STEPHEN PETRONIO COMPANY
March 9, 2012
After accepting an award at the Bessie's Dance Awards Ceremony last year, NYC Ballet principal Wendy Whelan gave a “shout-out” to the downtown dance community declaring her availability. Come spring, Stephen Petronio announces a solo “Ethersketch I,” for Ms. Whelan during his March season at the Joyce Theater. That certainly got the dance community’s attention; only the solo was but a brief excerpt imbued with Whelan’s signature clean, sharp images and full-bodied interpretation. But because it lasted only a few minutes, at the end, audience members shouted “More!” A sentiment we all hope Petronio will heed. But that was only an exclamation mark on an evening stocked with a premier, “The Architecture of Loss,” a re-interpretation of “Intravenous Lecture” by Steve Paxton (1970) and return of “City of Twist” (2002).
Dressed in jailbird black and white striped shirt and pants, Stephen addressed the opening night audience, tracing his dance roots to postmodern choreographer Trisha Brown and the godfather of Contact Improvisation, Steve Paxton. These iconoclastic dance practitioners invested Petronio with a sense of choreographic adventure. Standing next to an I.V. Petronio removed his shiny bronze shoes and shirt, and introduced his doctor who inserted a needle into Petronio’s arm, thus connecting him to---truth serum? Anyhow, Paxton gave Petronio his solo—originally a meditation on censorship--but insisted Petronio make it “his own” story. While nimbly shifting weight from legs to torso, Petronio retold a story about the time he was arrested in London for wearing a “sexually provocative” shirt. Harassment of homosexuals was not uncommon in Europe or the USA in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but in Petronio’s scenario, humor and creativity ultimately win out.
Company members command the audience’s attention in their loose limbed, detailed movement illustrations and patterned shifts side to side during the revival of “City of Twist” to a commissioned score by Laurie Anderson. The evening’s premier traveled over music by Iceland’s Valgeir Sigurdsson and contributions by America’s hot new composer, Nico Muhly.
Petronio describes the piece as the “physical manifestations of ‘losing’ and all that implies.” Visually, non sequitur sequences break apart and cross over each other. Injecting a cubist sensibility, one kinetic image pushes another into a corner, disappearing and then reappearing from the opposite end, completing the phrase. Outfits by Gudrun & Gudrun drip over bodies like macramé wall hangings amplifying the piece’s ephemeral nature.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis