What is love, anyway? Pop star Howard Jones sang this question in the 1980s, but it's been asked repeatedly by philosophers, artists and just about anyone who has experienced the joy -- or misfortune -- of being in love. Of course, there's no easy answer. Perhaps people just enjoy pondering all the possibilities, which explains why "The Ends of Love" by Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater is such an emotionally engaging work.
Commissioned by the Guthrie Theater in 2007, "Ends" returns to Minneapolis' Southern Theater this weekend, in time for Valentine's Day. Drawing upon influences as diverse as Plato's "Symposium" and the Nicole Krauss novel "The History of Love," the work delves into the exquisite messiness characterizing relationships and energetically explores all of the passion, pettiness and peacefulness to be found there.
Onstage narration by Pimsler's son Gabriel, who's now in the eighth grade but also appears on video at a younger age, adds a layer of innocent perspective. "Love can turn your life upside down," he states. And here it literally does as the dancers soar and stumble through their encounters with one another, propelled by a tonally rich composition from Michelle Kinney, joined live by musicians Park Evans and Jacqueline Ultan.
"Ends" encompasses two halves, one defined by raw feeling, the other by contemplation. Early on, Brian Evans, Kari Mosel, Cade Holmseth and Roxane Wallace-Patterson dive into duets literally churning with sensuality. The fervent tone shifts into a different gear as the performers engage in a battle of the sexes, poking fun at the irreconcilable Mars/Venus divide and devolving into a clothes-ripping party scene followed by a riotous Greek chorus.
Tenderness, reconciliation and a sense of love's mystery underscore the second part of "Ends." Here we see Pimsler and Suzanne Costello slow-dancing in a bathtub, Holmseth's quiet ballet near the rafters using aerial silks, a delicate dance with eggs, a lush solo from Heather Klopchin, a recital of fears (rational or not), and even playful regression to childhood crushes.
Throughout "Ends" there's talk of the first emotion, "Whoa!," which was followed by "Wow!" Such simple words can speak volumes. And so can an evening of dance, especially when performed by the likes of Pimsler, a keen observer of humanity's contradictions, and his gifted company.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.