GREAT BARRINGTON -- Pilobolus, the energetic dance company founded by a group of imaginative and determined Dartmouth students, this month is marking its 42nd year.
In those four decades of fertile activity the fabled troupe from Washington Depot, Conn. not only has produced some 150 works for dance audiences, but also has managed to become a brand name that appears to exert much effort in developing events for television and for corporate presentations under its creative wing, along with its extensive educational pursuits.
Hence, the Pilobolus that returned Saturday evening to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center seemed a much more self-aware, confident-in-its-mission aggregation than the one that tip-toed into its first set of stage lights in 1971.
The eight dancers, of course, were different, the repertory combined the new with vintage milestones. but this particular evening emerged rather as an adroitly designed package of movement and visual stimulation for a group of spectators ready to admire and adore. That fan base did not disappoint, or finally seem disappointed with the results. Rather conventional dancing, the expected resourceful acrobatics and finally just enough measured titillation conspired in the offering.
The program represented an effort to be seamless, with the
nine dancers warming up on stage prior to the animated welcome and explanation of Pilobolus on a screen dropped from the flies. In an attempt to keep the action moving, a series of entr'actes were posted on the descending video screen between numbers -- exploring such matters as household explosions that could happen to the unwary, a mass-production playland, and kites soaring against an urban cityscape as Lakmé and Mallika's operatic duet pushes on ever more fervently.
Still, if conjunction was the purpose of these interludes, some awkward pauses for stage management still must be worked out.
"Licks," a collaboration this year by Trish Sie and Renée Jaworski, had as its anchor a set of 12 sturdy ropes of various lengths that snap and coil, and bind and pull the six dancers involved in the piece. The four men and two women, listed as co-collaborators, dressed simply and barefoot, were arranged in couple or threesome patterns for generally rowdy behavior that mocked each other, sex and other matters, with a score of Tijuana's Nortec Collective: Bostich & Fussible providing the heavy beat laced with the sounds of beloved T'Town sans the aroma of a nearby taco stand.
"Skyscraper," which looks like the restaged Trish Sie/Ok Go music video it is, imagines colorfully attired couples -- men and women, and men and men, stiletto heels for the girls, Capezios for the guys -- outdoing each other in tangos along the streets and sidewalks of East Los Angeles as Paula Salhany's brick-and- mortar, wooden fences and other urban structures race behind them.
Viewing the future already upon us, "Automaton," a 2012 collaboration of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the Belgian choreographer, and Jaworski, employs a detachable triptych of three large double-sided mirrors to convey the differences in our industrial robot element -- still slightly jerky in movement - and our remaining human presence -- only slightly more fluid at this point.
Attired in clothing designed for factory working people, the cast, credited as in all Pilobolus works as collaborators, includes the customary company mix of four men and two women in various roles as they shift the mirrors in changing positions for duty, reflection and new spatial discoveries. Max Richter's score, initially Minimalist, drifts eventually into sepulchral sounds of mournful strings, a bit too serious perhaps for this effort.
Following intermission, the clothing came off -- mostly -- and the dancers, including the women, were covered only by brief midsection thongs, and no costume designers were listed.
In "Shizen," a name suggesting earth and nature, a man and woman hunched close to the floor crawl slowly from opposite sides of the stage, pause and pass each other, proceed, then return for an artfully acrobatic liaison, suggesting Adam and Eve. The piece, choreographed and performed originally by two company founders, Alison Chase and Moses Pendleton, was interpreted this time by Jordan Kriston and Nile Russell to a recording of Riley Lee's seductive performance on the shakuhachi, a low-pitched Japanese flute.
"Day Two," choreographed by Pendleton and the seven dancers who first performed it in 1978, suggests the momentous activity on the second day of the earth's creation. The dancers -- four men and three women this time -- explore evolution, depicting first the earliest forms of life in multifarious formations, including one seemingly mooning the audience. Humans emerge suddenly from the sea, a large billowing tarp that covers the front of the stage.
That faux sea turned out to have a supply of water as the evening's nine cast members in their bows, sailed across the water, splashing it, executing somersaults and other spontaneous reactions that the proximity of water induces in fun-loving people.
The capacity crowd cheered.