March 4, 2010

Dance fever


— Cover Story''Pilobolus really focused people on the human body, the ability of the human body, not only physically but how it could communicate,'' said Aimee Petrin, executive director of Portland Ovations, which presents the Connecticut-based troupe on Friday at Merrill Auditorium.By

Staff Writer

Audiences in southern Maine have two opportunities in coming weeks to experience inventive contemporary dance.

One comes courtesy of a company with New England roots known for its athleticism; the other from a rising South African star who developed his craft while in residence at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston.

First up is Pilobolus, which got its start at Dartmouth College. The company performs at 8 p.m. Friday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, launching the 2009-10 season of Portland Ovations.

While the season features a mix of music and theater, there's a heavy emphasis on dance, and it begins with a company that set the bar for acrobatic, physical dance.

''Pilobolus is unique in that it is a company that created a new way of dance making and how people looked at dance and appreciated dance,'' said Aimee Petrin, executive director of Portland Ovations. ''Pilobolus really focused people on the human body, the ability of the human body, not only physically but how it could communicate.''

The roots of Pilobolus date to 1971 at Dartmouth and a class taught by Alison Chase, who now lives in Maine on Deer Isle. She served as artistic director of the Connecticut-based troupe until 2006.

The individual dances on Friday's program span the history of Pilobolus.

One is a piece called ''Pseudopodia'' from 1973. It's sculptural and playful, and representative of the Pilobolus style. The program also includes ''Megawatt,'' a full-throttle, amped-up piece set to the music of Radiohead and Primus. It's rambunctious and physical.

Another selection evokes fireflies and fairies; another feels whimsical and vaudevillian.

Rounding out the program is ''Gnomen,'' presented by a quartet of male dancers and set to music written by Paul Sullivan, a Grammy Award-winning musician who lives in Maine.

At 8 p.m. Oct. 16, the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston will host its first concert during the academic year. The festival occupies the Bates campus each August, but has never presented work while Bates students are in session.

''We want to put a face on the festival for the students at Bates, and we want to interact with the faculty,'' said Laura Faure, the festival's director. ''It's an experiment to spread out beyond the summer.''

The program features the South African company Vuyani Dance Theatre and its founding choreographer, Gregory Vuyani Moqoma.

Moqoma began training in Johannesburg in 1990 and creating work four years later. He formed Vuyani Dance Theatre a decade ago.

He has been to Bates several times, first for a residency in 2005 and then in 2008 as an instructor and performer.

For his performance on Oct. 16, Moqoma will present ''Beautiful Me,'' a collaborative global fusion piece that includes contributions from choreographers in the United Kingdom, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.

Two of Moqoma's three collaborators were in residency with him at Bates in 2005. ''This was the material they built while they were here,'' Faure said. ''When Greg came back in 2008, he performed excerpts of the piece, and now we're bringing him back to show the whole piece with musicians.''

The Bates performance marks the first stop on Moqoma's new tour, Faure said. It's fitting that the tour begins at Bates, because the festival was instrumental in his evolution as an artist.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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