Painted Bird Trilogy


The Painted Bird / Part 2


Two years in development, the four-hour trilogy cycle is an ambitious interdisciplinary spectacle loosely inspired by the harsh, memorable and controversial 1965 wartime novel by an expatriate Polish writer Jerzy Kosiński under the same title.

Filtered through Zuštiak own sensibility, marked by sense of detachment of typical social, political and artistic roles, The Painted Bird became a point of departure for exploration of themes of trauma and coping, longing and memory, otherness and search for a new identity, reworking Kosiński’s ideas in an abstract and indirect way. On a formal level, it is an important piece in Zuštiak’s ongoing examination and questioning of roles and power dynamic between performers and audiences – as Claudia La Rocco put it in her 2011 review of the second part, the piece is “as much about the watchers as the watched”. Part I, BASTARD, starts in the “safety” of a traditional auditorium; however, appearance of a large group of performers in the final scene changes the traditional power dynamics, leaving the question of who is looking at whom unanswered. In Part II, AMIDST, the audience becomes the crowd of the BASTARD, again posing a question of whose story is being told, and who is watching it. Finally, in Part III, STRANGE CARGO, the symmetrically divided audience area separates the viewers from the performers onstage, but at the same time forces them to look at a “mirror image” of themselves across the stage.

The three installments premiered individually as they were completed and eventually as a four plus hour spectacle; they are designed to be presented both independently and as a cycle. Accompanied by rich photographic and video imagery and evocative live music, they create work that is “as intimate as a personal narrative and as authentic as historical nonfiction… a genius production.” (BroadwayWorld)

Zuštiak’s trilogy The Painted Bird is rare in the sense that it is as intimate as a personal narrative and as authentic as historical nonfiction. Collaboratively, The Painted Bird is a genius production.

The full experience is accessed because of the multi-dimensional approach to dance theater production – superb lighting, brilliant musical composition, skillful and straightforward performers, and authentic costuming. Essentially, Zuštiak conveys many visions as one vision. He tells many stories in few words.


Zuštiak creates no movement that looks like dancing for its own sake. It becomes a statement of identity, a task to be completed, an urge to be satisfied. The superbly expressive performers run themselves ragged, pummeling the air with their bodies, never fully at rest.

Images of flight, concealment, disguise, isolation, displacement, and the vagaries of memory pervade all three parts of this extraordinary work. What does the traveler, the fugitive, the exile carry and what is left behind?
Deborah Jowitt, ARTSJOURNAL

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Part I, BASTARD, developed and supported during residencies at Stanica Žilina-Záriečie (Slovakia) and Grotowski Institute (Poland). Created with financial support from Trust for Mutual Understanding, Greenwall Foundation, CEC Artslink, Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, US Embassy in Slovakia, Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, and NF Slovak Telekom. An early research of the work was made possible with the assistance of Movement Research in New York City and dance department at the University of California, Irvine.

Part II, AMIDST, developed and supported during the residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center (NYC) with the financial support of Princess Grace Foundation-USA. Further funding provided by John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Greenwall Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and Jerome Foundation. Production design support by The Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Design Enhancement Fund, a program of the Alliance of Resident Theatres / New York (A.R.T. /New York.) Funds for the composer’s commission and musicians fees supplied by the American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program. Amidst was also made possible through subsidized studio space available with support from the A.R.T./ New York Creative Space Grant, founded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by and by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space program, provided by a real estate donation from Capstone Equities.

Part III, STRANGE CARGO, created with commissioning support from Performance Space 122 and Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University and made possible, in part, by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional backing from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MetLife Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support and commissioning funds for this program have been provided by The Jerome Foundation and New Music USA’s Live Music for Dance program, with additional project support from Greenwall Foundation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Developed and supported during residency at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (Tallahassee, FL), Baryshnikov Arts Center, Abrons Arts Center and also made possible by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space program through a real estate donation from Capstone Equities.

Palissimo Company

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