Pilobolus’ Latest Tricks Are Harrowing

posted by Wendy Perron on Monday, Jul 22, 2013
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[esc] with Jordan Kriston in chair, Ben Coalter in box, photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy Pilobolus

Pilobolus always does something surprising in its annual summer run at the Joyce. Last year it was tango, and this year it’s a series of Houdini-like escapes. They’ve collaborated with magicians Penn & Teller, which makes sense considering how much of the Pils own artistry has to do with illusion.

The piece, called [esc], isn’t really dance but it’s definitely entertainment. As an audience member, you get really involved, wondering how the hell the dancers will escape the super tight bindings they are each put in. Ben Coalter’s been stuffed into a box, Jun Kuribayashi into a short duffle bag, and Shawn Ahern and Matt Del Rosario are chained to a pole. Oh, and Jordan Kriston is taped to a chair. There’s an element of horror to all this, and as an audience member you kind of recoil when you see them tying each other up—with the help of audience volunteers. You might even feel a bit suffocated when Eriko Jimbo puts a plastic bag over Jordan's head.

The Penn & Teller piece is on Program A of Pilobolus’ current run at the Joyce, which ends on August 4 (click here for tickets). Of course there is plenty of Classic Pilobolus on view too.  (For a stunning example of what I am calling Classic Pilobolus, click here to see Michael Tracy’s Symbiosis, which was performed at the Dance Magazine Awards in 2010.

And returning with new work this year is Trish Sie, who brought the zany tango-is-everywhere film and performance last year. (Click here and scroll down to see our interview with her.)

Pilobolus performances attract non-dancers, so my advice is to take a civilian friend. The college-age guys I know who are not particularly turned on by ballet or modern dance, love the physicality and humor of Pilobolus.