11/04/2013 Peter Durantine

Dancer, Community Activist Returns to F&M to Share Experiences With Students

Looking back on a nearly 40-year career in the performing arts, Franklin & Marshall College alumnus Stuart Pimsler said his desire to express himself was nurtured during his time at F&M.

"I realize that so much of my 'speaking out' began in my days as a student," said Pimsler, a Class of 1971 graduate who, as co-director of the nationally renowned Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, will share his experiences this week while in F&M residency.

Pimsler's Minneapolis-based dance company blends dance, acting, music, storytelling, and even singing in performances that connect traditional and nontraditional art forms, he said. He was an English major at F&M, and had finished law school when he found dance would be his life's work.

Pimsler and his co-director and wife, Suzanne Costello, will meet with classes on campus Nov. 5, 6 and 8 to discuss using various forms of artistic expression -- from dance and motion to music and storytelling, all of it in performance -- in fields ranging from the arts to public health to writing.

  • Franklin & Marshall College alumnus Stuart Pimsler and his wife, Suzanne Costello, co-directors of the Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, will meet with classes the week of Nov. 4 to discuss using the various forms of artistic expression in fields ranging from the arts to health to writing. (Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

"One of the things we're trying to do is have students see how many different ways there are to experience the world," Pimsler said.

Dance, for example, can be used to express political and social issues, which Pimsler will demonstrate on Thursday during F&M's weekly Common Hour. His topic, "Speaking Out! The Artist as Citizen/The Citizen Artist," will explore the role of the artist in the realm of public discourse. Common Hour begins at 11:30 a.m. in Mayser Gymnasium.

Pimsler's company is acclaimed for using movement and music in community work. The National Endowment for the Arts has cited the company's effort in the field of arts and health care, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has noted it as a model for community programs.

"A significant amount of our community engagement has to do with health care," Pimsler said.

Pimsler and Costello will speak to members of the "Public Health" course taught by Kirk Miller, F&M's B. F. Fackenthal, Jr. Professor of Biology, on Nov. 5. Miller asked Pimsler to show his students how artistic expression can be used to promote public health issues.

"I want to give them a few experiences to show them the breadth of public health," Miller said.

Miller said a handful of public health majors at F&M have already tapped artistic expression as a teaching tool. One used flash mobs in Philadelphia to promote hepatitis awareness, and another donned an apple costume at events in Hispanic communities to get children to think about making healthy food choices.

"That's often the hardest thing, to get people to think about their behavior, and change," Miller said.  

On Nov. 6, Pimsler and Costello will conduct a movement and music workshop Miller has arranged at Lancaster General Hospital with Pam Vnenchak, a family medicine physician. Health professionals will participate through arranged motion and movement exercises. 

"It's directed at the wellness of the caregivers," Pimsler said. "It's a restorative type of workshop to get them to think about their own health and wellness."

In "Writing Dance," a course taught by Lynn Brooks, the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and Dance and the don of Brooks College House, Pimsler said he would focus students on the nonverbal art form.

"As future dancer-writers, what's our responsibility in providing information about an experience? What's too much, what's not enough?" he asked.

Pimsler will engage students in other campus settings, including Professor of Government Susan Dicklitch's "Human Rights/Human Wrongs" class, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Jennifer Conley's "Intro to Modern Dance" course, and Associate Professor of Theater Brian Silberman's first-year seminar "Solo Performance." He also will deliver a career talk to members of the F&M Dance Company, an organization of student dancers.

"My hope is always that the people we're in contact with are moved and can connect with something in their lives that we have inspired or have made them see or feel in a different way," Pimsler said.

Pimsler will finish the week at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 with a performance of his company at Schnader Theater in F&M's Roschel Performing Arts Center. 

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