Pilobolus Teaches Dancers to Think, Move Outside the Box

Thirty-six students participated in a master class held by members of the internationally renowned modern dance company.

Students learned where to find inspiration and how to incorporate a breath of fresh air into their dances from Pilobolus in a master class taught by the company.

Students learned where to find inspiration and how to incorporate a breath of fresh air into their dances from Pilobolus in a master class taught by the company.

She seemed a little nervous as he began to use her body as a pedestal to create a shape.

Rachel Spaugh, a senior dance major from Lubbock, listened carefully as Pilobolus dance captain Jun Kuribayashi, began teaching her the collaborative choreographic method and weight-sharing approach that made the dance troupe famous.

Spaugh was one of 36 students from the Department of Theatre and Dance who participated in a master class held by five members of the internationally renowned modern dance company following their March performance for the Presidential Performance & Lecture Series.

“I was kind of nervous going into it because of watching last night’s performance,” she said.  “I wondered ‘are they going to make me do all that?’ I was a little scared coming in, but I just loved it. I felt like it was a breath of fresh air. It really added to my tool box of creativity as a dancer and a choreographer.”

Exposing Students to Professional Dance

Genevieve Durham, head of Texas Tech’s dance program, said the department tries to recruit at least one high-quality professional company each year to teach a master class to the university’s dance students.

“We have a lot of students who are really contemplating graduating the program and going on to pursue professional dance,” she said. “This is a really wonderful forum for them to ask these current working dancers what it’s like, what the life’s like, what you have to do, and what you have to sacrifice to make that work.”

Read about and view pictures from a theatre master class here.

Informing the World

During the master class, Texas Tech's social media team live-tweeted the class from for all of twitter to experience what the students learned.

Learn more about Pilobolus by connecting with them on , and their blog.

No Real Dance Training Needed

Pilobolus dancer Chris Whitney said the company began in 1971 and was founded by a chemistry student, a psychology student and a computer science student at Dartmouth College.

“They had no dance experience,” Whitney said. “They needed to fulfill a P.E. credit, so they decided to take a dance class because the teacher was really hot. She taught them how to make dance. And they created a piece called ‘Pilobolus.’ ”

The company quickly became distinguished for its imaginative and athletic exploration of creative collaboration and developed into a new modern genre of American dance theater.

“Our dances are very theatrically driven,” Kuribayashi said. “It is not just about the movement. There are characters. We work just as much on theatrical intention as we do the technique of the moves. It is learning how to think outside the box and see the world and create choreography that is different than anything out there. It is learning that anything can be dance as long as the intention is there.”

Phillip Wainwright, a sophomore psychology major from Austin, said he, too, started with a hobby in dance and no real training. He said the collaborative effort of the Pilobolus dancers changed the way he thought about dance.

“One of the things I noticed about Pilobolus was they meshed to an extent where you can see they have more than just a professional connection,” Wainwright said. “I think if a lot of people embrace that, then they can become better dancers. I also liked that they inspire improvisation in ways we have not thought of before.

See the Master Class


School of Theatre & Dance

Department of Theatre and Dance

Texas Tech School of Theatre & Dance is part of the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts. It is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, and fosters the highest standards of scholarship and creative activity, providing opportunities for students and faculty to work actively in both areas. It champions training and education in a breadth of specialized programs, encourages students to cross boundaries between them, and prepares them for careers in both practice and pedagogy. By integrating theory, artistry, performance and scholarship, and striving to promote an inclusive and equitable environment, the school serves as a vital force in the cultural and intellectual life of our communities.

The university is one of two in Texas to offer all traditional degrees in theatre, and one of only three in the southwest to offer a Ph.D. in fine arts.

Students in the School of Theatre & Dance pursue a core curriculum that includes training in the areas of design, acting, directing, dance, stage management, history and playwriting.



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