Take In A More Perfect World At The Pilobolus 5 Senses Festival
Members of Pilobolus at the under-construction festival grounds.
By Lisa Green
On three weekends coming up very soon, magic will happen in Washington, Conn. Pilobolus, itself a spellbinding dance company that calls this town home, will build a world filled with performers, visual artists, writers, computer scientists and world-class thinkers — and the rest of us — at the 5 Senses Festival, July 27-29, August 1-5 and August 10-11.
Created to take people out of their everyday lives, the festival will awaken all senses for those who attend. Musicians will perform; art installations will encourage participants to interact and play; sunrise meditation and yoga will stretch body, mind and soul; “tent” talks will inspire thought and conversations; well-known chefs will curate community dinners in a sylvan setting.
The vision of this festival, says Itamar Kubovy, executive director of Pilobolus, is to take people out of their everyday lives to experience life from a new perspective.
Pilobolus Executive Director Itamar Kubovy.
“We’ve been so interrupted, so rushed, and our bandwidth gets so narrow. The experiences we’re planning at the festival will slow you down and expand your bandwidth,” says Kubovy. “You can let yourself taste again, engage in physical and wellness events that allow you to notice a sunrise and sunset, and take a moment to be more mindful.”
The idea to make it an interactive event is an outgrowth of the company’s own philosophy, Kubovy explains. It’s also a part of its vision for the company’s own future. “We’re trying to build a model for the next 50 years,” says Kubovy. “Our goal is to remain a rural arts organization.”
“Pilobolus has been inviting a lot of different artists, thinkers, writers and musicians to make pieces with us. We’ve also invited nonartists. We hope to push our vision of what’s possible in our form onstage and to address the idea that art is not confined to boundaries. We want to share our work and amazing accomplishments of world-class artists and thinkers with our local community.”
Anyone who’s seen Pilobolus perform knows that the company’s work depends on group physicality. The festival echoes that concept in its approach to programming.
“We work together all year round, so we wanted to open that up to the community,” says co-artistic director Renee Jaworski. “It’s important to us that we’re not isolated from the people who live here. Engagement with the audience is our most important conversation.”
A handful of the artists, performers and presenters. Top: Lady Rizo, singer; Julian Fleisher, singer and musician; C.C. White, singer. Middle: Lisette Diaz, American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Advocate; Barry Blitt, cartoonist and illustrator; Lauren Booth, visual artist. Bottom: Gabe McMackin, chef and owner of The Finch; Charles Melcher, founder and director of the Future of StoryTelling; Abigail Pogrebin, author.
And, she adds, there’s no better place to do it than in the company’s home town. Supporters of Pilobolus acquired and designed a field to become the festival’s location. There’s no permanent structure on the grounds, which allows for flexibility. The field, billed as a “brand new farm-meets-renaissance-piazza,” will become a gathering place for attendees to have an artistic experience in nature. (There will, however, be enough modern conveniences — a really nice bathroom in a 1929 train car, with running water, for one — and a vintage Airstream that will serve as a bar. With “eclectic local and exotic libations.”)
Performances will take place in the tent and at an outdoor amphitheater in the woods designed by sculptor Mark Mennin. Parking will be available on the field, and if it rains, the tent will provide shelter.
The lineup is varied and dazzling in its scope and caliber of presenters/performers. Sunrise brings with it meditations, exercise walks in nature and Pilobous yoga. The day moves along with creative activities, “Pizza to the People” lunches, and symposiums. Author Alexandra Styron will give a talk on youth and courage; Litchfield County author Dani Shapiro, mindfulness teacher Sylvia Boorstein and poet Major Jackson will discuss time and mindfulness; musicians Bela Fleck, Jeremy Denk and Broadway artists will perform. When the stars come out, there will be late-night performances and dance parties. Pilobolus company members will be on site, performing, teaching and participating along with attendees.
Kubovy is quick to point out that this won’t be some Woodstock-like mega event.
“There’ll never be more than 300 people at a time,” he says. “It will be like a cool park, where magical things happen.”
Many of the events in the lineup are free, while others involve ticketing. Reservations are necessary for most events, whether free or not, to keep numbers manageable, but the field is open to the public during the weekends for those who want to just soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the farm-to-table food offerings.
All of the events, performer bios and registration options are on the website, and bear some serious study to create a sense-filled day or weekend.
“It’s our fantasy of what a great life can feel like for a few days,” Kubovy says — the cherry on top of living in the Rural Intelligence region.
Pilobolus 5 Senses Festival
Weekends from July 27 – August 11
292 Bee Brook Rd., Washington, CT