BWW Review: New Life: PILOBOLUS: BRANCHES at Veterans Auditorium
In the interest of full disclosure, what I know about modern dance could fit in a thimble. In addition, I am a Boston Red Sox fan of the first magnitude, back to the days of Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. So what was I doing out at Veterans Auditorium on a Friday night when game three of the World Series was about to begin? Well, I, along with about 2000 other similarly misdirected souls, was out to cover a modern dance performance by a group called Pilobolus put on by FirstWorks. I am really happy I went. It was a mind-blowing show, which combined the strength of David Ortiz, the grace and speed of Mookie Betts and the trickery of a Tim Wakefield knuckleball; and when I got home, the ballgame still had four-and-a-half hours to go!
OK, so who is Piobolus, and who is FirstWorks? Pilobolusi is a dance group founded in 1971 by a group of jocks, who more or less accidentally found themselves in a dance class to fulfill an academic requirement. The jocks teacher encouraged their almost Monty Python like humor and use of their physical strength, and forty-five years later, their creation is still kicking and has performed in sixty-five countries, at the Oscars, on Broadway, on television, in movies, and at the Olympic games. FirstWorks is a local arts organization, which grew from the ashes of the late, lamented Providence FirstNight. It is an organization dedicated to bringing world-class art to the City of Providence and underserved students in Rhode Island. In my humble opinion, they have combined to hit a homerun here.
Friday night's show was mind-blowing. The movement artists combine strength and grace in a way this reviewer had never seen before-a mix of dance and gymnastics. The show was called "Branches" and was celebration of the natural world. The artists would at times move as one and at times use each other a human apparatus as they climbed and vaulted all over the stage and each other. All of this was set to music, requiring exquisite timing, skill and teamwork. It was also at times very funny, either creating moving images of muli-limbed creatures, or using a camera mounted under a plexiglas table to crate a free for all. I begin to fear that my words may not be doing this thing justice-the time flew by, attention never wavered, and the audience roared its approval at the end. The troupe performed an encore, which consisted of artists sliding back and forth across the stage on slip and slides. It was not Swan Lake, but it was wet!
So this show is gone, but FirstWorks is bringing two more shows to the Vets in the spring: Black Vioin, the Classical Boom Touron April 3 and Complexions: Contemporary Ballet-From Bach to Bowie April 17. Tickets are available at the Vets/PPAC Box office, 401 421 ARTS and at First-Works.org. You can find the tour schedule for Pilobolus on line; if they are ever in the neighborhood, don't miss them. This was the second FirstWorks show I have seen, and this was even better than last year's Gershwin evening. I look forward to the next show they bring in.