“Zuštiak creates no movement that looks like dancing for its own sake. It becomes a statement of identity, a task to be completed, an urge to be satisfied.” -Deborah Jowitt, ArtsJournal
Pavel Zuštiak is the 2015 Bessie Juried Award winner for his “poetic layering of movement and visual imagery, conceiving the stage space as a decentralized world in which the corporeal body is the focus and canvas for a wide range of human expression,” a 2015-17 Princeton Arts Fellow, the recipient of 2013 LMCC President’s Award for Excellence in Artistic Practice and 2012 NEFA/NDP Production and Residency Grants, 2010 Guggenheim Fellow and 2014, 2009, and 2007 Princess Grace Awards Winner. His 5-hour trilogy The Painted Bird received a 2013 Bessie Award nomination for Outstanding Production.
“A vivid, often anguished imagination shines through in Zuštiak’s work.” -Brian Seibert, The New Yorker
Custodians of Beauty, 2015
Custodians of Beauty continues an exploration begun in Zuštiak’s previous work, Endangered Pieces, forging towards abstraction, minimalism, and restrained expressive modes while amplifying potency of an image; human body as sculpture, emotional trigger, or a political symbol. In an age when humanity, disenchanted with itself, seems to have rejected the necessity of beauty, Custodians of Beauty asks us to look again, beyond the surface, to see differently. Zuštiak works with his critically acclaimed creative team, Christian Frederickson (Music), Joe Levasseur (Lighting), Simon Harding (Set), Ásta Bennie Hostetter (Costumes), Megan Carter (Dramaturgy), Nick Bruder (Performer), Emma Judkins (Performer), and Justin Morrison (Performer). Custodians of Beauty is co-commissioned by Walker Art Center, New York Live Arts, American Dance Institute, Legion Arts and National Performance Network and received additional development support of Jerome Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Cowles Center, Gibney Dance and Materials for the Arts.
Review by Deborah Jowitt
Endangered Pieces, 2013
Endangered Pieces, the most recent work by Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo, exposes the most vulnerable, endangered, aspects of two seemingly disconnected realities — human existence and theatrical performance. The work reflects upon people’s propensity to become their own worst enemies, and upon the cataclysm in contemporary economic, ecological and cultural landscapes, foreboding its arrival the way a dog senses an earthquake. With its set and costumes reduced to bare minimum, Endangered Pieces determinedly returns to the human body as the main medium of expression, exploring its multifaceted potential as an abstract sculpture, emotional trigger, and political symbol. Performed by a trio of dancers (Viňarský, Matthew Rogers and Zuštiak), this theatrical reverie of visually haunting scenes is shaped by movement, evocative lightning design by longtime Palissimo collaborator Joe Levasseur, and architectural live music by Christian Frederickson (of Rachel’s) and Bobby McElver (of the Wooster Group).
STRANGE CARGO (The Painted Bird: Part III), 2012
“There is no essential difference between war and any other traumatic experience,” said Jerzy Kosiński in an often-cited interview given to Paris Review in 1972 – and this quote seems an appropriate introduction to STRANGE CARGO, the capstone of The Painted Bird trilogy. In this most physically intense part of the trilogy, conceived for five performers of strikingly different physiques, the dancers shift between confrontational scenes in which they threaten one another to moments of alienation and disconnect; none of the meeting of outsiders concludes in community-forming unity. The audience, arranged on either side of the theater, seems almost encouraged to take sides and make judgments as brutal and intense episodes unfurl on stage – leading to an unexpectedly quiet finale, evoking tragic ending met by The Painted Bird writer, who took his own life in 1991.
AMIDST (The Painted Bird: Part II), 2011
Conceived as an immersive live performance installation, in which performers and audiences coalesce in a dark, foggy, and enigmatic space, AMIDST is a meditation on nostalgia, entrapment in the state of “in-between” – an often disorienting experience of changing times, cultural and social identities, memories, longings, losses, reinventions and aspirations. The work employs three performers (original cast included Lindsey Dietz-Marchant, Nick Bruder, and Pavel Zuštiak), appearing and disappearing among the crowd of freely moving spectators, who themselves become coopted and transformed into performers. Accompanied by haunting images by Robert Flynt and video projections by Keith Skretch, AMIDST provides a distinctive, participatory theatrical experience.
BASTARD (The Painted Bird: Part I), 2010
The opening section of the trilogy shows the most direct narrative connection to its literary source. Conceived as a visceral, physically demanding and courageous solo for the Slovak dancer Jaro Viňarský, portraying Kosiński’s persecuted outsider/wanderer in this piece, it draws upon crucial scene of The Painted Bird novel—a bird captured by a human is brilliantly painted and then freed to return to its flock, only to be violently killed by its own kind as a perceived interloper. A forceful performance by the soloist concludes by a group scene with an ensemble of dancers and nonprofessionals drawn from the community where the work is presented, transforming the internal landscape of agony and misrecognition into a collective remembrance.
Pavel Zuštiak is a creative director, choreographer, and performer. Born in the communist Czechoslovakia and introduced at an early age to acting (he was a child star of the popular TV show Golden Gate), film, music and dance, Zuštiak left for Amsterdam shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall to study at the School for New Dance Development and eventually, he moved to New York City where he lives. Presenting spectators with multi-sensory theatrical experiences, Zuštiak’s works for stage and public spaces center around the exploration of the corporeal body and draw towards the darker side of the human condition. Described as both human and humane, his work merges the abstract aspects of dance with nonlinear qualities of “theatre of images” into multidisciplinary works that are rich in evocative imagery and piercing emotional resonance.
Zuštiak established Palissimo Company in 2004 as an interdisciplinary platform for the research, development and production of live art works, with a mission to attain artistic liberty and to inspire and impact audiences and the art field. Palissimo facilitates diverse artistic collaborations—notably with lighting designer Joe Levasseur, musicians Christian Frederickson, Bobby McElver, visual artist Robert Flynt, and video designers Tal Yarden and Keith Skretch.
Zuštiak is the 2015 Bessie Juried Award winner for his “poetic layering of movement and visual imagery, conceiving the stage space as a decentralized world in which the corporeal body is the focus and canvas for a wide range of human expression,” a 2015-17 Princeton Arts Fellow, the recipient of 2013 LMCC President’s Award for Excellence in Artistic Practice, 2012 NEFA/NDP Production and Residency Grants and 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship, 2010 MANCC Fellowship, and 2014, 2009, and 2007 Princess Grace Awards. His 5-hour trilogy The Painted Bird received a 2013 Bessie Award nomination for Outstanding Production. Zuštiak was an artist in residence at American Dance Institute, Gibney Dance Center, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts, Cowles Center, Vermont Performance Lab, LMCC, Movement Research, Baryshnikov Arts Center, MANCC, Abrons Arts Center, Czech Center NY and Grotowski Institute. His work has been commissioned and presented by Walker Art Center, American Dance Institute, Legion Arts, Wexner Center for the Arts, PS122, COIL Festival, Abrons Arts Center, BAC, La MaMa, and 92nd Street Y, among others, and additionally toured to Legion Arts (IA), PADL West (CA), New Hazlett Theater (PA), Archa Theatre, Akcent Festival (Czech Republic), Bratislava in Movement, KIOSK Festival, Slovak National Theatre, State Theatre Kosice (Slovakia), and Bytom Intl. Dance Festival (Poland).
Palissimo’s work was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts, The Jerome Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, National Performance Network (NPN), Princess Grace Foundation, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of New York, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New Music USA: Live Music for Dance Program, The Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Design Enhancement Fund, a program of the A.R.T./New York, CEC Artslink and The Greenwall Foundation.
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