Works in Progress - Winter 2011

Fabulous Pilobolus

By Lindsey Oechsle | June 24, 2013


Indiana University professor and anthropologist Anya Peterson Royce contends that you don’t have to study the primitive cultures of Central Australia or the Pueblo groups of southern Oaxaca to find philosophy in group performace. Royce finds all of that and more in America’s Pilobolus Dance Theatre and is writing a book, “Pilobolus: Collaboration, Innovation, and the Embodiment of Form.”

As an enthnographer, Royce immersed herself in the work and lives of the Pilobolus company members and came to believe that it is not only the style of dance and performance that distinguishes Pilobolus from other contemporary American dance companies. She was also intrigued by its unconventional philosophy: that choreography is a collaborative creative process with improvisation at its core, and that technique and its mastery is not a prerequisite for creating or performing. The Pilobolean structure embodies the social context of the late 1960s in its insistence on the ability and right of everyone to create art.

Based in Connecticut and now approaching its 40th year, Pilobolus has evolved. “The company’s ability to refashion and reinvent itself while remaining faithful to the founding philosophy of collaboration is a story of creative imagination and innovation,” Royce says. “Bringing the public along on this journey speaks to the power of philosphy.”

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