UCSB Alum Returns Home with Pilobolus
How Derion Loman Scored a Modern Dancer’s Dream Job
It’s been a hell of a week for Pilobolus Dance Theater. When I catch up with dancer and UCSB alum Derion Loman from a preshow stop in New Mexico, there are jazz pianos booming in the background. “We had someone get injured,” he explains, sounding a little exasperated. “So we’re currently having an emergency rehearsal in the lobby of the hotel.”
Such is the life of a traveling modern dancer — especially one touring with one of the hottest, most physically demanding companies currently making the rounds. Just two years ago, Loman was finishing up his undergraduate studies in UCSB’s acclaimed Department of Theater and Dance,where he worked under choreographers like Christina McCarthy and Christopher Pilafian, and choreographed and performed in multiple performances.
multiple performances. After college, Loman headed to New York for what he thought would be a two-week adventure. “While I was there, I auditioned for Ballet Hispanico’s second company, and I got that job,” he recalls. “Then I went to an open-call interview for a job at a hotel, and I got that. A friend of mine offered me a place to stay, and I called my dad, and I cancelled my ticket home.”
It’s been full-steam ahead ever since. Following a year with Ballet Hispanico — which included a gig at Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration — Loman went to an open audition for Pilobolus “on a whim” and ended up beating out somewhere around 100 male dancers for a part. “It was definitely one of the top three companies that I wanted to audition for and get into when I was in school,” he says.
For those unfamiliar with Pilobolus’s brand of highly physical dance theater, take heed. The New York–based company, founded in 1971, prides itself on an amorphous, highly collaborative, and ever-evolving repertoire. This Monday, November 17, when Pilobolus returns to Santa Barbara, they’ll perform five pieces that stretch back as far as 1981 and include everything from a trio loosely inspired by Greco-Roman myth to a dance about cyborgs discovering their humanity to a collaboration with the indie-rock band OK Go.
Despite his relative newcomer status, Loman has already helped choreograph two pieces — “On the Nature of Things” and “The Inconsistent Pedaler” — both of which will be performed in Santa Barbara. “It’s pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever done,” he says of the company’s openly collaborative process, though he admits that the initial weeks were daunting. “You’re in a room with all these really awesome creative people, so it’s a bit scary to put your ideas out there,” he says. “One of the things people stress when you’re new is not to be precious about it, because if you are then you’re crushed when something doesn’t work. But if you keep coming up with more ideas, you get better at it, your brain gets faster at it, and you get more work done.”
And Loman is no stranger to getting plenty done. In addition to performing at the Granada on Monday, he’ll lead a master class at UCSB during his short Santa Barbara stay. “I know the students I’m teaching, which is cool,” he adds. For those taking part in the class, it will surely be a solid firsthand lesson in how feasible it is to achieve your dreams, not to mention how great it feels when you do. Laughs Loman, “I mean, who gets to run around pretending you’re a freaking giraffe and say it’s their job?”
UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Pilobolus Dance Theater on Monday, November 17, 8 p.m., at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). For tickets, info, and more on the master classes being offered, call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.