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Pilobolus Defies Gravity
Abby Persons '21 Staff Writer
March 7, 2019

On stage, Pilobolus defies gravity. The man, towering and muscular, is lifted with ease. He seemingly floats across the black expanse of the stage.

Pilobolus, an acclaimed dance theatre organization, came to Deerfield on Feb 12th for an Academy Event. The group has performed on Broadway and at the Oscars. They also host workshops around the world, teaching their blend of art and science to all audiences.

The group began in 1971 at Dartmouth College, when a group of students enrolled in a dance composition class. A member of the group, Robby Barnett, in fact, graduated from Deerfield in 1986, despite not having danced at DA.

A participant of the class, Jonathan Walker, was inspired by his father, who was studying the pilobolus fungi in microbiology. He was amazed by the motion and wanted to replicate what scientists saw under the microscope. The group expressed a similar fascination. Thus, Pilobolus officially began and caught the world by storm, discovering an entirely different style of dance.

“They became world famous pretty quickly,” Director of Dance Jennifer Whitcomb recalled in regards to the dance company’s progression. Pilobolus’ style of weight-sharing dance, one defined by the distribution of weight between multiple people, allowed for awe-inspiring lifts. It proved to be extremely adaptable, performed not only on the big stages but also by non-dancers.

Indeed, many dancers in Pilobolus did not start out as dancers but rather athletes. Their athleticism can be seen through their style as well as the complex moves incorporated into their program.

The event itself, titled “Come to Your Senses,” was based upon scientific and natural phenomenons. It opened with a lesson on Darwin’s theory of evolution, specifically in relation to the eye. It then went on to switch from the excited, up-beat science lesson to something slower and more experimental, exploring the physics of balance and .

The music, consisting of nature sounds and ominous beats, set the tone. Three men appeared and began their routine. A plethora of flexibility, lifts, and impressive moves captured the audience, enticing in its uniqueness. Routines began and ended; one with men, one with women, and two others co-ed.

With highly experimental and conceptual science-inspired motion, Pilobolus was an experience many in the Deerfield community struggled to understand. Overall, however, they left the entire audience in awe of their dance style.