Le Petit Mort


The work excavates the thin line between ecstasy and annihilation and eerie similarities between experiences of sex and death. Six dancers are presented against murky and austere scenery of Nick Vaughan’s minimal set, Tal Yarden’s ghastly video projections and Pavel Zuštiak’s unsettling minimal sound design. In a series of dense, fast-paced scenes performers embrace each other and collide in encounters that are in equal measures full of irony and seriousness, tenderness and violence. Against the aural backdrop ranging from total silence to the clamor of Shostakovitch’s famous Jazz Suite waltz, Zuštiak’s choreography has his dancers enact scenes of recurring death and revival, fall in each other’s arms to be caressed or abused, glorified or ridiculed. Joe Levasseur’s intriguing light obscures and exposes the figures, and transform the scene from intimate and half-hidden to glaringly and self-consciously theatrical.

The show succeeds at communicating actual risk. There are ‘trust falls’ that make you gasp. There are ‘trust falls’ that no one catches. And for a show about death and love, it’s important that risk be part of the equation. Work this exciting is not ‘saying goodbye’ for long.


Mr. Zuštiak was born in the former Czechoslovakia, and “Le Petit Mort” has a compellingly surreal aspect and a genuine darkness reminiscent of the work of Josef Nadj, another Eastern European choreographer who creates inscrutable works about displacement and death … its disturbing images of alienation, thwarted intimacy and sexual violence aren’t easy to forget.


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World premiere: Performance Space 122, New York City, December 2006, 60 min

Direction and Choreography: Pavel Zuštiak; Performers: Benjamin Asriel, Gina Bashour, Ellen Cremer, Saar Harari, Marya Wethers, Pavel Zuštiak; Projection Design: Tal Yarden; Lighting Design: Joe Levasseur; Set and Costume Design: Nick Vaughan; Sound Design: Pavel Zuštiak; Music: Dmitri Shostakovich, Michael Nyman; Foyer Photography Installation: Jose Aragon

Palissimo Inc. production, commissioned by Performance Space 122 with the financial support of Jerome Foundation. Additional funding provided by the Manhattan Community Arts Fund/New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Palissimo Company

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