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A CRITIQUE OF PILOBOLUS SHADOWLAND IN TEL-AVIV 2013

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In collaboration with Steve Banks in 2009 after the 79th Annual Academy Award performance, Pilobolus started working on creating an evening-length piece of art referred to as Shadowland, primarily a dance based on the actors' movement to convey meaning to the audience. The piece involves shadow, dance, videos, animation theatre in a bridge between romantic comedy and science fiction. Pilobolus, an American company specializing in dance, was formed in 1971 and created its arts through International Collaborators Project. The company performed in over 60 countries earning features in several shows like Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and 79th Annual Academy Awards. This article critiques this piece of art by providing a summary with key details noted, personal interpretation of the dance, evaluation on hits and misses by the artist, and providing a conclusion on how it has changed the writer's view on such kind of art and their involvement in the contemporary world.

In the video at the second minute, thirty seconds; at night, the Pilobolus's gymnastic troupe alter their bodies into figures and shapes behind a screen, thereby creating scenes of a female teenager character.  The stage being a shadow is dark with a bright yellow moon color illuminating it. The dance progresses from one part to the other with minimal distractions. The dance features a girl and a hand. The girl is asleep, and as the night progresses, she is tapped in the dream to wake up. A gigantic hand in a slow wavy motion beckons her. Looking scared, the protagonist steps forward towards the god-like hand, unsure of what is about to occur. In a rhythmic comic, the girl is repeatedly touched, making her dance in a vibrating kind with her mouth wide open, going faster than the background's slow soundtrack music. As the girl stares at the hand, she bends and moves her arms in a wavy manner like the hand did while beckoning her but faster with increased energy. The hand transforms the girl into a half-dog, half-girl.  The transformation is achieved by her bent arm's silhouette forming the canine snout and a wiggling ear by her hand. A mere trick of light helps achieve the moves of the dance.

The dance in the Pilobolus Shadowland art depicts a fad dance type with an element of ballet where the heroine holds the gigantic man's hand and drags him along to full view. The dance moves and rhythm are shallow and less engaging with the audience but narrating the actors' ideas. The choreographer is intending to pass passive dramatic information without involving the feelings of the audience.  Moving from one activity to the other, the narrates in an abstract way how the protagonist is changing from feeling scared to dragging the god-like man, the stages he has to pass through to grow.

In a semi-light room, Pilobolus presents a slow dance with dramatic magical occurrences.  The choreographer intends to convey how the little girl, in a dream, is scared of her growth which has to involve different situations along the way. In a dance type that involves less proficiency, the choreographer is successful in bringing up the message. The use of shadows eliminates the use of technology to create different girl shapes, which comes out perfect. But again, his intention to please both audiences, the young and adults, makes the whole thing confusing. There is a little involvement in the fast-paced dance, which could have drawn much more attention from the audience to depict how scared the girl was.

The experiences in class depicted an engaging type of art while sending a consistent message to the audience; Pilobolus's choreography is in line with consistency in messaging but a little low, keeping the audience guessing. Nonetheless, the dance presented by Pilobolus is a bridge between contemporary and traditional types. The company has perfected to maintain an image of a company creating arts that a specific age cannot define. By using light, the choreographer can produce a half-girl half-dog that otherwise would involve modern technologies. With the background set up, one visualizes a classic era where more black and white visuals were the order of the day. Throughout the video, the choreographer does not involve speech to pass information; this mode of conveying a message is mind-changing. It shows how art can be used to disseminate information and feelings without involving speech. The creativity leaves one awed, making it easy to attend concerts organized by Pilobolus and tag friends along. 

 

 

Works Cited

Ilan Solberg. “Pilobolus Shadowland in Tel-Aviv 2013.” YouTube. 29 December 2013. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBnoA2WBWps&feature=youtu.be>

Zuraidah, Siti, Kastam Syamsi, and Ashadi Ashadi. "Improving the story-telling skill of grade 1 students through the use of hand puppet media." Jurnal Prima Edukasia 8.2 (2020): 166-176.

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