Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: Choreography
Competition: US & Canada
Pavel Zuštiak is the Artistic Director of Palissimo Company, established in New York City in 2004 under his vision to pursue artistic liberty through communion with live audiences. Palissimo is known for sophisticated, multidisciplinary works with piercing emotional content and abundant surrealist imagery that explore “the darker shades of human behavior” (The New Yorker). A 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, 2008-2009 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence, and winner of both a 2009 Princess Grace Work in Progress Residency Award and 2007 Princess Grace Award, choreographer Zuštiak’s repertory of original works and commissions have toured nationally and internationally to both audience and critical acclaim. Through layering "weighted, sensual, and loose-limbed" movement (The Village Voice), powerfully evocative sonic environments, and “a ghostly atmosphere” of projected photography, film, and staged theatrical scenario (The New York Times), the Company has fast established itself amongst experimental theater groups and works with a roster of contributing and commissioned artists.
Born in the former Czechoslovakia and trained at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, Zuštiak's early works appeared through Czechoslovakia, Holland, Denmark, and Belgium before he relocated to the U.S. in 1999.
I am not afraid to use the words emotion, narrative, mystery when thinking of my work. I love to keep audiences guessing. I am fascinated by the unexpected and unpredictable, and love the tension when the lights go down in the theatre before the show that anything can happen. I strive to suspend that tension through a totalizing theatre that charts the collisions between dance, theatre, and visual arts, each an equal element in creating worlds onstage that have the potential to consume viewers and alter their perception and senses without offering straightforward conclusions.
I am drawn towards the darker shades of the human condition, mirroring my personal story as someone who falls down the cracks between categories. I find the human body a perfect vehicle to convey such otherness, and I am endlessly curious about the interactions between human bodies in the theatrical space as the observer and the observed and not necessarily in the audience-performer order. When all of the components of performance fall into place, both artist and viewer can find themselves in a form of communion, a new social order, grappling together with the content of the artistic work and the question of their relationship. In these moments, I am committed to taking risks and ready to expose my doubts, bewilderment, and half-formed beliefs in the service of an authentic dialogue. —Pavel Zuštiak
Profile photograph by Jeremy Lehmann (image © Jeremy Lehmann).