Arts & CultureCampus & City

Preview: Alberta Ballet presents Shadowland by Pilobolus

What: Alberta Ballet presents Shadowland by Pilobolus
When: Tuesday Sept 27 and Wednesday Sept 28, 7:30 PM
Where: Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Tickets: $24.00 – $124.00

What do you get when you combine the writing talent behind Spongebob Squarepants with the acrobatic skill of modern dance? The result is Shadowland — the story of a half human/half canine known as Dog Girl.

“It’s a show without a genre,” says Heather Jeane Favretto, the dancer and acrobat who portrays Dog Girl in the production. “It’s storytelling, it’s theatrical, and it’s circus.”

Alberta Ballet, as they begin their 50th season, is introducing Shadowland by Pilobolus as their first show of the year. The show, which was created in collaboration with SpongeBob SquarePants lead writer Steven Banks and film composer David Poe, uses the silhouettes of its dancers to visually explore the narrative of Dog Girl as she adventures through adolescence into adulthood. Pilobolus, who is the contemporary dance company staging the production, embarks on their Canadian tour with stops at Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on September 27 and 28.

Favretto joined Pilobolus in 2010 and has been working with them steadily since. She notes that part of the company’s appeal comes from their efforts to target all audiences, not only those who are familiar with dance.

“Part of the goal of Pilobolus is to be more than just a dance company,” says Favretto. “(We want) to reach out to bigger communities.”

The company has made a point of working with a variety of diverse acts in order to broaden their fan base. In recent years, the company has collaborated with entertainers such as Vegas-regulars Penn & Teller, and the podcast Radiolab but they have also looked outside of the industry to places like MIT’s robotics lab as well.

“We are big into collaboration and interested in creating new things that couldn’t be done just by a dance company,” says Favretto. “Working with people from different walks of life brings something new to each project, and in this way, we’re broadening people’s awareness about dance and the arts.”

Favretto notes that collaboration presents itself within the company as well.

“When you are hired as a dancer with Pilobolus, you’re actually a collaborator, our opinions and our voices matter,” she says.

Pilobolus’ performance at the 2007 Academy Awards is one Favretto notes as being important to the company. During the show, Pilobolus created images of that year’s nominated films through silhouettes behind a screen, a form of dance and art that had never before graced the Dolby Theatre stage. It introduced the company’s artistic use of shadows to the world on one of the largest stages possible.

“The Academy Awards were huge for us,” says Favretto. “(It was) the kind of success that propelled us to create Shadowland.”

But the accomplishments of the company would be nothing without the people working with her, says Favretto. In her mind, the success and enjoyment of being a part of Pilobolus comes from the numerous individuals who unite behind the scenes on productions like Shadowland — it’s clear that to Favretto, this is where the magic of Pilobolus really comes from.

“Everyday that I get to go to work, I am blown away by the courage, creativity and innovation of my coworkers,” she says. “I am constantly surrounded by brilliant, genius dancing people all day long. It’s really incredible.”

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