Stuart Pimsler's company has trips to Germany and China on tap. But first, it performs at home in Minneapolis.
While hot-button social issues play out noisily on political stages nationwide, lawyer-turned-choreographer Stuart Pimsler is living his egalitarian dream more reflectively, on theater stages.
Co-founder of the dance theater that bears his name, Pimsler presides over a multiracial company of dancers who are male and female, gay and straight.
And this mini-United Nations has been tapped to represent the United States in Germany this summer. It is the only American company selected for the Tanzmesse International Festival in Dusseldorf from more than 400 applicants. Stuart Pimsler Dance will perform the fear- and power-themed "Ways to Be Hold," with spoken word delivered by performer Tiyo Siyolo.
"We're proud, of course, to show our work, and that what we do here in Minneapolis is representing America," he said.
"Ways" is one of three pieces Pimsler and his dancers will present next weekend at Cowles Center in Minneapolis. The company also will perform "Tales From the Book of Longing," a piece arising from song lyrics of Leonard Cohen, which premiered at the Guthrie in 2009. The title of the show comes from a new piece, the evening's third component, about alienation and marginalization. It represents part of the ethos that Pimsler has lived by.
"Everybody has an important role in this company, and we're all there for each other," he said. "At the same time, no one can coast or hide here. We draw everyone out" of their shells.
Moved here in 1979
Pimsler and Suzanne Costello, his wife and frequent collaborator, founded the company in 1979 in New York, and moved it to the Twin Cities a dozen years ago. In that time, the company has grown. It has eight dancers and a $400,000 annual budget and does residencies and tours throughout the state and nation, in all kinds of venues. The troupe recently performed for workers in the trauma unit of Hennepin County Medical Center.
A performance like that also helps Pimsler draw inspiration from people's lives and occupations. It was during another residency, at Gustavus Adolphus College, that Pimsler and Costello came up with the idea for the piece that became "We, the Others."
"We were thinking about the way that things work on each other, the transformative power of otherness," said Pimsler. "It's about beauty in difference, about honoring our individual gifts."
He recently returned from Asia, where his company has been invited to perform this summer. He said that in this initial visit to China he was struck by how differently dancers there used their bodies. They were all about discipline, he said. His goal in workshops was "to get them to relax a little, to be in their weight."
No matter, he suggested, we can all learn things from each other, whether we are neighbors in a community in the Midwest or countries on a small blue planet.