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Review: Pimsler Dance Performance Brings Tension, Balance

The Kentucky Center’s recommitment to modern dance programming continued this month with the Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater company. Saturday’s public performance was the tip of the iceberg, as the group will be in Louisville for the rest of the month doing a series of programs with area organizations.

The most accessible piece of the evening was the short “Type A Romance,” choreographed by Artistic Co-Director Suzanne Costello, with music by Haindling. Bringing the drive and physicality of Type A business people into a movement world, this piece — danced by Heather Klopchin and Scott Stafford — created a galvanized and aggressive duet (complete with briefcases) that embodied many of the tropes of this social construct.

“The Men from the Boys,” created by Stuart Pimsler, who also performed the work with Brian Evans, is an intriguing dance-theater piece that produced awkward laughs and perturbed silences from Saturday’s audience. Originally performed in 1990 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Columbus, Ohio, this piece has been performed by various combinations of dancers of different ethnicities.

On Saturday, the racial overtones and undercurrents of white privilege were inescapable as Pimsler and Evans navigated an uncomfortable series of "do this" commands, each escalating what the other was compelled to do — to both ridiculous and grotesque lengths.

Reminiscent of the improv rule "yes, and," the underlying violence of this game/contest exploded once the characters left the confines of an interrogation-like room and moved into a freeform space. Coming right before intermission, this piece muted the typical shift of an audience’s energy as the house lights came up.

SPDT also performed its most recent creation, “Bohemian Grove.” There is a Louisville connection with this piece: Former Actors Theatre of Louisville literary manager Liz Engel was the dramaturg. According to creator Pimsler in his introductory remarks, this work is inspired by the Bohemian Grove gathering in California, an enclave of the very wealthy. “Bohemian Grove” is an intense study of narcissistic disengagement from humanity.

The five "beautiful" people who are part of the gathering are self-centered and absolute in their assumption that they can do what they want to and with anyone, regardless of appropriateness or outcome. Costello is the host of the gathering, sharing her worldview with a distressing lack of empathy, and many of her statements evoking gasps from the audience.

Created last year, “Bohemian Grove” echoes the current dialogue, epitomized by the Occupy movement, of the richest 1 percent of this country, timely in an election cycle.

Opening the evening was the lyrical “Tales from the Book of Longing,” created by Pimsler and Costello with diverse musical accompaniment, including a beautiful a cappella introduction sung by an unidentified (unfortunately) performer. An ensemble of seven dancers filled the Bomhard stage with ever-changing combinations of dancers.

The precision and delicacy of the opening movement was a beautiful introduction to this company’s work. The intricate lifts and partnering perfectly embodied the theme of longing. Time and again the combination of tension and balance within duets was breathtaking, particularly in the duet between Jesse Neumann-Peterson and Scott Stafford.

On Saturday, the Bombard Theater — while not full — was well-filled with a wide range of dance aficionados. We can only hope this program, together with last fall’s Parsons Dance Company presentation and the upcoming Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater engagement, means that Louisville can look to a resurgence of dance programming.

Here's a full list of SPDT's Louisville workshops this week.