Weddings and beheadings

One of the most elaborate productions of Palissimo’s repertoire, Weddings and Beheadings is the first creative collaboration between director-choreographer Pavel Zuštiak and photographer Robert Flynt. Flynt’s imagery often juxtaposes found and original images: black-and-white photographs of unknown individuals, X-ray images of human bodies, fluid garlands of light and shots of the four dancers performing live in the piece. Dancers, circling trough the changing scenes in outfits ranging from elaborate costumes to bare skin, morph from lovers to antagonists at the fine line that lies between. Piñata is broken open in celebration only to disappoint by its emptiness. What starts as a boxing match, ends up a loving embrace. Bright house lights turn on towards the end of the piece to reveal a messy backstage, populated by idle performers seated on chairs awaiting their uncertain destiny and cluttered with random post-party objects and unused costumes. Menacing ambient sounds reminiscent of industrial noises dissolve into silence or turn into evocative string music As the title indicates, the work is firmly rooted in Zuštiak’s signature principle, described as a “marriage of opposites” by a New York Times critic. Weddings and Beheadings is an amalgam of joy and terror, ecstasy and despair, sensuality and rawness; it combines fleeting intuitive signals with verbal messages, and what is hidden with what lies in full view. In the surprise ending the stage’s fourth wall breaks open, destroying a ritualistic distinction between the audience and the performers, the space of theater and a space of “real” life – as if begging the question: who has been watching whom all along?

World premiere: Harkness Dance Festival at Ailey Citigroup Theater, New York City, March 11-15, 2009, 80 min

Direction, Choreography and Sound Design: Pavel Zuštiak; Performers: Elena Demyanenko, Sho Ikushima, Jeff Kent Jacobs, Lindsey Dietz Marchant; Rehearsal Assistant: Gina Bashour; Projections Concept and Images: Robert Flynt; Projections Design and Animation: Keith Skretch; Lighting Design: Joe Levasseur; Set and Costume Design: Nick Vaughan. Music: Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Palissimo Inc. production, created with major funding from the Greenwall Foundation and supported by funds from the 92nd Street Y New Works in Dance Fund and in part through the Movement Research Artist-in-Residence Program, funded, in part, by the Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

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