Stardust Memories

Stuart Pimsler's father had a stage name, Lenny King. Of course, Dad never actually performed before an audience. He confined his skills to the basement of the family home where he taught his kids to dance in hopes it would help them get lucky some time. Pimsler grew up on Long Island in Crescent Court, which he calls "an exotic cul de sac...where each family had its own judicial code." And after detours through law school and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission--his own basement of sorts--Pimsler made it to the stage.

Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater's You've Got to Be Kidding!, premiering this weekend at the Southern Theater, charts the light-footed choreographer's journey from childhood to his present existence as a 55-year-old artist, parent, and life partner to Suzanne Costello, the company's co-artistic director. The full-evening piece incorporates movement and dialogue, and weaves together new works and old, including Pimsler classics "Joy, or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Jew" and "The Men from the Boys." The memories in these works are so engaging in their universal wit, utter humiliation, and modest triumph as to be reminiscent of a Woody Allen flashback or a Jean Shepherd radio story.

"When I was touring during the early 1980s, inevitably someone would ask, 'How did you start dancing?'" recalls Pimsler, pausing after a recent rehearsal at the Southern. Pimsler debates that arduous path in the piece with the skeptical Aunt Gertie. "Ten minutes later they would say, 'you gotta be kidding!'" Costello encouraged Pimsler to incorporate his autobiographical material into early works such as "Joy." You've Got to Be Kidding!, then, represents a culmination of a life examined--so far.

"Suzanne's father died this January and now neither of us has parents, so it felt right to have their photos represented in the work," Pimsler says. And so the company incorporated an onstage slide show of the actual family moments that accompany some of his stories. Going even further, Pimsler and Costello's children Gabe and Sophie (ages six and eleven) actually appear onstage, along with the family members of SPDT's dancers. "It's not a memorial," Pimsler says of the slides and the family histories. "It just makes the art feel like it's connected to something personal."

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