Slovak-American Choreographer, Director and Designer Pavel Zuštiak creates an evening-length performance work in three parts titled HEBEL, commissioned by and premiering at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City in April, 2020. Zuštiak teams up with scenographer Keith Skretch, composer Christian Frederickson and lighting designer Joe Levasseur—merging the non-narrative qualities of dance with image-based forms and reaching spectators as a totalizing multi-sensory experience.

Through an interdisciplinary, strongly visual and textured approach, Zuštiak excavates themes of human ambition, rootlessness, meaning and identity. HEBEL takes its name from the ancient Book of Ecclesiastes, appearing there 38 times, and still prompting ongoing discourse. Hebel can be translated as vanity, but also emptiness, vapor, breath and absurdity. It lies at the heart of the Book’s key question: “What do you gain from all your work?” HEBEL reflects on temporal human effort and individual life’s worth. HEBEL draws us into an evocative, emotionally charged exploration of life’s meaning and what it means to witness in destabilized world.

Reflecting the scale and proportions of the HEBEL’s ontological questions and informed, too, by Michel Foucault’s writings on docile bodies, power and architecture, Zuštiak in collaboration with scenographer Keith Skretch create a large-scale kinetic scenography that changes to steadily re-contextualize performers’ bodies and to destabilize the audience’s assumptions, thus extending the piece’s inquiries into time, effort, and ending.

Other creative points of departure include: Vera Chytilova’s Czech feminist movie Daisies (1966); Michel Foucault writing “Of Other Spaces” on heterotopias, and NASA’s recordings of black holes emanating sound.

Integrating choreography, kinetic scenography and live music, HEBEL crosses disciplines to make a visceral performance in quest for meaning where the turbulent past and present are alive and the future is envisioned.

World Premiere: April 17-18, 2020
Production: Palissimo Company, New York, NY
Commissioner: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY


Concept, Direction, Choreography and Costume Design: Pavel Zuštiak
Created in collaboration with performers: Christine Bonansea, Wendell Gray II, Emma Judkins, Doug LeCours
Original Music and Sound Design: Christian Frederickson
Scenography: Keith Skretch Studio
Lighting Design: Joe Levasseur
Scenic Associate and Props: Simon Harding
Dramaturg: Megan Carter
Production Manager: Christina Tang
Set Construction: Joseph Silovsky Studios

Production Supported by:

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
GIBNEY Dance in Process Residency supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Princess Grace Foundation-USA
Baryshnikov Arts Center
Bogliasco Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
The Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation
Harkness Foundation for Dance
Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Lake Placid, NY
Council for the Arts at MIT


Bogliasco Foundation, Italy
GIBNEY Dance in Process Residency supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NYC
Baryshnikov Arts Center supported by Princess Grace Foundation-USA
Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Lake Placid, NY
Movement Research, NYC
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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