Cal Performances. October 22, 2021
Zellerbach Auditorium

Big Five-Off” (West Coast Premiere)

Jeffry Geffen, Director of Cal Performances, welcomed the large audience on the evening of Pilobulus’ second show at Zellerbach Auditorium. The ‘house’ had been closed, he remarked, for over 500 days. This was the first show back. All audience members had shown proof of vaccination and their ID’s at posts outside the hall.

The audience wore masks throughout the show.

Pilobolus web site tells us about its history.

Over the past 50 years, we’ve performed around the globe in events ranging from the Oscars to the Olympics and collaborated with some of the world’s greatest influencers and creators. We’re inviting fans from all decades to join us in celebrating a half century of radical creativity and boundary-pushing with a remixed retrospective: a hand-picked election of pieces from vintage & visionary, reimagined as we question our own givens and turn traditions sideways.

The performance consisted of four works preceded by a general warm-up viewed by the audience and an announcement of the program order. With no printed programs, the information was available through scanning the QR code.

The ‘art’ of the Pilobolus group is its marvelous skill in what was one referred to as “stunts and tumbling” but Is now a highly refined level of acrobatics. The works are often funny, as in “The Empty Suitor” performed by Paul Liu who was able to balance, fall and roll on paper, on a bench, upside down and always chasing his top hat. It was the most amusing piece of the evening, short, funny and skilled.

This group of six performers has developed physical skill to amazing high levels, beyond that ordinarily achieved by trained dancers. What is absent, to this viewer, is the projection of any dimension beyond the execution of skill … although that might be supposed as the audience’s ability to project such values.

Shizen”(1978), a duet, performed by Qincy Ellis and Hannah Klinkman (choreographed by Moses Pendleton and Allison Chase) came closest to an aesthetic dimension. The couple began at separate ends of the stage, rolled tightly into themselves. As the work progressed, each found up-standing posture and ways to lift and support one another. ”Shizen” (we were told) means growth: the piece seemed to depict evolution.

The evening concluded with a major work “Day Two” (1981) for all six performers; Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Quincy Ellis, Marion Feliz, Hanna Klinkman, Paul Liu and Zack Weiss. This long work displays countless ways the ‘dancers’ were able to balance, lift, hold, fall and recover each other’s bodies, designing amazing geometric shapes and group patterns. It was an unbelievable display of skill and ensemble. However it went on for a very long time, accompanied by electronic sound that was less than pleasing.

The group performed “Day Two” in the nude with only genital coverings. This reviewer did not find that costume interesting nor pleasing.

Congratulations to Cal Performances for a bold start to the 2021-2022 season. We look forward to music, theater and DANCE performances that Cal Performances presents so generously and so well.

Joanna Harris
(joannaharris@lmi.net) http://www.BeyondIsadora.com