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Pilobolus Comes Home: Three Decades of Dance Photographs

Hood Quarterly, spring 2007
Kristin Monahan Garcia, Curatorial Assistant for Academic and Student Programming

Pilobolus, the dance group that emerged from a Dartmouth classroom in 1971, has toured worldwide in the thirty-five years since its founding, created an institute of educational programming, launched touring companies, and profoundly influenced the world of contemporary dance. Now they have come home again.

The company’s spring visit to the College celebrates the donation of the Pilobolus archives to the Dartmouth College Library’s Rauner Special Collections. This new archive, whose contents span almost four decades of the dance group’s creative life, will serve as an invaluable resource for dance scholars, Dartmouth students, and community members who wish to learn more about the history of the company. The archives include videos, photographs, slides, correspondence, posters, programs, and various other materials. As the dance company continues to tour, and to inspire, the archive will grow as well.

Three of the early members of Pilobolus, Robby Barnett ’72, Michael Tracy ’73, and Jonathan Wolken ’71—who today remain the primary creative force behind the company—will also be in residence at Dartmouth as Montgomery Fellows during the first week of April. At this time Pilobolus will premiere a Dartmouth-commissioned dance at the Hopkins Center and offer numerous educational programs. A symposium titled “Leaving Tracks: Historicizing Modern Dance” and a lecture with the three men will be part of the programming that is open to the public.

In honor of this homecoming, the Hood Museum of Art will open the exhibition Pilobolus Comes Home: Three Decades of Dance Photographs in the Harrington Gallery on March 27, 2007, to run through July 8, 2007. It will display images by six photographers—Jonathan Sa’adah, Tim Matson, Clemens Kalischer, Howard Schatz, John Kane, and Robert Whitman—who have captured the dance company on film at different phases of its development, accompanied by some material from the Pilobolus archives.

Early photographs of the company by Sa’adah, Matson, and Kalischer reveal the birth of the signature Pilobolus style, in which dancers’ bodies are intertwined into fascinating sculptural shapes. The allusions to sculpture in their choreography provide insight into the artistic influences and thought processes behind each dance or pose. Later images by Schatz, Kane, and Whitman reflect the impressive manner in which the dance company has incorporated new elements and different looks and shapes while continuing to build upon the weight-sharing techniques and notions of cooperative movement that are at their roots.

An opening reception for Pilobolus Comes Home will be held in the Kim Gallery on Tuesday, April 3, 2007, at 6:30 p.m.

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