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Callaloo Company: Peter Minshall
Peter Minshall is the foremost artist working in the field of ''dancing mobiles'', a form of performance art that combines the three-dimensional quality of large-scale sculpture with the dramatic and choreographic expressiveness of a live human performer. The ''dancing mobile'' is one of many forms to grow out of the mas' -- the masquerade tradition of the Trinidad Carnival -- and was the subject of a fellowship awarded to Minshall by the Guggenheim Foundation in 1982.
A native Trinidadian, Minshall trained in theatre design at the Central School of Art and Design in London, and went on to receive unanimous critical praise for his professional theatre design work both in England and the United States. Through his investigation of theatre and the other arts on an international level, he came to appreciate the value and potency of the mas' as a form of creative expression, and gradually returned to the mas' as the principal medium of his work as an artist. In recognition of his accomplishments in this field, both in the Trinidad Carnival and abroad, the University of the West Indies in 1991 awarded Minshall the degree of Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa.
Minshall was one of the first to design mas' for the Notting Hill Carnival in London in the early 1970's. In 1974 he created his seminal individual work From the Land of the Hummingbird for the Trinidad Carnival, and two years later designed his first full-scale mas' band in Trinidad, Paradise Lost. He has presented a mas' at each Carnival from 1978 through 1990, and again in 1993, '94, and '95, costuming some two thousand people in anywhere from thirty to one hundred different designs, complemented by monumental individual dancing mobiles..
His works have encompassed a great variety of moods and styles, from abstract experiments in line, form, colour, and kinetics (Zodiac, 1978; Carnival is Colour, 1987), to themes of ecology (River, 1983), racial harmony (Callaloo, 1984), and the threat of nuclear war (The Golden Calabash: Princes of Darkness and Lords of Light, 1985). Each year his ''king'' and ''queen'' mas' bring a new development in the form of the ''dancing mobile''.
His 1990 production, Tantana, featured a breakthrough development in the monumental dancing mobile: Tan Tan and Saga Boy . These two figures, each 4.5m tall, reverse the traditional relationship between puppet and puppeteer, and achieve such animation and mobility that they are able to waltz, tango, boogie, and dance to Calypso with each other. Tan Tan and Saga Boy have since appeared in Kingston (Jamaica), Tokyo, Nimes (France), Toronto, Miami, Bridgetown (Barbados), London, Edinburgh, San Francisco, and Paris.
Other international credits include the 1982 Guggenheim Fellowship and designs for a segment of the Opening Ceremony of the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis. In 1987 he was also invited to present work at the 19th International Biennial exposition of contemporary art in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where his multi-media exhibition of mas' earned special critical mention from among 400 contemporary artists representing fifty-three countries. In 1993 Minshall's work made up a major segment of The Power of the Mask, an exhibition mounted by the National Museums of Scotland to run concurrently with the Edinburgh Festival.
During 1991-1992, Minshall worked in Barcelona in the Opening Ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games, as Artistic Director of the beginning Hola! segment and costume designer for the dramatic Mediterranean Sea segment. In 1994 he designed and produced The Dance of Nations, a large-scale performance piece that was featured in the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup Soccer tournament in Chicago.
Minshall has twice collaborated with Jean-Michel Jarre on the French composer-producer's city-wide concert-spectacles, by contributing large-scale individual dancing mobiles and other theatrical characters to Paris in Concert at La Defense, Bastille Day 1991 before an audience of 2 million, and the 1995 Concert For Tolerance under the auspices of UNESCO for 1.5 million spectators at the Eiffel Tower.
Immediately following the most recent Paris engagement, Minshall lectured at a symposium accompanying the exhibition Caribbean Visions: Painting and Sculpture which opened at the Miami Center for the Fine Arts. Minshall's essay, ''The Place of Carnival in Caribbean Art and Culture'' as published in the exhibition catalogue (Art Services International, 1995).
He is currently working on TAPESTRY - Threads of Life, his mas presentation for the 1997 Trinidad Carnival and has recently finished working on the Opening Ceremonies for the Atlanta Olympics.
Mr. Minshall was honored with an 2002 Emmy Award for Costume Design