Monday, February 15, 2016

Pilobolus is a fungus.

A phototropic fungus that grows on cow dung and "propels itself with extraordinary strength, speed and accuracy," to be exact. It is the latter that serves as the connection to the alternative meaning of Pilobolus: an internationally acclaimed arts organization that was founded in 1971 and continues to explore the dynamic uses of the human body as graphic expression. This organization lingers on the border between dance and physical theatre, ignoring any preconceived barriers that stand between different art forms.

I am in a professional dance company based in Chicago, and recently one of my good friends and fellow company members traveled to New York with our Artistic Director for a large performing arts conference. While they were there, they were invited to a presenter's showcase, where different premium dance companies presented single works in an informal and intimate setting. One of the pieces that my friend and director had the honor of seeing from seven feet away was Pilobolus's "On the Nature of Things." My friend who got to experience this piece up close has described it to me in such a vivid manner that it almost feels like I was there to experience it myself.

"On the Nature of Things" is a quintessential Pilobolus creation. It is a minimal dance piece that involves a two-foot column that is raised above the floor, three incredibly muscular and controlled dancers, and quiet, unassuming Baroque-inspired vocal music. It is minimal in terms of dancers and additional theatrical elements, but there is nothing minimal about the power of the slow, continuous movements that transform three athletic humans atop a circular surface into a living, breathing sculpture. For ten minutes, these dancers move in the most naturally controlled manner, lifting one another, moving through each other, and creating organic flowing forms with nothing more than their bodies.

On the Nature of Things

It is the strong interaction between human bodies, moving and twisting and molding in a dynamic way, that is characteristic of Pilobolous. Simply hearing a description of this dance piece from my friend moved me, and if an imagined version of this sculpture-esque dance had such an impact, I can’t even fathom the power of experiencing this art firsthand. When thinking about Pilobolous in terms of this class, the phrases “divergent thinking” and “expertise” came to mind. Pilobolous succeeds on the basis of thriving in both of these creative manners. It is the divergent thinking that allows members of this company to combine multiple fields, playing with the interplay between dance and the more essential and basic physical forms. “On the Nature of Things,” or so I have heard second-hand, highlighted the expertise of these artists. The ability to make movement flow in the most natural manner takes an incredible amount of control, and there was not a toe out of line the entire time the three dancers were moving as one atop their platform.

I have been unable to find full footage of “On the Nature of Things,” but the following article contains exquisite descriptions and photos:


  1. This is really cool! The amount of expertise and endurance of these dancers must be staggering! I noticed that the title seems to be an allusion to the 1st century BC poem "De Rerum Natura" by the Epicurean philosopher Lucretius. Do you know how this performance might be linked to it? I'm sure it can't be a coincidence.

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