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Pilobolus explores human experience with ‘revolutionary’ dance

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For more than 45 years, Pilobolus has created, performed and preserved dances.

The modern dance ensemble has worked on various scales, such as the 79th annual Academy Awards, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”

Matt Kent

The group is known for its signature lifts and contortions that seem to suspend gravity.

It also explores the human experience through dance with humor, sensitivity and beauty.

“It’s all very revolutionary,” says Matt Kent, co-artistic director. “I love making new work. That’s one of the things I love doing.”

As co-artistic director, Kent works with Renée Jaworski in creating new pieces.

On stage is where Kent is comfortable. He started with the group as a dancer in 1996.

Outside of Pilobolus, he worked as the zombie choreographer for AMC’s series, “The Walking Dead” and as movement consultant on Duncan Shiek’s musical, “Whisper House.”

Kent has also been head choreographer for Andre Heller’s “Magnifico,” a large-scale circus production; choreographer for a Sports Emmy-nominated teaser created in collaboration with the NFL Network; and choreographer for a television appearance on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien”; choreographer and movement for Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” co-directed by Teller and Aaron Posner.

He is one of the creators of Pilobolus’ hit show “Shadowland,” and he has performed in 24 countries and on Pilobolus’ appearance at the 79th Academy Awards.

Kent especially enjoys creating new pieces.

“Working with new dancers and working with different subject matters is amazing,” he says. “We got to work with Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn on ‘Echo in the Valley.’ It’s an interesting piece. We also have a brand-new work that premiered at Jacob’s Pillow last summer. It’s about the dialog with nature and our history. It’s taking inspiration from science and nature.”

Jacob’s Pillow Dance is a performance space in Becket, Mass., that hosts the oldest international summer dance festival in the United States.

Kent says that in his many years with Pilobolus, the evolution of the dances has been interesting.

“We do evolve and we do change,” he says. “I’m not the curator of past works of Pilobolus. But each piece breathes and changes. I think that we’ve always been interested in multiple points of view and input in making the creative narrative grow. We’re more diverse than we’ve ever been.”

Pilobolus’ outreach and community programs also keep Kent and crew busy.

In fact, when the group stops in Albuquerque for its show on Friday, Jan. 19, it will also be performing a show for kids.

“We put on a show that’s about how we relate with nature,” he says. “Our secret agenda is to get an audience to look up from the screens of their phones for a little bit.”

Pilobolus is also working on an education and wellness program for people ages 55 and over.

In addition, the group is also working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology on various programs.

“Right now, we also have a cast in China,” he says. “We have a cast that just left from Greece and is in Saudi Arabia. We’re thrilled to be out there. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments because the dancers have to be covered. The mission is to do our work and art. This is all so different, and we continue to change the world a little at a time.”

Kent’s transition from dancer to artistic director has been seamless.

While he doesn’t dance as much, he’s grateful to work with talented dancers.

“I’ve been in their shoes and know how far to push them,” he says. “I’ll get on the floor and dance sometimes, but those days are far behind me.”