Elena Demianenko and Jonathan Jaffe, Jimena Paz in back, in “Bloom”
photo by Chris Woltmann
On Sunday afternoon, I saw Stephen Petronio Company at The Joyce Theater thanks to Taylor (a Winger contributor and personal dance blogger), who was generous enough to offer me her extra press ticket. It was my first time seeing Petronio, and the Joyce Theater turned out to be an ideal venue for the small company of eight.
“Beauty and the Brut” takes place on a beach, with a woman narrating her encounter with a man trying to pick her up. Ken Tabachnick’s excellent lighting cast a soft, bronze glow over the dancers, making the beach scene seem even more real. The piece starts with one duet between a man and a woman dressed in “beachy” costumes of palm branches. As they move slowly around one another, the narrator recites the dialogue between the two in a deadpan manner. The man asks questions such as, “Do they have hot water in France?” and “Do you guys dance in France?” More couples join them on stage to create a series of overlapping duets and trios. The narration continues throughout the piece, often repeating in both French and English the dialogue between the two. Fischerspooner’s minimalist, electronic sound was soft, and meant as background noise rather than as a rhythm for Petronio’s kinetic, flowing movement. The slow, drawn-out chords were fitting for a hot, lazy day at the beach.
“Bloom”, a 2006 piece with original music by Rufus Wainwright, starts slowly and peacefully, with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City proceeding from the front of the stage to the balcony. As they sing to a quickening tempo, the dancers, dressed in pale blue, dart and spin and leap in mesmerizing patterns around the stage. A recurring image is of a dancer laying down, center stage, developing and extending her legs gradually toward the ceiling, as if she were blooming. The piece itself blossoms and becomes an ecstatic, heavenly tour de force.
The final piece on the program, “This Is the Story of a Girl in a World”, consists of five sections, which as a whole look disconnected. The first two pieces, called “Bird Gerhl” and “For Today, I am a Boy”, show adolescent angst as the characters struggle to be bigger than they are. In trios and solos, the dancers move lyrically and sensually but lack emotion. I didn’t fully believe in what they were trying to convey. The other three sections could have been entirely separate pieces, particularly the last one, entitled “Girl in a World”. This section features the full company in very Petronio-esque choreography that is kinetic and powerful. Beautiful to watch, but it didn’t cohere with the other sections and would have been more satisfying on its own.