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HEBEL is a dance and performance on human ambition, embodied presence and value—an exploration of one life’s quest for meaning.


The presentation of dance performance HEBEL encompasses two weeks of intensive rehearsals in December 2020 culminating in six performances at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre in NYC on Jan 6-10, 2021. The performances at La MaMa coincide with the annual APAP conference and NYC festival season providing Palissimo Company an unprecedented exposure to national and international presenters and an extended performance run for NYC audiences. This exposure, as demonstrated by the Company’s past touring history, can lead to the extended life of this production and exposure to new audiences in the US and abroad.

Pavel Zuštiak’s HEBEL is a travelogue through time reflecting on temporal human efforts and their significance. What holds? What resists the bite of time? HEBEL’s ontological questions echo through its play with scale and proportion. Fusing corporeal body, object, and music, HEBEL’s images at once familiar and estranged, unfold as an evocative, emotionally charged exploration of life’s quest for meaning where the turbulent past and present are alive and the future is envisioned.

Zuštiak’s HEBEL premieres at NYU Skirball Center for Performing Arts on April 17-18, 2020 (not part of this proposal) as his collaboration with scenographer Keith Skretch and composer Christian Frederickson—merging the non-narrative qualities of dance with image-based forms and reaching spectators as a totalizing multi-sensory experience.
Through an interdisciplinary, strongly visual and textured approach, Zuštiak mines themes of human ambition, presence, and meaning. HEBEL takes its name from the ancient Book of Ecclesiastes, appearing there 38 times, and still prompting ongoing discourse. Hebel translates as vanity, but also breath, vapor, emptiness, and absurdity. It lies at the heart of the Book’s key question: “What do you gain from all your work?” HEBEL reflects on temporal human efforts and individual life’s worth, fleeting nature of life and live performance.

Reflecting the scale and proportions of the HEBEL’s ontological questions and informed, too, by Michel Foucault’s writings on docile bodies, power, and heterotopias, Zuštiak in collaboration with scenographer Keith Skretch create a large-scale kinetic object moving according to a programmed algorithm that changes to steadily re-contextualize performers’ bodies and to destabilize the audience’s assumptions, thus extending the piece’s inquiries into time, effort, and ending.

The development of HEBEL in 2019/2020 and its premiere in April 2020 (not part of this proposal) received support of NYU Skirball, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Princess Grace Foundation-USA, Dance in Process at GIBNEY, Bogliasco Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Harkness Foundation for Dance, Council for the Arts at MIT, Movement Research Residency, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. The music was commissioned by the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation. While the development of this work found substantial support, there are very limited resources for its encore performances and pick up rehearsals leading up to it. The New Music USA support would bridge this gap.

Start and End Dates




Project Created By

New York, New York
Pavel Zuštiak is a Slovak-American director, choreographer and designer living in NYC for the past twenty years. He is the 2015 Bessie Juried Award winner for his “poetic layering of movement and visual imagery, conceiving the stage as a decentralized world in which the corporeal body is the focus and canvas for a wide range…

In Collaboration With

Los Angeles, California
Composer, Musician/Performer
New York, New York


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