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Performance Date:
February 2005

Freeform Review:

Posted by TED in February 2005, a man and woman from the company Pilobolus express the story of a piece called “Symbiosis:” their stage is empty and dimly lit for the 13:30 minute duration, and their costumes consist of flesh-toned, pleated, subtly beaded undergarments. The visual setup emphasizes the form of their bodies and is a reflection of the primitive nakedness of their vulnerable interactions throughout the piece. Musically, the polyphonic string melodies parallel the united nature of their movement, and although there are shifts between dissonance and harmony, there is an impression of separate entities coming together. 

The video description proposes that the piece could be about the birth of a relationship or the coevolution of symbiotic species, and the latter seems especially likely for the way that the dancers almost become one physiologically and kinesthetically. It is eerie the way they assume forms through their partnering in which they move around a newly created center of mass; their symbiotic sense of balance and convergence into one new being looks so inhuman to the point where it is often unsettling, yet beautifully captivating. They perform with such ease as a combined entity, but there are many choreographic moments in the beginning that restore them to their independent selves. Any moments of separation then emphasize the pull back together or how one might initiate and manipulate the other’s movement.

Only together can the dancers defy gravity and create an illusion of the human body taking on a new form. Human physicality and sensuality are reinvented through the combination of the artistic and emotional elements of the dancing with biological inspiration. The Pilobolus company is even named after a type of fungus that grows in cow feces, and a central theme across their works is biology. Symbiosis is defined by advantageous interactions between organisms through close physical association, and intimate contact and assisted movement are definitely sustained throughout the piece. 

The evolution of the choreography successfully indicates an evolution in the symbiosis. The dancers begin by finding ways to intertwine and move together more mechanically, and there are instances in which resistance or physical separation suggest the symbiotic relationship has not been fully established. As the music becomes less dissonant, the movement becomes more complex, with each individual being more reliant on the other to perform the desired effect. By the end of the piece, the music builds, the choreography becomes more emotionally expressive and abstract, and the dancers seem to fully surrender to each other emotionally and physically. “Symbiosis” leaves the observer simultaneously haunted by and desirous of such an unexplored synergy of body and soul.


Audrey Lipson


Photo Credit:
screen shot of "Symbiosis"

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