Presented by The Joyce Theatre Foundation, Inc. at The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave., NYC, June 24-July 20.
Pilobolus choreography has always bordered on the strange. Essentially disbanding with pointed feet or lined-up knees, it indulges in acrobatic twisting, tugging, and shoving—pulling out a bag of amazing, athletic tricks. Though most all of the Pilobolus repertory begins in a collaborative rehearsal setting, there is nothing improvisational-looking about the way the dancers connect to each other by the time the piece reaches the stage.
"The Four Humours" (Balanchine called them the Four Temperaments) begins with a jolt. To full-bodied music by Richard Peaslee, and wearing raggedy but stylish costumes by Angelina Avallone, four dancers (Mark Fucik, Renée Jaworski, Matt Kent, and Jennifer Macavinta), who also collaborated on the choreography with Robby Barnett and Jonathan Wolken, race out to center stage, bump tummies, and splat on the floor in a star-like formation—a bang-up beginning for a solid dance piece. The dancers then climb all over each other in determined strides, or stick to each other, hanging weightless like astronauts in a time capsule in the world premiere of this episodic piece at the Joyce.
The company set "Davenen" (2000) to an original score by Frank London, here performed by the Klezmatics. The six dancers, first seen balled together in a tight group, break away to indulge in prayer, each choosing a mode to worship, while the rest keep a steady rocking motion—an homage to the Orthodox Jew's manner of praying. There is ecstasy, relief, challenge, even deception—one woman reaching to be kissed (in reality, forbidden in public). "Davenen" doesn't pretend to be authentic, but it gives a wonderful substance to an ancient ritual. It is full of humor, and odd angles replete with the energy that are the company's signature.
"Monkey and the White Bone Demon" is distinguished by Matt Kent's inordinate quadriceps, which enable him to turn and jump on high steel stilts without cracking his skull in a terrible fall. Rather than being impressed with "good" routing out "evil" (the White Bone Demon being washed away by the Monkey), one leaves the theatre only wondering how on earth Kent manages to get through.