The dance company Pilobolus is named for a fungus that has the ability to launch its spores a distance of up to two meters—for a person, that would mean being thrown through the air at 100 times the speed of sound. The pilobolus fungus is also remarkable for its accuracy. The company makes no such claims; late co-founder Jonathan Wolken describes how Pilobolus’s first forty years brought about “the evolution of our own style…whatever that might be.” As co-diector Robby Barnett remarks, and as Ruoff illustrates, the company is process-oriented. For Barnett, that process is more interesting than any of the finished dances the company has produced.
Still Moving opens with footage of the dancers loading up a couple of cars and hitting the road. They’re on their way from the company’s studios in Washington Depot, CT to Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. Wolken, Barnett, and Michael Tracy began the collaboration that would evolve into Pilobolus at Dartmouth in the early 1970s. With no prior dance education, they worked to amuse themselves, living communally and practicing in any spare space they could find.
Forty years out, the company still embraces that experimental, simple, communal way of living and working (some interviews are punctuated by insects chirping in the background). The dancers are like a family, supporting one another through injuries and Wolken’s death in 2010.
Ruoff captures the company thoughtfully through interviews, performance footage, and clips of Pilobolus in rehearsal. Perhaps most telling is footage from the community workshops, classes in which the public get to participate in the creative process of developing movement, comfort and trust in one another to make a short dance work.
The film runs 38 minutes. The DVD also contains a version dubbed over with Ruoff’s insightful commentary. This documentary does a thorough job of celebrating what’s so unique about Pilobolus, a modern dance company that, as Barnett half-jokes, doesn’t “know anything about modern dance.”