Bijou's diverse acts keep nightlife scene interesting

David Stewart and Kristina Pleiss enjoy the Pilobolus performance at the Bijou Theatre.

David Stewart and Kristina Pleiss enjoy the Pilobolus performance at the Bijou Theatre.

Bijou Theatre

Downtown - Knoxville



803 S. Gay Street


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Every so often the nightlife scene gets stale to me and I need to spice up my outings somehow. Just as I started falling into that rut of boredom again, the Bijou Theatre (and UT's Cultural Attractions Committee) provided me with an opportunity to break the monotony.

This time, it wasn't a rock concert. Instead, I found myself at a modern-dance performance - something I don't frequently attend. But I'm glad I went to see Pilobolus - a nationally renowned dance company.

For a Monday night show, the place was packed. The Bijou had close to a full house, showing the significance of the dance company (which has been performing since the early '70s).

I've seen my share of concerts at the Bijou and have found the sound to be consistently excellent and the intimate-yet-spacious nature of the historic venue to make for good audience/performer interaction - something I could see being crucial for an unorthodox dance group.

The show featured six acts, five of which were set to music. The pieces ranged from two performers to the entire cast of seven (with some involving members coming and going off stage sporadically). The costumes were wide-ranging - brightly colored leotards, Victorian-style dresses and combat gear.

One of the key aspects of the performance is interlocking limbs and conjoined bodies. At many points throughout the show it's difficult to tell where one body begins and one ends. The performers use their torsos and legs to contort into shapes that, when affected by the lighting, makes you think, "Oh, that design is amazing!" before realizing it literally consists of body parts.

The group makes use of every aspect of performing on stage, using every square inch to their advantage. During one segment two women in extremely lengthy dresses danced about stage briefly before their height doubled - the work of two other performers hiding underneath the dress and lifting them onto their shoulders. One piece consisted solely of silhouettes and used lighting trickery in combination with contortion skills to befuddle the audience as to how such an image could be appearing on the draped white curtain.

Even though I was sitting in one of the back rows of the balcony, it felt like the action of Pilobolus was right up in my face. Their presence was much larger than that of a few people on a medium-sized stage.

While they entertained us for close to two hours with athleticism that could rival Peyton Manning mixed in with artistic expression, the sound was lacking. Some songs were played over the PA while others were performed by an in-house orchestra. Unfortunately, the PA focused heavily on the low-end sounds, and the orchestra seemed off-balance.

In the past, Pilobolus has performed at the Tennessee Theatre, but this time they were brought in by UT's Cultural Attractions Committee. I have to commend the committee for picking something so unique and bringing in the Connecticut-based company to perform at one of the city's most well-known and historic venues.

And I have to thank both them and the Bijou for the opportunity to see something new.

The Cultural Attractions Committee will bring Drumline Live to the Tennessee Theatre on March 3.

The Bijou Theatre brings dance back to Knoxville with GO! Contemporary Dance Works' production of "The Barbarosa" - "an original work based on the life of the female pirate Anne Bonny combining modern ballet with traditional dance forms" - on Feb. 12 and 13.

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