A few weeks ago my friends harassed me into taking a modern dance class. It is there that I learn how truly horrible I am at picking up dance combinations. I'm the bouncy girl in the back of the studio who just wants to break out of the routine and start twirling. Little did I know, this impulse is part of the genesis of modern dance.
The way my teacher explained it, some plucky dancers came along and said "WE'RE SICK OF BALLET." Their solution? To focus on how the body moves naturally. Instead of moving like a swan, move like a you. It's about losing inhibitions, taking risks, and becoming aware and connected with you in your own skin.
Pilobolus has taken this revolutionary spirit of modern dance to a wholly different place. They define themselves not as a modern dance company, but as a "modern performance company." They don't do dance, they do "dance theater." Part of this distinction seems to be semantic; this way they can do modern dance but not be judged solely by what have become the tenants of modern dance. But there is something deeper in this re-naming; it is something that has to do with the idea that dance and movement come from within.
The Pilobolus Institute was created as a way to bring dance to non-dancers as a way to help them become aware of their bodies, and how they interact with other people. Pilobolus defines the goal of the institute here:
"The Institute is a series of educational programs that apply that process for greater good, helping groups of any kind work better together and achieve greater common goals. Institute programs are designed to explore the necessary conditions for this success, and use the art of collaborative choreography as a model for creative thinking in any field. Through this process we begin to understand more generally the way groups can organize themselves to do things more efficiently and well."
Some of their recent projects? "Workshops at Avon Corporation, Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, and a program at the Babcock School at Wake Forest University."Professional dancers are walking into corporate offices and convincing people that there is something worth learning about the way they move. If I attended one of these workshops, I feel like I'd be the bouncy employee in the back who just wants to break out of the routine and start twirling. Thing is, I think they'd go for that.