There's something about the unadulterated human body -- barely clad, muscled, in motion -- that is absolutely thrilling. Such was the case at Pepperdine University on Tuesday when Renee Jaworski and Otis Cook, two members of Pilobolus Dance Theatre, displayed astonishing feats of virtuosic balance and endurance in the 2001 duet "Symbiosis." This work, choreographed by Michael Tracy, one of the company's directors, in collaboration with the dancers, was one of two pieces new to Los Angeles that the company presented to a sold-out crowd at Smothers Theatre.
Set to recordings of the Kronos Quartet playing highly dramatic selections including Arvo Part and George Crumb, the 15-minute pas de deux was as noteworthy for its pure sculptural tableaux as for its feral moves. Whether the duo was making use of back-bending contortions or amoeba-like slitherings, an intense lyricism was in play.
Not nearly so successful: Alison Chase's "Monkey and the White Bone Demon," a martial arts-like fantasy. Here, Ras Mikey C, as a pliant, pole-wielding monkey, did battle with Matt Kent's steel-stilted demon, while a trio (Cook as monk and Jaworski and Mark Fucik as pilgrims), also bending poles, were constantly being rescued by the simian. Set to a musical pastiche by Paul Sullivan -- including rock, Japanese flute and the "Lone Ranger" theme), the work suffered from Keystone Kops-like silliness, although Kent's stilt-sauntering prowess proved admirable.
The previously reviewed "Davenen" (2000) was exquisitely danced by the company, while 1971's barefoot-slapping romp, "Walklyndon," withstood time's test to maintain its crowd-pleasing status.