Monday, May 16, 2011

Pilobolus: The Human Alphabet, with photographs by John Kane (2005)

The Human AlphabetThis was an accidental find during our last trip to the library.  It is also, hands down, the most original and stunning alphabet book I've come across yet.

Remember the old-school episodes of Sesame Street where several kids lay on the ground and used their bodies to form the "Letter of the Day"?  That's the basic concept here, except that the letters are executed by highly skilled professional dancers, exquisitely balanced upright and gracefully intertwined.  And that's just the beginning.  Each page of the book not only features a small "human alphabet" letter in one of its corners but is dominated by a second image (also formed by the dancers' bodies) signifying a word beginning with that letter.  This interactive dimension challenges the reader to guess the word being represented.  And many of these are somewhat abstract---at least at first---inviting us to think and see differently---and to look again and again.  Thus this book calls us---adults and children equally---into an experience of genuine wonder as we marvel at the wit and genius behind each creation, the beauty and skill of human bodies pushed to the limits of strength and flexibility, and the profound intimacy and collaboration such work requires.

Note: The Pilobolus Dance Company has been around for 40 years.  You can see samples of their work on their website or by searching for them on YouTube. 

Miss E's Read:  She loved guessing the images and later spent several evenings poring over its details in her darkened room, long after she was supposed to go to sleep.  She also, naturally, wanted to re-enact her favorite pages, which didn't exactly work so well... ;)

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