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Jennifer Wesnousky
Performance Reviews
The Joyce Theater
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Stephen Petronio Company

by Jennifer Wesnousky
April 29, 2007
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
The Stephen Petronio Company's performance at the Joyce Theater on April 29, 2007 intrigued instantly and utterly upon the entrance of a stunning soloist in Petronio's world premiere of "Without You II." Michael Badger gave new meaning to the concept of isolation as, clad skimpily in nothing but small green shorts, he contracted, rippled and flexed his strong and sinewy frame. Rolling slowly onto his toes, he executed energetic undulations from head to shoulders to waist in gradually accelerating slow motion moves. Joined finally by a girl in army green (Elena Demyanenko), the two engaged in a codependent yet turbulent dance to the repetitive strains of Placebo's "Without You," symbolizing their rocky relationship. Sharing weight and axes, they alternately pushed and pulled one another away and back through elaborate extensions, lifts and lines, at the end of which, in a surprising turn, she propped him up both emotionally and physically.

Regardless of how much or little they did, one just could not take his or her eyes off of the Stephen Petronio Company as witnessed in their second piece, "The Ship Song." Fondling themselves and one another to Nick Cave's country-ish strains, the eccentrically dressed foursome, whose eclectic garments included underwear, a raincoat and a baggy dress, threw themselves utterly into the moment and movement within Petronio's starkly choreographed number. Constantly changing levels and couples, they moved mechanically as the dancers paired off in girl-boy, girl-girl and boy-boy combinations in an engaging preview of the rest of the sexually-charged show.

With unsubtle eroticism and an occasionally humorous feel, "Bud Suite" blatantly blurred gender lines. Tara Subkoff/Imitation of Christ and H. Petal's creative red, black and white costumes made their thematic contribution with an evolution from somewhat feminine male garments to somewhat masculine female garments to costumes which merged or distorted such divisions. The piece began homo-erotically with male dancers who moved with seamless fluidity to a triumphant tune, sneaking kisses between lifts, arabesques and leaps. They were then joined by a barrage of females, whose strength always equaled or excelled theirs. Throughout effortless jumps, head tosses, layouts and extensions and an intense emotional range from removed to celebratory, the dancers' immaculate technique overshadowed even their attempts to shock with rarely seen angles of oft open legs.

The initially noticeable aspect of Act II's "This is the Story of a Girl in a World" was the piece's strange lyrics, which spoke about a "bird girl" as one male dancer in a black, ruffled skirt seemed to invoke the animal. "Someday I'll grow up and be a beautiful woman, but for today, I'm a boy…" continued the music, to which standout performer, Davalois Fearson, displayed her prowess and power. Replaced by moving clumps of dancers in colorful, semi-sheer lace unitards with odd, triangular fins at the neck, the aquiline theme continued with sharply circling arms and flying leaps to a medley of music with influences as diverse as African and rock. While effectively contrasting energy, motion and music, the Stephen Petronio Company danced adeptly through such issues as personal identity and destiny.

"Have they always been so…sexual?" asked one audience member, before confessing her appreciation for the compelling company. For, in spite (or perhaps because) of their tackling of issues which could be perceived controversially, the Stephen Petronio Company displayed such technical excellence and emotional commitment to their work that even the most conservative of observers was forced to watch and respect them, shocked only by their sheer musicality, charisma and quality.

Artistic Director and Choreographer: STEPHEN PETRONIO

Apprentice: JYE HWEI LIN

Rehearsal Director: ORI FLOMIN

Rehearsal Assistant: SHILA TIRABASSI

Resident Lighting Designer: KEN TABACHNICK

Lighting Supervisor: BURKE WILMORE

Production Stage Manager: LYNDA ERBS

Managing Director: TRICIA PIERSON
Stephen Petronio Company 'Bird Gurhl' – a preview of 'This is the Story of a Girl in a World' Pictured: Shila Tirabassi and Gino Grenek

Stephen Petronio Company
"Bird Gurhl" – a preview of "This is the Story of a Girl in a World"
Pictured: Shila Tirabassi and Gino Grenek

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Schreiber

Stephen Petronio Company 'For Today I am a Boy' – a preview of 'This is the Story of a Girl in a World' Pictured: Davalois Fearon

Stephen Petronio Company
"For Today I am a Boy" – a preview of "This is the Story of a Girl in a World"
Pictured: Davalois Fearon

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Schreiber

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