Jo Tomalin

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Cal Performances Palissimo Company Custodians Of Beauty 2 Liz Lynch

Custodians of Beauty: Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company in Berkeley

Pictured: Nicholas Bruder (originating cast) in Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company perform Custodians of Beauty Friday–Sunday, December 7–9, 2018 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (This role will be performed by Viktor De La Fuente at Cal Performances.) (credit: Liz Lynch)

Pictured: Emma Judkins performs in Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company perform Custodians of Beauty Friday–Sunday, December 7–9, 2018 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Liz Lynch)

Pictured: Emma Judkins performs in Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company perform Custodians of Beauty
Friday–Sunday, December 7–9, 2018 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Liz Lynch)

Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company presented Custodians of Beauty at Zellerbach Playhouse, December 7–9, 2018 produced by Cal Performances, in Berkeley, California.

Pavel Zuštiak, is credited for concept, direction and choreography of this multi sensory dance piece inspired by beauty and its various aspects to provoke, seduce and transform. A dramatic set designed by Simon Harding consists of two large rectangular flats, one across the upstage in a glisteningly textured gray/beige, with a rich red flat stage right. The three performers – Viktor De La Fuentes, Emma Judkins and Justin Morrison – are subtly accompanied by the set, when it moves very slowly encompassing and seemingly guiding the dancers. This is beguiling and mysterious!

Pictured: Left to right: Emma Judkins and Justin Morrison perform with Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company
perform in Custodians of Beauty Friday–Sunday, December 7–9, 2018 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Scott Shaw)

Zuštiak, a Slovak-American choreographer and performer, is based in New York City and his works have been produced across the United States and internationally. In Custodians Zuštiak merges restrained movement, text, and interactivity to express humanity, art, sculpture, politics or emotion.

It’s a curious piece, starting with all three dancers in fascinating abstract black costumes leaning against a wall, they move in intriguing patterns and formations. Their bodies are close and limbs seem to grow out of each other. This section is one of the highlights of the entire piece, with intricate choreography and combinations of movement, rhythm and unusual visuals. You are never sure what you are seeing but it’s always compelling!

Pictured: Left to right: Justin Morrison, Emma Judkins, and Nicholas Bruder in Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company perform Custodians of Beauty Friday–Sunday, December 7–9, 2018 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Liz Lynch)

Images include a male performer standing downstage looking out at he audience; tactile shadows set to melodic music, like spring; a trio’s movement cutting the air; and a flexible limbed insect like performer moving through space. While some sections are interesting there are several others that do not attain as much, such as when dancers stand in the audience and solicit people to follow them onstage.

Sometimes the action is not on the stage, such as huge gracefully billowing clouds that linger and morph above the audience’s heads, cleverly lit and silent, it’s dreamy! Joe Levasseur’s lighting design is outstanding and creates atmosphere that is dark, warm and compelling. Ásta Bennie Hostetter’s costume design also includes colorful tank tops, shorts and black leggings.

Although there is no narrative in this piece, Custodians of Beauty is full of abstract imagery and movement set to a rich musical score with music composition and sound design by Christian Frederickson.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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