The Times West Virginian

January 3, 2013

Dance masters Pilobolus coming to WVU

By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — They have appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’ Brien.” They have been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and on “Sesame Street.”

Now they are coming to Morgantown.

Pioneer contemporary dance masters Pilobolus will be performing at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Show time has been set for 7:30 p.m.

A modern performance company, Pilobolus started off as an experiment among a professor and three guys in a dance class at Dartmouth. Since then, they have continued to evolve, taking a revolutionary approach to creativity in dance.

Moving together and falling over one another, Pilobolus convenes groups of artists such as MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory, Art Spiegelman, OK Go and Radiolab. Each year they develop three original works.

Co-founder Jonathan Wolken named the company after a fungus that was being researched in his father’s biophysics lab. Up until his death in 2010, he remained one of Pilobolus’ artist directors as well as the director of development. Throughout his career with Pilobolus, he created 46 works for the group in collaboration with its other artistic directors and guest artists.

Gymnastics, dance, performance art and shadow play are incorporated into the shows, promising to deliver what Newsday has called a “mind-blowing” experience. Their movements challenge the limits of the human body, often leaving audiences in awe. Information on the West Virginia University Arts and Entertainment page encourages audiences to take an opportunity to see the performance: “Don’t miss what promises to be an evening filled with wonder.”

Local talent is also featured in the shows. Originally from Hurricane, Benjamin Coalter started off in engineering and international affairs at Marshall University before being persuaded by a friend to take a formal dance class. From the start he was hooked and continued training for the next five months under the direction of Ella Hay.

Within no time, he found himself on the big stage. That fall he switched majors and transferred to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In 2012, he graduated with his B.F.A. in contemporary dance and shortly after joined Pilobolus last fall.

Nathaniel Buchsbaum comes from Pittsburgh, but didn’t discover his love for dance until he attended high school in Florida. For a while he worked as a guest artist with the Tallahassee Ballet, and graduated from Florida State University in 2011. His choreography has been featured in several events, including the NewsGround Dance Festival.

With such depth in its talent, Pilobolus has established quite the reputation. After 35 years, Pilobolus has established more than 85 works, performing in 64 countries.

Along the way they received numerous awards. They were honored with the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in choreography. Other notable awards include the Berlin Critic’s Prize, the Scotsman Award, the Brandeis Award, a Primetime Emmy Award for cultural programming, and a TED Fellowship for performing a TED Talk in 2005.

In 2010, they were also honored as the first collective to receive the Dance Magazine Award. This award recognizes artists who have made lasting contributions to the field.

Pilobolus also performed at the 2007 Oscars. During their performance, they reproduced the brands of popular movies such as “Happy Feet,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Snakes on a Plane.” The performers created illusions of gravity-defying strength in silhouette behind a white translucent screen.

Explicit subject matter and strong language may be used during the show. Parental discretion is advised. Tickets are on sale for $40 and $45 each, depending on seat location, and WVU student tickets will be sold for $28 with a valid WVU ID at the campus box offices. To purchase tickets, visit the Mountainlair or Creative Arts Center box offices or order online at ticketmaster.com, or call 304-293-SHOW.

Email Nicole Lemal at nlemal@timeswv.com.