Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater: Onstage and in the gallery

Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater 
Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater 
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

A year before their 35th anniversary, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater has teamed up with the Anita Sue Kolman Gallery to create a retrospective of of the company's work through objects, scenic elements, photographs, and video of the company's work over the years. The gallery show opened last week, and runs through March 9. This weekend, SPDT also performs at the Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts.

Patrick Kemal Pryor, co-owner of the gallery, says that SPDT Company Manager Bobby Maher approached the the space through a mutual acquaintance, local artist Kate Casanova, and Pryor and Maher worked on the show together. "Bobby and I have a certain level of naïveté," he says. "I understand visual art, and he understands performance. We had really great conversations about how best to represent the work." 

Because performance is so temporal, with scenic elements and design having so much meaning within the context of what is happening onstage, it was a challenge to present pieces in an exhibition. "We didn't want it to be framed objects in a museum," he says. "We didn't want it to be relics." 

So they found ways for the objects to become new pieces of art within the context of the gallery. For example, one section of the exhibition features raincoats designed by Sonya Berlovitz for "Ways to Be Hold," a piece that won the 2008 Minnesota SAGE Award for Outstanding Choreography. Video projections of the dance can be seen through the material of the raincoats, creating a dynamic departure from simply seeing the objects or the video alone.

Raincoats designed by Sonya Berlovitz for Ways to Be Hold 
Raincoats designed by Sonya Berlovitz for Ways to Be Hold 

In another part of the gallery, sports gear is tossed in piles on the floor near video screens showing Pimsler's autobiographical piece "Joy." A Celtics jacket, also from the piece, hangs as if on a coat hook you might find in your room. The display gives a feeling of the original piece, but also has an everyday quality. There's an aliveness as if it's happening presently and not something in the past. 

Stuart Pimsler says objects are important to the company's work, which is a hybrid of dance and theater. "Objects infuse a place with specificity," he says, but also carry a familiarity. An ironing board, for example, might fill some with abhorrence, though Pimsler says he quite likes ironing boards.

As an object, "they used to be a place of gender confrontation. Objects are providing the possibility for imbuing meaning, and a sense of place." 

Anita Sue Kolman Gallery 
Anita Sue Kolman Gallery 

For the performance at the Cowles this weekend, SPDT will be showing "Total Surrender," which was created the year following 9/11, as a personal response. They'll also be showing "Tales from the Book of Longing," which premiered at the Guthrie. 

An English major, Pimsler calls himself a "literature junkie," and uses Walt Whitman and Alan Ginsberg as inspiration for the premiere work in the show "Walking, Singing and Other Habits," which is about "not forgetting we're all connected," Pimsler says. As a line in the show states: "We all walk forward most of the time."  


"Art in the Everyday"
Through March 9, 2013
Anita Sue Kolman Gallery
Studio 395 in the Northrup King Building
1500 Jackson St., Minneapolis
SPDT's performance at The Cowles runs this weekend Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. 

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