Q&A: Pilobolus Dance Theatre

Courtesy of Pilobolus
Courtesy of Pilobolus

The Assistant Associate Director of Pilobolus discusses the company’s unique configuration, ground breaking choreography and plans for the future.

Dallas — If your New Year’s resolution is to see more dance performances then you are in luck. TITAS’ dance-focused 2013-14 season continues with the radically innovative and always-intriguing Pilobolus at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House in the Dallas Arts District this weekend.

Connecticut-based Pilobolus was founded in 1971 by Robby Barnett, Alison Becker Chase, Martha Clarke, Lee Harris, Moses Pendleton, Michael Tracy and Jonathan Wolken. Today, the company is run by Artistic Director Robby Barnett and Assistant Associate Director Renee Jaworski.

Jaworski received her BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. After graduation she began working with MOMIX, performing and teaching throughout the world, before joining Pilobolus in 2000. Since then she has served as dance captain, master teacher, rehearsal director and most recently director and choreographer for many of the company’s collaborations with artists and entities such as Takuya Muramatsu, the rock band OK Go, RadioLab and Sidi Larbi Cherkoui.

Pilobolus currently has more than 100 choreographic works in its repertoire and has performed for stage, television and online audiences all over the world. The company has received a number of accolades, including the Berlin Critic’s Prize, the Scotsman Award, the Brandeis Award and a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in cultural programming. In 2010 Pilobolus was honored as the first collective to receive the Dance Magazine Award, which recognizes artists who have made lasting contributions to the field.

TheaterJones asks Renee Jaworski to look back on her last 14 years with the company, to share what Pilobolus looks for in its dancers and tell us about their upcoming Dallas performance.

TheaterJones: You have been with the Pilobolus for 14 years. Correct?

Renee Jaworski: Yes! I started with the company as a dancer and have danced with multiple components of the company including Pilobolus Dance Theatre, which is what’s coming to Dallas, and Shadowland, which is a show we do mainly in Europe. I was also the rehearsal director, and I am currently one of the associate artistic directors. I am also a teacher and choreographer.

What is it about the company that has encouraged you to stay?

I think it’s the fact that I was never looked at as just a dancer. We are looking for people who think and don’t just move—people who think about why they’re moving and how two moving bodies can create different things than what we normally expect to see in dance. Pilobolus is also this large community that invites people in who will challenge each other to create something that they haven’t thought of before.

Did you always want to be a performer?

I actually wanted to be a teacher and it developed into wanting to be a performer. I realized that to be a good effective teacher there is a sense of performance in it. So, I started studying more performance and incorporating that into my teaching, which only made me fall in love with performance even more. And from performance I realized I never really thought about something twice the same way because I like things to be different every time and I like to keep exploring. This then kind of opened me up to my love of choreography.

How would you describe the company and its movement quality?

Photo: John Kane
Photo: John Kanes

The company overall is about community and bringing the world together through a performance or educational experience. What’s interesting is that when the company started making work back in 1971 people really questioned whether it was dance at all. And to this day we are always trying to get people to question whether what we do is considered dance.

I don’t think of us as a modern dance company. I mean we do have elements of modern dance, but we also have elements of marital arts, theater, Indian dance, meditation, yoga and even poetry. We take from any place where we find inspiration. It’s a magic show sometimes.

Since the beginning Pilobolus has always consisted of six members. Is there any situation in which you would consider adding more dancers to the group?

Well, the company actually started with four men and then they added two women about a year later. Today, we are working with seven members, but we never have more than six dancers on the stage and generally we will have a configuration of four men and two women.

One of the reasons we have seven people in the company now is because our touring schedule is so rigorous. It got to be that we needed an extra person because the dancers’ bodies would start to give out. So, now we are considering whether seven is enough. The company is configured the way it is because we like to keep our dancers as long as possible. The community really benefits when our dancers stay for a long time and really get to know each other. Because they have worked together for so long, the material they present on stage suddenly become something different to watch.

Because you draw inspiration from so many different styles of movement does that make the task of finding new dancers more difficult?

Yes, it is. Especially when we are auditioning women. We could have 300 women come out to an audition and dismiss half of them right away because we can tell that they just don’t have the open mindedness and versatility that we are looking for. Sometimes your dance training can become a detriment to you and can hamper your ability to create new things.

Can you tell me a little bit about the pieces we are going to see?

Sure! The program opens with Licks which we premiered in 2013 and is a piece I did with Trish Sie who is a video and film director. It’s a fun piece full of crazy movement. In it we use multiple lengths of rope and the ropes actually become our partners in dance.Transformation is an excerpt from our production Shadowland which is touring in Europe. This piece depicts the illusion part of what we do such as how we can take multiple bodies and create one image with them. Automaton is a piece we collaborated with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui on and it sort of questions the attachment that we have with machinery and technology. The program will conclude withAll Is Not Lost and one of my favorite pieces, Rushes, which is the result of Inbal Pinot and Avshalom Pollak’s collaboration with the company. It’s kind of a quirky story with some interesting characters.

What would the company like to explore next?

The thing is that we don’t really know what we haven’t explored until we get in there and just start playing around. We are super interested in working with non-dancers. I’m currently working with another company member, Jun Kuribayashi, on a community project. We’ve got multi-generational participants where I think the youngest is 13 and the oldest is in her early 70’s, and we are creating a piece that is going to be performed during one of our shows at the end of January.

We also want to continue to play with mediums that you wouldn’t immediately connect to dance and see what comes out of that. So, we are always looking for that next problem to solve.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s