Rushes/Pilobolus, The Joyce, New York

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At a quick glance you might think Pilobolus has gone no further than from A to B in the 37 years of its existence. Its convolutedly sculptural, gymnastically grounded dances and its collaborative choreography haven’t changed much, although out of the originals who formed the troupe at Dartmouth College all those years ago, only Robby Barnett, Michael Tracy and Jonathan Wolken remain as artistic directors.

Yet now perhaps it is beginning a new phase, with outside choreographers invited to contribute. With Barnett, Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak from Israel have produced Rushes, a little out of the mainstream yet firmly in the tradition of the company’s zany works, with their non sequiturs, hints of doom and mysterious goings on – when, that is, the dancers aren’t tying themselves into knots of glued-together bodies in odd positions that move as one.

Rushes begins with an overture of bright circusy music that promises fun. When the curtain rises there’s a circle of chairs in a pool of light under one dangling bulb. A figure hurtles in from the wings and is caught by Andrew Herro, who, seconds before, was sitting with his back to him. Herro, glum and isolated most of the time, seems as out of it as another character who shuffles around in a crouched position toting an attaché case. Later the case is opened, a makeshift screen held up and the reclining owner’s dreams, like Rorschach tests, are projected on it.

To an assortment of music ranging from the Dukes of Dixieland to Arvo Pärt, the piece rolls every which way like spilled mercury. Chairs are rearranged into geometric patterns. In one sequence Renée Jaworski seems to skate, gliding around with
partners. Others crawl about. Too episodic for its own good, Rushes isn’t as funny or as disquieting as maybe it hoped to be.

By contrast, Aquatica, with its dancers simulating rolling surf and waving seaweed and with a nymph willingly drawn to a water world while collecting beach shells, is beautifully conceived, lacking only a better score and some cutting. Pseudopedia featuring Jun Kirbayashi is in the tradition of the troupe’s athletic solos. The evening also included Momento Mori and Sweet Purgatory – purgatory, yes; sweet, no.

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