Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stephen Petronio stages post-death experience at The Joyce

Before world premiere of "Like Lazarus Did (LLD 4/30)" (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
View from Eighth Avenue (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
The view of the afterlife offered by Stephen Petronio at The Joyce Theater this week in Like Lazurus Did (LLD 4/30) is so alluring and vital that "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" could be its score. But rather than Blue Oyster Cult, Petronio has the brilliant composer-singer Son Lux whose reverberating instrumental work and vocals saturate everything with shimmering ghosts of music past--at one point, I heard a trace of Dvorak, a composer haunted, in turn, by Black spirituals--and intimations of suffering transcended.
C. J. Camerieri outside The Joyce (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Composer Son Lux outside The Joyce (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Before the performance began, the choreographer, himself, appeared as a "corpse" lying onstage, just visible beneath a slightly raised curtain. When the Joyce named Petronio its first artist-in-residence, is this what they envisioned?

Death also hovered above us in the form of Janine Antoni's installation. The artist lay completely motionless and mostly unseen in a helicopter stretcher suspended above the audience. Waxy models of body parts and skeletal fragments dangled above her from a frame of bars.

To formally open the world premiere, Son Lux and his colleagues--violinist Rob Moose and trumpeter C. J. Camerieri, both from hipster-classical yMusic--formed a procession outside the theater with members of the Young People's Chorus of New York City. Once inside, the chorus filled the aisles and one arm of the theater's balcony.

The ever-present, intimate and eventually propulsive music gave this performance an air of sacred ritual but one slipped free of specific religious or cultural reference. Powerful archetypes of death and renewal cross human cultures and traditions, of course, and Petronio restores these essential symbols to an art form that is, by its very nature, associated with life, youth and vigorous corporeality.
Lights outside The Joyce (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Members of Young People's Chorus of New York City before the procession
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Petronio's ensemble--Julian De LeonDavalois Fearon, Joshua Green, Gino GrenekBarrington Hinds, Natalie MackessyJaqlin Medlock, Nicholas SciscioneEmily Stone and Joshua Tuason--performed what it means to be recently shed of material form. They make their bodies-- suffused with the soft luminosity of Ken Tabachnick's light--open, silky, and capable of great flexibility and response.

Son Lux and musicians on Eighth Avenue (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Rob Moose (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
C. J. Camerieri and Son Lux (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Camerieri's trumpet (c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Stephen Petronio Company's Like Lazarus Did (LLD 4/30) runs through May 5.  For a schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Manhattan

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