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DANCE AND MUSIC REVIEWS : Pilobolus Covers Up at Pepperdine

March 26, 1993|LEWIS SEGAL

Masters of movement metaphor, the members of Pilobolus Dance Theatre ended up parodying it in a largely familiar seven-part program at Pepperdine on Wednesday.

Back in the early 1970s, the company specialized in using gymnastics as a metaphor for dance--in the process enlarging definitions of the art.

Before long, however, the smoothly mutating people-chains of "Ciona" (1973) and the lyric body-sculpture of "Ocellus" (1972) became part of the dance landscape. But they still retain their sense of the miraculous, while Jonathan Wolken's solo "Pseudopodia" (1974) seems as fresh as ever: an action painting of a human tumbleweed (Adam Battelstein) rolling in the wind.

Indeed, Wolken's 1992 "Solo" looks positively primitive next to his earlier creation, lacking a central image or premise other than John-Mario Sevilla's fabulous spinal pliancy.

If Sevilla remains superbly supple here, so do Kent Lindemer and Jude Woodcock in Michael Tracy's rag-doll Punch and Judy duet "Clandestiny" (1990), and that piece looks equally arbitrary in its development.

Of recent repertory, the collaborative "Duet--Title to Be Determined" from last year proves the most electric, tracing stages of a relationship through intimate and often nearly impossible lifts.

The fact that two women perform the duet--and that an engulfing embrace emerges as its root-motif--adds a dimension of technical and political risk. But Woodcock and Rebecca Jung execute it as if born for nothing else and the medieval Norwegian women's songs accompanying it generate a compelling, almost mythic aura.

In Moses Pendleton's "Debut C" (1988), the men deploy 10-foot poles to suggest tents, Christ's cross, wings and various geometric shapes. However, the metaphoric overkill turns overtly satiric only when sex becomes his theme. At this point, the women lie on their backs and form huge apertures with their arms and legs while the men recline, holding those poles between their upper thighs.

When "Debut C" appeared at UCLA in 1990, the oversized symbolic genitalia were offset (and mocked) by the simplicity and innocence of genuine nudity: Woodcock and Lindemer dancing sweetly for one another. However, Pepperdine doesn't allow nudity, so the innocents stayed covered up on Wednesday--blunting much of Pendleton's statement though not the evidence of his unfettered imagination.

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