Hear Me Roar
The strong women of Pilobolus and how the perform in this modern and powerful dance troupe
he women of Pilobolus may be outnumbered by men, but they’re never upstaged.
The dance company—named after a fungus—was founded by four Dartmouth College men in 1971, and it has been dominated by males ever since. Seven dancers—five men and two women—comprise Pilobolus 7, the company’s repertory dance theater. Historically, Pilobolus has always had two women and typically four or five men, according to Renee Jaworski, an associate artistic director and dancer who has been with the company since 2000. Having two women creates a symmetry that is somehow captivating. Then, there are those who say, “It takes two men to do the job of one woman!” jives Jaworski.
Jaworski, 39, fills in when either of the two female members of Pilobolus, Jordan Kriston, 28, or Eriko Jimbo, also 28, are unable to perform.
Although these three women are in the minority, they often have majority of the stage time, especially when performing duets. The men do a lot of the heavy lifting, but their female partners are no slouches, either. As anyone knows who has seen Pilobolus perform, the pieces revolve around partnerships that are highly energetic, physically demanding, and often acrobatic. Together, dancers twist, turn, and propel their perfectly tuned bodies creating a mesmerizing motion that is quirky and comic one moment, and highly sensual and seductive another.
“Off stage we often feel like we’re just one of the guys,” says Japanese-born Jimbo, a three-year veteran of the company. “It can feel at times very male dominated; there is so much testosterone,” she adds. During her down time, Jimbo immerses herself in a hip-hop culture, representing two NYC based all-female crews: MAWU and FMinit in New York. “It’s like living with five brothers,” adds Kriston, a lithe, athletic blond from Arizona who joined the company two years ago.
“If we go out altogether after a show, it’s entirely different. Then I feel like we’re with five, very handsome, muscular bodyguards all the time. They are always there looking out for us like we’re their sisters,” says Jordan.
Jaworski, who is married and has a 15-year-old daughter, often faces the challenge of balancing a touring schedule with family life. “Luckily, I have a husband who is up to the task, but being a mother and wife on tour is not without its faults,” she says.
Last year, Jaworski was in the middle of filling in for another female dancer in Shadowland, Pilobolus’s other touring show that was performing in Vienna, Austria, when she was called to return to the United States to replace Jimbo who suffered an injury prior to opening night at the Joyce Theater in New York.
Such last-minute schedule changes can be tough on family life. “I’ve missed weeks of getting up and making my daughter breakfast, attending school functions, coaching sports, bringing cupcakes to school on her birthday. But the trade off was that she was able to travel with me to Italy. She came with me to Alaska on her birthday and the St. Lawrence String Quartet played her “Happy Birthday” on stage after the show.”
As for performing in the nude, wearing only a flesh-colored thong, it’s an awkwardness that both female and male dancers simply shrug off. “The anticipation is more scary than reality,” says Kriston. “You’re so invested in the piece that your body is the costume, and you don’t really think about the theater lights blaring down on you.” n