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Pilobolus’ Shadowland

Surreal and sexy, a remarkable evening of mind-blowing special effects and storytelling.

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Pilobolus in a scene from “Shadowland” (Photo credit: Ian Douglas)

Pilobolus in a scene from “Shadowland” (Photo credit: Ian Douglas)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar] Pilobolus, one of the few modern dance companies with a (deserved) worldwide reputation, returned to New York with its imaginative Shadowland, a dreamy, psycho-sexual journey into the mind of an adolescent girl.   All the theatrical tricks and muscular movements the troupe is famous for were evoked to produce a magical theater piece—at times eerie, moving and even funny (particularly the delightful post curtain call ode to NYC!).

Shadowland follows the young girl, played to perfection by Heather Jeane Favretto, on a surreal journey, exposing her fears and pleasures, leaving her forever changed.  A true collaborative adventure, the show is the product of the inventive minds of Steven Banks, Robby Barnett, Renée Jaworski, Matt Kent, Itamar Kubovy and Michael Tracy along with input from the original cast members.  This resulted in some inevitable unevenness of style and a few too sudden changes in mood, but the mind-boggling complexity of the choreography and stagecraft (including superb lighting by Neil Peter Jampolis, constantly morphing sets by Neil Patel and very sexy costumes by Liz Prince) plus the witty presentation of the wandering storyline, makes for an overwhelming theatrical experience.

We first see the girl in her very happy home being put to bed, a bed that is really three male dancers.  As she falls asleep she is lifted and the walls of her bedroom rotate and her dreamy adventure begins.

Pilobolus in a scene from “Shadowland” (Photo credit: Ian Douglas)

Pilobolus in a scene from “Shadowland” (Photo credit: Ian Douglas)

The title tells it all.  Most of the action is in the form of shadows on various mobile screens.  This allows for all sorts of surreal images in which the dancers turn themselves into centaurs, octopuses, trees, taxi cabs, and all the various demons that haunt the poor young lady.  She is pursued continually by dragons, food, oddball characters and a huge arm which reaches down and decapitates the girl, replacing her cranium with a dog’s head, leading her to become an exhibit in a carnival freak show from which she escapes, has many adventures, thrilling and romantic, meets the above-mentioned centaur, and is finally is restored to complete female-humanhood.

The score consisted of music by David Poe including songs, droning sounds and some sound effects creating an exacting and effective aural ambiance.

The other amazing dancer/actor/acrobats were Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern, Antoine Banks-Sullivan, Krystal Butler, Benjamin Coalter, Jordan Kriston, Derion Loman, Sayer Mansfield and Mike Tyus.  Their skill and beauty provide the brilliance and the backbone of Shadowland.

Pilobolus’ Shadowland (through December 6, 2015)

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

566 LaGuardia Place, between West 3rd Street and Washington Square South (West 4th Street), in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-998-4941 or visit

For more information, visit

Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (563 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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