Dallas — Nearly two years to the date since their last visit to Dallas, Pilobolus returns with Shadowland on Jan. 13 and 14 at Dallas City Performance Hall.
This stunning theatrical project started its US tour in 2015, but first began tantalizing audiences in 2013 when a video of a European performance appeared on Facebook. The dancers, true to Pilobolus’ form, twist and shape their bodies in beautiful structures resembling elephants, wild plants, and the Empire State Building, creating a narrative contemporary dance work that exists somewhere between the work of Mummenschanz, the Swiss masked theatre troupe, and narrative ballets like The Nutcracker and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
We spoke with Artistic Director Renée Jaworski, who began performing with Pilobolus 16 years ago. 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 Dan Zanes, Steve Banks, Takuya Muramatsu, OK Go, Michael Moschen, RadioLab, and Sidi Larbi Cherkoui.
TheaterJones: It’s been two years since Pilobolus was last in Dallas. Are you excited to return?
Renée Jaworski: Dallas is a favorite of ours! The venue, the people, it is all so inviting. We are really looking forward to sharing this work with the audience in Dallas.
Shadowland has been mainly performed throughout Europe put until this point. What was the motivation to bring it to the United States and to Dallas?
We had lots of requests to show this piece. Shadow theater is something that we have been playing with for over 10 years now and when we made this full evening show in 2009, we had already been creating shorter shadow pieces for about four years. To share something that we have been doing for so many years with a brand-new audience is exciting for us.
Can you tell our readers a little bit more about Shadowland? What can we expect?
The audience will see people turn into shadow images, shadow puppetry, as well as Pilobolus’ signature style of storytelling through movement and partnering. Shadowland is a coming of age story. We meet a young girl, go on an adventure with her through Shadowland, where we share in her discovery, her heartache, and her joy. It is set to an original score by David Poe and we collaborated with the head writer for Sponge Bob Square Pants, Steven Banks.
Why do you think so many people find Pilobolus so appealing?
Pilobolus was started with the intent to have fun making and communicating stories through movement. When the audience sees people on stage having fun, they are bound to have fun. What’s more appealing than that?
How do you keep reaching new audiences?
With every new collaborative endeavor, which most, if not all of our endeavors are, we look to work with people who have different interests than ours. People from different disciplines, writers, mimes, musicians, puppeteers, painters, and other visual artists, that will teach us something, that will have a different perspective than us. Working with these diverse collaborators can also bring diversity to our audience.
Similarly, how do you keep reaching new dancers?
We teach all around the world. We have a great education and outreach program run by Emily Kent. We not only think about education for dancers but also how to connect to communities that don’t necessarily think that they like or know enough about dance to take a class.
After all of these years, there is still a debate of whether Pilobolus is dance. Since you have been with the company for 16 years, what are your thoughts about this question?
One of the greatest compliments to me and my partner, Matt Kent, is for our work to exist outside of a pre-existing box. It means we are trying new things. We have the ability to continue to explore new ways of telling stories and find new places to tell them.
What would the company like to explore next?
We have a continued interest in making short and long form dance pieces as well as working with large groups of people. Groups that have dance and performance experience as well as creating experiences that are more immersive for the audience. We recently collaborated with MIT on a project that brings the audience into the creative experience. Each person is given a light up umbrella that changes color. They are prompted to create images and patterns that are filmed from above. It gets people moving and interacting. It is inspiring to watch as this group of people, who mostly don’t know each other, come together to make something delightful.