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In Performance: Custodians of Beauty – Pavel Zustiak/Palissimo (COIL 2017)

PS 122 COIL 2017
Custodians of Beauty
Pavel Zustiak/Palissimo (NYC)
La MaMa, The Downstairs
66 E 4th St

Jan 5 – 8pm
Jan 6 – 5pm
Jan 7 – 5:30pm
Jan 8 – 2pm

A dancer in all black, barely visible, folds into and out of himself, his body unfurling like a flower or a fractal. A cloud of haze hangs suspended in the air and slowly makes its way towards the audience. Three figures spring from side to side before losing themselves in a driving electronic beat. Taking its title from a 2009 speech given by Pope Benedict XVI to a group of artists, Palissimo’s Custodians of Beauty puts forward a series of diverse poetic images, and through them asks us to consider the concept of beauty and our responses to it. Director/choreographer Pavel Zustiak and his collaborators create rich tableaus that linger in the mind of the spectator. The design is outstanding; each element is notable on its own, and together they fuse into a striking, multisensory landscape. The dancers arrange their bodies within this landscape in ways that variously evoke the natural world, classical sculpture, contemporary athleticism, and other frameworks within which one might look for beauty. Is beauty something pure and natural, inherent in the lines of the human body and the mathematics of form, or can it be crafted? What sort of response does it seek, if it needs one at all? The performance proposes a variety of possibilities and creates space for the audience to fill in our own reflections and definitions, leaving us to decide whether the “custodians” of the title are the artists, the spectators, or both together.

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Philip Wesley Gates is a director, performance maker, and writer/scholar currently based in Pittsburgh. Deploying queer, choreographic, and participatory strategies, their work proposes alternative possibilities and modes of relation. They hold an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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