Waiting to Inhale

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“There are parts where I just stopped breathing.” “I can die now. Fabulous.” Such were the comments overheard at Friday’s Ahmanson Theatre performance of Pilobolus, the Connecticut-based dance troupe. Indeed, the company’s blend of acrobatics, athleticism, artistry, and humor captivated the crowd—amazed them, wowed them, had them whooping and hollering till the last moments, when the evening’s seven performers (the group includes more than 25 full- and part-time dancers) whisked across the stage on a makeshift water slide.

Since its founding nearly 40 years ago at Dartmouth College, Pilobolus has produced more than 100 choreographic works—often the result of improvisation and close collaboration. You might have seen them featured at the 2007 Academy Awards, on The Oprah Winfrey Show, or in car commercials, the dancers somersaulting and twisting their bodies every which way imaginable.

Last weekend’s repertoire included “Redline,” an aggressive commentary on war, incorporating martial arts moves; “Rushes,” a dreamlike piece set alongside an imaginary stream that showed off the dancers’ masterful synchronicity; “Gnomen,” in which a men’s quartet created four story arcs, weaving grace and lyricism with profound strength and control (these guys are all muscle); and “Day Two,” depicting the second day of creation, when the earliest organisms and birds came to life.

Speaking of evolution: Just as we were wondering whether Pilobolus (named for a fungus) is really of this earth (honestly, the power, precision, and flexibility here seemed superhuman), for the finale the dancers came splashing and laughing along that onstage water slide like kids letting loose. And that’s when the rest of us, still mesmerized, finally took a deep breath.

 

Photograph courtesy Pilobolus