The Pilobolus modern dance troupe is known for their ability to manipulate the human form – connecting with each other to create gravity-defying feats that seem fluid and almost effortless.
The company was founded in 1971 by graduates of Dartmouth College with very little exposure to dance.
Correspondent Nikki Battiste asked, “Pilobolus has been nicknamed the ‘Rebel Dance Company‘. Why?”
“I think part of that was, from the start, about not having a dance training,” said Pilobolus education director Emily Kent. “They also didn’t like wearing clothes. So there was a lot of nudity!”
But deep in the woods of western Connecticut, these rebels have found another cause: they train seniors in a skill essential to their choreography: the art of balance.
“Pilobolus is really, the movement is for everyone,” Kent said. “It’s a way for people who might never have thought they would dance to dance and move their body in a way they never had.”
They exercise so that they can move throughout their lives.
“We do some things with our eyes,” Kent said. “We are working on the mobility of different joints, and cardiovascular, or the strength to pick up something heavy.”
“Everything she does for us helps us grow old,” said class member Ellen Heydet.
“That’s the main reason we’re here is to live healthier as we age,” said Lou Heydet.
Battiste asked Fourgie Smith, “How has Pilobolus changed you?”
“I have more stamina for things,” replied Smith. “I don’t have empty arms as much as I do.”
Patricia Werner said: “I feel like for years I was working too hard to get the right amount of exercise. And so I feel better than when I was younger.”
They also strengthen their ability to remain independent.
Batiste asked, “What did you learn about the importance of balance in your life as you got older? “
“It’s extremely important,” Lou said. “Even as a firefighter, we answered calls where people fell down the stairs, older people. And I still have a hard time with that. But if I fall, you can recover after these lessons.”
Kent used his time in quarantine to expand the reach of the class, zoom in with people across the country, and develop a series of videos. There is a small supplement for the lessons.
To watch an introductory video, click on the player below:
In-person classes also continued for much of the pandemic. It was a physical and mental lifeline for the participants.
“It was our social life,” said Ellen.
“Especially during COVID, my God,” Lou said.
Smith said: “The value of the COVID capsule that we have formed, I think was a very important part of our sense of connection to life.”
Kent said: “It’s really that power of connecting with art and movement and with each other as human beings.”
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