Modern dance troupe Pilobolus pivots to help seniors stay upright

Modern dance troupe Pilobolus are known for their ability to manipulate the human form – connecting with each other to create gravity-defying feats that seem fluid and almost effortless.

Members of the Pilobolus dance company perform.

Pilobole

The company was founded in 1971 by Dartmouth College graduates with little exposure to dance.

Correspondent Nikki Battiste asked: “Pilobolus has been dubbed the ‘rebel dance company’. Why?”

“I think part of it was, early on, not having a dance background,” said Pilobolus director of education Emily Kent. “They also didn’t like wearing clothes. So there was a lot of nudity!

But deep in the woods of western Connecticut, these rebels have found another cause: they’re training old people in a skill essential to their choreography: the art of balance.

“Pilobolus is really about the movement is for everyone,” Kent said. “It’s a way for people who might never have thought they would dance to dance and move their bodies in ways they never would.”

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Emily Kent of Pilobolus leads a balancing class.

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They exercise so that they can move throughout their lives.

“We do some things with our eyes,” Kent said. “We work on the mobility of different joints and the cardiovascular system, or the strength to pick up something heavy.”

“Everything she does for us helps us grow old,” said Ellen Heydet, a student in the class.

“That’s the main reason we’re here is to live healthier as we age,” Lou Heydet said.

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Battiste asked Fourgie Smith, “How did Pilobolus change you?”

“I have more stamina for things,” Smith replied. “I don’t have empty arms as much as I do.”

Patricia Werner said: “I feel like for years I’ve worked too hard to get the right amount of exercise. And so, I feel better than when I was younger.

They also strengthen their ability to simply stand on their own two feet.

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Batiste asked, “What did you learn about the importance of balance in your life when you were older?”

“It’s extremely important,” Lou said. “Even as a firefighter we went to calls where people fell down the stairs, old people. And I still have trouble with that. But if I fall, you can pull yourself together after these classes.

Kent used his time in quarantine to expand the reach of the class, zoom in with people across the country and develop a video series. There is a small supplement for lessons.

To watch an introductory video, click on the player below:

In-person classes also continued through much of the pandemic. It was a physical and mental lifesaver for the participants.

“It was our social life,” Ellen said.

“Especially during COVID, my goodness,” Lou said.

Smith said: “The value of the COVID module that we formed, I think was a very important part of our sense of connection to life.”

Kent said, “It’s really that power of connecting to art and movement and to each other as human beings.”


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