Performing Arts: Dance
April 10, 2014
This week choreographer Stephen Petronio and his thirty-year-old company returned to The Joyce Theater for an anniversary celebration. The evening program followed a chronological trajectory opening with one of his early works, then presenting two world premieres - one performed by Petronio himself.

"Strange Attractors Part I" is a 1999 work that aptly showcases Petronio's style - particularly in the physicality he requires of his dancers. Ghost's silky pajama-esque costumes add a dreamy element to the churning feel of the movement, which transforms from solos to duets or trios. It is a whirlwind of limbs slicing through space, interrupted by only rare moments of unison and the silent pauses the recur throughout Michael Nyman's original score. Most impressive is the timeless talent, Gino Grenek whose interwoven solo makes the vigorous technique appear effortless.

The world premiere of "Stripped" is a fleeting solo work, in which Petronio flirtatiously strips off his sports coat; this is made part comical as his head is completely wrapped in fabric. This fabric turns out to be a chain of ties that he unravels across the stage and back, at last revealing himself. While wrapped up, he softly performs an informal series of 30 gestures inspired by different emotions, his youth, and memories.

Following this performance, guest artist Melissa Toogood takes to the stage looking strong in Petronio's choreography; her solo begins the second world premiere of the evening, "Locomoter." This work parallels the earlier "Strange Attractions," as both hinge upon a visual effect of organized (certainly more organized in "Locomotor") chaos. The architecture of the dance sifts relentless movement through various patterns, consistently in reverse and often in a circular manner.

Michael Volpe's accompanying original score is an electronic one that offers the sudden sounds of laughter, echoing beats, and church bells. Most memorable is Barrington Hinds and Nicholas Sciscione partnering throughout. Together they lend a moment of rare vulnerability to the work's mechanical theme as one kisses the forehead of the other before whisking offstage. All the while, the ensemble donning color-blocked - tan in the front and black in the back - unitards (Narciso Rodriguez) fold in and out of the motion, each ultimately reaching a point of motionless standing before continuing on their dizzying path.

By the end of "Locomotor," it is evident that Petronio's choreographic style has continued to excite audiences; his abstract, rigorous, and technical style prevails - even after three decades.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jenny Thompson

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