Friday, October 9, 2009
Pilobolus Master Class
I started this blog 3 months ago to put dance out in the forefront. To showcase all the great movement we see in Maine. To feature reviews and stories about dance just like we've come to expect for movies, music, books or theater. I'm particularly interested in the choreographic process of why and how dancers create their work. One of the most innovative groups around, Pilobolus; came to Portland to perform and offer a Master Class to demonstrate their style of fostering creativity through movement. I had to go see what they would teach.
Pilobolus is famous for making shapes that defy gravity. They seem incredibly athletic and so strong. And yet, they make entertaining pieces that leave people asking, "is that even dance?" So how well can they offer a dance master class? Especially when the students are of varying backgrounds and skills that ranged from a 13-year old ballerina to a 40-year old ex-dancer now teaching high school science.
Leading the workshop were company members Jun Kuribayashi, Andy Herro and Chris Whitney. They told the 34 eager students that when Pilobolus creates pieces, all the dancers collaborate on the moves. And that many of the spectacular shapes they create can only be done through a partnership in trust. Now, much of regular dance training is about mastering the human body through strength and grace. But a lot of time that is done through rigorous dance classes that focus on a repetition of exercises to strengthen the muscles. Plie, tondue, arabesque- individual exercises. None of that classical stuff was offered here. Instead, dancer Andy asked how could you step up and successfully crawl on top of your partner without hurting them? The students did it and strange shapes emerged. Can one of you stand on the others thighs and lean away? They did it to their own amazement. Then, dancer Chris asked the students to become a protezoa pancake, next depict a heavy metal librarian, and then move like a happy paranoid. The students used these ideas to create movement from these nonsensical ideas. Anything can be inspiration but then how do you shape it as you work with your partners. For the young Portland Ballet students who are used to classical training they giggled a lot as they experimented. But, afterwards they said it as fun, different and a good change.
Pilobolus dancer Jun had asked each student at the start of the 90-minute class to leave with an opinion, he said the worse thing was to be indifferent. Whether good or bad, he wanted the students to have an idea about what they created. Bravo!
Master Class with Pilobolus at Portland Arts and Technology High School, October 9th 2009.