Hancher to present ‘Pilobolus’ dance company for both of their 50th anniversaries

On Saturday, Hancher Auditorium will present “Pilobolus,” a world-renowned dance theater organization that is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a “BIG FIVE-OH!” tour.


Photo by David J Murray

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

A cross-country skier, a fencer, and a pole vaulter walk into a dance composition class in college — they emerge with a routine that completely revolutionizes dance and movement.

This is the origin story of the world-renowned, award-winning modern dance theater organization Pilobolus, which was created in 1971 by three Dartmouth students and their dance teacher.

Pilobolus will perform on Saturday at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium as one stop of its “BIG FIVE-OH!” tour.

Rob Cline, Hancher director of marketing and communications, said the dance company has always been well-received by audiences, which is why Hancher booked Pilobolus for its Golden Anniversary lineup.

Pilobolus has performed at Hancher several times in the past.

Coincidentally, both Hancher and Pilobolus are celebrating their 50th anniversaries.

Pilobolus planned a special performance for its “BIG FIVE-OH!” show that incorporates themes of powerful Native American storytelling.

The performance includes a piece called “The Ballad,” a collaboration with Native American storyteller Darlene Kascak, who is a member of The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. It tells a story about a mythical creature called the Wendigo and the boarding schools that Kascak was familiar with as a child.

The performance ends with a piece called “Branches.” Matt Kent, co-artistic director of Pilobolus, described it as a “celebration of the biosphere” that recognizes and appreciates the full scope of nature.

Both pieces carry positive messages that emphasize the importance of respecting all life in the world.

Though Pilobolus is based in Washington, Connecticut, it has performed in 65 countries and even at the 79th 2007 Academy Awards. The company’s Academy Awards show introduced shadow dancing, a type of work that involves dancers moving between a screen and a light source to produce images on the screen with their shadows.

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Since the company’s debut in 2007 at the Academy Awards, this type of dance has been used by numerous other dance companies. On Saturday, Pilobolus will share this work with the audience through a piece called “Behind the Shadows.”

Overall, the show will highlight the diverse signature work of Pilobolus as well as feature new pieces like “The Ballad,” emphasizing the company’s commitment to the evolution and exploration of different techniques.

“The longer way to think of Pilobolus is as this creative group of artists who are looking for new things, ways to use the body to create shapes and ideas that you just don’t see in other companies,” Cline said.

Intriguingly, Pilobolus was named after a Brazilian fungus that grows from digested spores in cow poop. As it grows, it twists and bends toward sunlight, like the dynamic uses of the body that Cline notes.

Kent hopes that the audience on Saturday enjoys the performance and feels transported to other worlds with the diverse pieces chosen for the show, all of which focus on different themes and emotions.

“You have to have your interdimensional passports ready because you’re going to go to different worlds,” Kent said. “You don’t have to know anything about modern dance or art or anything. Just bring your body and open mind and come and be prepared to see something.”