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Stephen Petronio Company and The Architecture of Loss

March 12, 2012

Stephen Petronio in “Intravenous Lecture” Photo by Julie Lemberger

Stephen Petronio is a master of dance, a choreographer with a vision and a master of his craft that is enable to make that vision manifest. Such it was Sunday afternoon at the Joyce Theater in which Mr. Petronio presented the world premier of his latest work The Architecture of Loss.

The evening began with a most unusual offering, a recreation/interpretation of Steve Paxton’s Intravenous Lecture.  Created in 1970, it was the response to NYU’s cancelation of a performance because of the intended use of 43 nude redheads. So instead, Mr. Paxton, a post-modern pioneer, created Intravenous Lecture, discussing censorship as saline solution was injected into his arm.

Mr. Petronio version was personal and intimate, he comes on stage in the greatest costume ever, created by John Bartlett; he was in stripes from head to toe and a pair of copper lamé shoes, of which I gave serious thought of how I could get back stage to steal.

Using improvisation he examines the concept of censorship with both words and movement, all with the IV solution attached. It was creepy, but fascinating. All in all Mr. Petronio is asking important questions about the constraints and structure of censorship and its effect on society.

Barrington Hinds in “The Architecture of Loss” Photo by Steven Schreiber

City of Twist created in 2002 is Mr. Petronio’s love letter to New York made in the aftermath of September 11th. It is a seamless blend of music and dance. With original music by Laurie Anderson and costumes by Tara Subkoff/Imitation of Christ it is a moving introspection and reflection of New York City. With projections of fire escapes and nighttime sky lines, it displays deep emotion. It was beautifully danced, the company exhibiting flawless technique. The stage is filled with movement, position and juxtapositions explored, accompanied by razor sharp movement and tranquil moments, bathed in shadows and light. It portrays a felling of loss, of having lost something dear. Both Natalie Mackessy and Julian De Leon must be mentioned for the virtuosity and brilliance of their performance.

Ethersketch I, performed by New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan was spectacular; it was edgy yet subtle and fluid. A revised solo from Mr. Petronio’s 2003 work “Underland”, with music by Nick Cave, it is described as “painting with energy in space” and that was exactly what Mr. Whelan created. It was short but riveting.

The Architecture of Loss exams the impermanence of dance, about formation and disintegration, the physical manifestations of “losing” and all that implies. Both formal and emotional, the work reaches for the immediacy and unpredictability of “disappearing” through constantly morphing, visceral structures.

The phrasing and structure of the work is a hailmark of postmodernism and there is a hint of Merce Cunningham  evident in the whole. For Mr. Petronio the stage is his canvas and the dancers his pigments and colors that he mixes to express and emphasize. He creates tableaus and then weaves the dancers in and out of them, sometimes off-kilter, but always in the superb execution of his choreography.

“The Architecture of Loss” Pictured Joshua Green & Amanda Wells Photo by Steven Schreiber

What is concealed is as important as what is revealed. “It’s kind of homage to dance because dance just disappears,” states Mr. Petronio. “The moment you see it, it’s gone. I meant really to look at the joy of losing the moment. .

Costumes created by Gudrun & Gudrun help weave the whole picture, dressed in loose knits and some men wearing only briefs with one arm encased in various designs reminiscent of gladiators. The artwork of Rannvá Kunoy, projected on three panels, served as backdrop that helped by creating a visual that was haunting and somewhat ethereal. The original music by Valgeir Sigurðsson, has a sort of sadness that has a nuanced and gentleness that helped Mr. Petrino go places he may be hestant to go normally when he is choreographing.

The Architecture of Loss is emotional and questioning , it is a work on great importance that should be lauded for the brilliance that it is!

Stephen Petronio Company


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