Stephen Petronio didn’t start dancing until he took a contact improvisation class as a sophomore at Hampshire College. He fell in love with dance, studying with Steve Paxton and later joining Trisha Brown’s company as its first male dancer in 1979. He never thought that his own company – which he set up as a temporary outlet to explore his passion for choreography – would last. But next week, Stephen Petronio Company will celebrate its 25th anniversary with the world premiere of I Drink the Air Before Me at The Joyce Theater.
According to an article in this month’s issue of Dance Magazine, “extreme and unpredictable weather” served as Petronio’s inspiration for the full-length piece. Created for twelve dancers, I Drink the Air Before Me features a live commissioned score by contemporary classical composer Nico Muhly, along with choral elements by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Long-time collaborator Ken Tabachnick (who is also general manager of New York City Ballet) designed the lighting, and visual artist Cindy Sherman created the costumes. The company’s performances at The Joyce last spring demonstrated Petronio’s interest in conveying a range of emotions while also paying attention to formal composition and structure. His choreography is inventive and fluid, and a piece inspired by the weather will undoubtedly illustrate his ability to set dancers in motion at a kinetic, lightning-quick speed.