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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stephen Petronio Company at The Joyce [UPDATE]

Barrington Hinds in The Architecture of Loss
Stephen Petronio Company
(Photo: Steven Schreiber)
My guest and I spent entirely too much time scheming how one or the other of us would take possession of Stephen Petronio's shiny copper shoes by any means necessary. Then again, we had lots of time to dwell on this because Petronio was doing this queer-New Yorker-in-London spin on Steve Paxton's Intravenous Lecture (1970). Petronio turned Paxton's tale of censorship of nudity into an epic of wearing the wrong shirt at the wrong time in front of the wrong bobby and winding up in jail. Petronio talked to us while a male nurse hooked up to an IV drip and later drifted around the stage, dancing and gesticulating, as an assistant wheeled the IV pole just so and quietly gazed at him. Dancing Petronio--the Rubberband Man--was as amazing as his story's pacing and tone. And it turned out to be possible to stop coveting those shoes long enough to think how great it would be to force Rick Santorum to watch this man work.

Gia Kourlas writes an interesting assessment of Petronio's season in "Explorations of Loss, the Personal and the Public" (The New York Times, March 7), although I certainly don't agree with her preference for practice clothes over wearable art. It just wouldn't be Petronio without the sartorial drama. What's more, the new piece--The Architecture of Loss, scored by Valgeir Sigurdsson--presents the perfect integration of movement, scenic design and costuming. Even more than City of Twist (2002), The Architecture of Loss speaks to me of the atmosphere of 9/11. By that, I don't mean just the images of smoke smudging, and later billowing, across the three background panels, but also the strained, shredding and torn costumes (by Gudrun & Gudrun), as fragile as cobwebs, tinted in ash and charcoal, and the movement that seems to be all incessant, risky transition, even when one or another dancer does not move. This dance embodies insecurity. Nothing looks safe. Everything looks violated. And every action exacts more and more of a price.

In the Ethersketch I solo from Underland (2003), guest artist Wendy Whelan--in gleaming gold fringe and necklace and a crotch-high black skirt--seems to be colliding centuries in her costuming. As for her dancing, the sound equivalent of it would be a trumpet's blast--alarming, exciting and over way before you can ever settle down and get used to it.

UPDATE: Petronio has added three more performances of Ethersketch I--one tomorrow and two on Sunday.

Stephen Petronio and Company continues at The Joyce Theater through Sunday, March 11. Click here for schedule and ticket information.

The Joyce Theater
Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Manhattan

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