Pilobolus returns to Aspen on Saturday | AspenTimes.com

Pilobolus returns to Aspen on Saturday

Pilobolus has been pushing the envelope and redefining dance for more than four decades.

The Manhattan and Connecticut-based company makes unique demands of its dancers, Performing with Pilobolus, depending on the piece, might called upon dancers to do puppetry or prop work along with contemporary dance movement. Several years ago, the company filled a Mini Cooper with 26 dancers to break a Guinness world record.

"We look for someone who is well-rounded and who is open-minded," creative director Mark Fucik said of the company's criteria for performers. "Our dancers come from such varied backgrounds. We look for people with good movement skills, but that doesn't trump someone who has great theatrical skills or someone who may be so well-versed in circus work."

That diversity is baked into the Pilobolus philosophy. The dance company was founded in 1971 by four Dartmouth Univiersity students — none of whom had dance training. Fucik himself, coming from a theater background, broke into the company in 2001. The company's idiosyncratic style and rare power, he believes, comes from its collective spirit and its diversity of artistic voices.

"It's at the core of what we do," Fucik said. "It became this great experiment that just kept rolling. For the longest time, the dance community would say we weren't dance. And then, eventually, we turned into dance. It's something we teach in all of our workshop and classes: that it should be something that comes from a collaborative effort."

The group last year brought its groundbreaking "Shadowland" to Aspen. This weekend, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is bringing the company back to town for a program that includes four diverse pieces showcasing the company's adventurous style.

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"We like to make it a roller coaster ride, where we can take you through the gamut of emotions," Fucik said. "That's something you can always look forward to in a Pilobolus show."

The program includes the athletic four-man quartet "Gnomen," the theatrical carnival-themed work "Rushes," the quirky longtime audience favorite duet "Symbiosis," and the nature-themed "Branches" which debuted last year at Jacobs' Pillow (Saturday afternoon, the company also will perform a children's version of "Branches").

Though it has a far-out avant-garde history, Pilobolus has earned a reputation for being fantastically entertaining and for forays into maintstream pop culture. The company has performed on the Academy Awards and in a Hyundai commercial. Balancing entertainment with art is a constant challenge.

"That's on our mind a lot," Fucik said. "You don't want to be so inaccessible that people can't feel a part of it and understand it. At the same time, you don't want to make it so much entertainment that it doesn't have a message."

Somewhat ironically, the company's forays into corporate work and commercials — which help pay the bills — have inspired its more envelope-pushing, artier works. The Pilobolus segment at the Academy Awards in 2007, using silhouettes, actually sparked the idea for "Shadowland," Fucik said.

"You think about those things as 'selling out,'" he said. "But it's an opportunity to create and make different kinds of art."

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

What: Pilobolus, presented by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Where: Aspen District Theatre

When: Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m.

How much: $36-$94

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; aspenshowtix.com

More info: Pilobolus will also give a ‘Dance for Kids!’ performance at the the District Theatre at 4 p.m. on Saturday, recommended for children age 5 and up ($25); pilobolus.org

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