A Night with Pilobolus Is Always a Lovefest

The American Dance Festival will present Pilobolus in Everything Old Is New Again at 8 p.m. Friday, July 5th and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 6th, plus a 1 p.m. Saturday Children's Matinee, in Duke University's Page Auditorium in Durham (photo by Hibbard Nash Photography)
The American Dance Festival will present Pilobolus in Everything Old Is New Again at 8 p.m. Friday, July 5th and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 6th, plus a 1 p.m. Saturday Children’s Matinee, in Duke University’s Page Auditorium in Durham (photo by Hibbard Nash Photography)

“Everything old is new again! Pilobolus joins ADF in its homecoming to Page
, presenting four timeless pieces that highlight the surreal, playful,
and athletic approach to dance and theater that Pilobolus is known for.”
American Dance Festival 2019 Brochure —

The Thursday, July 4th, ADF audience for Pilobolus: Everything Old Is New Again seemed pleased to be back in Duke University’s Page Auditorium, now that the lengthy renovations are complete. The auditorium was the original venue of ADF for its first North Carolina season in 1977. The Page Auditorium renovation, along with the addition of the new 150-seat von der Heyden Studio Theater in the Rubenstein Arts Center assures that future seasons of ADF at Duke will have those intimate professional-grade venues that work so well for dance.

As the audience enters the auditorium, cast members are jumping rope, stretching, and practicing their leaps and catches. Occasionally, they break the Fourth Wall and chat with front-row audience members. After Stage Manager Kasson Marroquin enters in headphones to give the cast their 10-minute call, the dancers circle up and “hoot”. Meeting the cast during their warm-up sets the tone for an evening of playful athleticism from a cast that aims to please.

The two-hour program of Pilobolus’ classics begins with Untitled (1975), a work that is part-dance and part-theater. As the curtain opens we see two dancers in old-fashioned dresses, with large skirts that appear to be made with too much fabric. Suddenly, the ladies rise to twice their height, revealing the bottom half of the hairy-legged male dancers on whose shoulders they sit.

The work turns dream-like as the men emerge, naked, and the women cradle them like newborns. The music by composer Robert Dennis, complete with fiddles and fifes, is reminiscent of the American South during the late 1800’s. Krystal Butler and Heather Favretto portray the joys and the struggles of these two women from girlhood to old age.

Untitled is about women, and Gnomen (1997) is about men. The dance consists of a men’s quartet: Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Zachary Eisenstat, Quincy Ellis, and Jacob Michael Warren. Three dancers enter locked together as a unit, with the fourth dancer on his own, setting us up to know that this dance is all about relationships. Throughout the dance, they take turns being the object of focus, ranging from abuse to encouragement.

An especially memorable moment was when a dancer is held in midair by his outstretched hands while two other dancers move him about the stage. Paul Sullivan’s music is punctuated with masculine throat-singing by Matt Kent, creating a “modern prehistoric” mood. The occasional gong or calliope sound punctuates the physical comedy of the piece. At the end, the men face the audience in quiet unity. They have traversed more than just physical ground.

Rushes (2007) is a collaboration with the Israeli choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. The curtain opens to reveal an oddball “support group” of six characters sitting in a circle of wooden chairs. And “fun with chairs” begins. One section features dancers sliding about in socks to a jazz track, creating a unique and fanciful kind of movement that is irresistible. At another point, a dancer has a dream that is shown to the audience via an animation by Peter Sluska, projected on a small tarp. His dream is about chairs, of course.

Set to a mixture of music by Brian Eno, David Byrne, and the Talking Heads, Day Two (1981) is the strongest performance of the evening. The title refers to the second day of the creation of the world, and the snappy percussive soundtrack sets a clean beat that the dancers follow perfectly. This is the perfect showcase for this young and athletic cast. The dance begins with early forms of life and ends at the point where Earth’s creatures have evolved into birds that take flight. There’s a splashy finale that is delightful to all.

It’s always a struggle for a dance troupe to recreate work from several decades ago. Like a Xerox® copy of a Xerox copy, dances can deteriorate as they are staged over and over again. To audiences who have seen the original dances performed by the original dancer/choreographers, there are times in the 2019 show when movements don’t seem as sharply timed, and interpretations of the characters seem a bit hazy. But a night at Page with the Pils is always a lovefest. We all expect more great work in the future from a troupe that is like no other on the planet.

Note: the evening performances contain male and female nudity.

The American Dance Festival will present Pilobolus in Everything Old Is New Again at 8 p.m. Friday, July 5th and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 6th, plus a 1 p.m. Saturday Children’s Matinee, in Duke University’s Page Auditorium in Durham (photo by Hibbard Nash Photography)

SECOND OPINION: May 14th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/pilobolus/.

The American Dance Festival presents PILOBOLUS: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN at 8 p.m. July 5 and 7 p.m. July 6, plus a 1 p.m. July 6 Children’s Matinee, in Page Auditorium, 402 Chapel Dr., Durham, North Carolina 27708, on Duke University West Campus.

TICKETS: $10-$65.

BOX OFFICE: Duke University Box Office: 919-684-4444, tickets@duke.edu, or https://tickets.duke.edu/online/article/pilobolus19.

SHOW: https://americandancefestival.org/performance/2019-season/pilobolus/, https://tickets.duke.edu/online/article/pilobolus19, https://pilobolus.org/touring/2019/adf, and https://www.facebook.com/events/364629074151122/.

VIDEO PREVIEW (scroll down): https://americandancefestival.org/performance/2019-season/pilobolus/.

PROGRAM (starts on Page 16): https://www.americandancefestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Program3Enlarged.pdf.

ADF NEWS RELEASE: https://www.americandancefestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Week-3.pdf.

PRESENTER: http://www.americandancefestival.org/, https://www.facebook.com/AmerDanceFest, https://twitter.com/AmerDanceFest, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dance_Festival.

BLOG (ADF Blog): http://www.americandancefestival.org/projects/blog/.

VENUE: https://dukeperformances.duke.edu/venues/page-auditorium/ and https://tickets.duke.edu/online/article/venuepage.

DIRECTIONS (scroll down): https://dukeperformances.duke.edu/venues/page-auditorium/.

MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/F49EcTGgWRP2.

PATENTAL ADVISORY: The Friday-night performance contains what ADF calls “modest backside nudity only,” and the Saturday-night performance contains what ADF calls “male and female nudity.”


Pilobolus (Washington, CT modern dance company, founded in 1971): https://pilobolus.org/ (official website), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1973159/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/PilobolusDance (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/Pilobolus (Twitter page), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilobolus_(dance_company) (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/pilobolusdance (YouTube).


Nancy Rich is a local director/choreographer, with a love for the performing arts and a passion for supporting local artistic work. Nancy and her husband, Rod, own and operate Monkeybravo, a video production company. Nancy is one of the founders of Actors Comedy Lab and participates in local theater as a hired gun, a volunteer and, on very rare occasions, an actor. Nancy recently wrote a series of monologues called The PRINCESS Talks, performed at the 2017 Women’s Theatre Festival. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.