but I think people should be able to enjoy the art of dance without having to see naked bodies running around. Again, this is part of the modern dance formula (which to me makes no sense because nudity in and of itself is primitive, the exact opposite of modern). Instead of enjoying the dance, I was thinking about sanitation (their naked butts were rubbing all over the stage) and wondering how many [homo]erotic thoughts are going through everyone else's mind in the room.

And then there was the use of props. The first piece ("Automaton") used mirrors, which I thought would be pretty cool, to give the feeling of many more dancers than were actually present. Perhaps it was because I was sitting in the balcony, but the mirrors did not have that effect. Actually, I felt they had no effect at all, except to occasionally shine a very bright light right into your eyes as the dancers moved the mirrors. And the last piece ("Rushes") involved a bunch of small-sized chairs and a suitcase. Um, what?

There was also too much slapstick humor. I understand physical comedy, but that's not really what I wanted to see. During "Walklyndon," people were running into each other, pretending to have groin injuries, acting as if to slap one another...It was all too childish for me. 

Honestly, it's sad when you go to a live performance, and the most interesting parts are the edited film clips in between each dance piece. The first film ("Pilobolus is a Fungus") was my favorite because it was very scientific, showing fungi growing and x-rays of people eating and a little crawfish running on an underwater treadmill. And "Kites" showed an older gentleman controlling three kites as they flew in the air, synchronized with one another to a piece of music. These mini-movies were more creative than the dance!

In general, I just don't think modern dance is beautiful. It's usually awkward, and therefore awkward to watch. I didn't "get" what the dances were trying to say; I didn't understand the metaphors. So I was simply left watching 6 semi-nude people rolling around stage touching each other. The oddity of the whole thing was proof of the influence drugs had on the creation of Pilobolus in the 1970's. 

Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the hard work that these dancers put into their art form. They are obviously in incredible shape, and they are doing what they love. I just simply don't love the same thing that they do.

So I guess just because something is from Dartmouth doesn't automatically mean I'm going to like it. There's a first.

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