Press Release: Stephen Petronio Company
STEPHEN PETRONIO COMPANY RETURNS TO WHITE BIRD
TO PERFORM A ROUSING AND INVENTIVE “BLOODLINES” PROGRAM, FEATURING THE
POSTMODERN WORKS OF YVONNE RAINIER, STEVE PAXTON, ANNA HALPRIN
AS WELL AS PETRONIO HIMSELF.
“There’s a visceral thrill to the choreography that is unlike anything offered by other contemporary choreographers.” -The New York Times
Stephen Petronio, one of the leading dance-makers of his generation, returns to White Bird for a record 7th time with dance that uniquely merges new music, visual art, and fashion, producing powerfully modern landscapes for the senses. Stephen Petronio is acclaimed by audiences and critics alike and widely regarded as one of the leading dance-makers of his generation. As described in Dance Magazine, his work “surprises you [with] every ricocheting leap and pitched body flying off on a tangent… the effect is startling, as if time has been suspended.”
The 9-member Stephen Petronio Company will perform an invigorating program that is part of Stephen Petronio’s new Bloodlines Project. The 2014–15 season marked the first incarnation of Bloodlines, a project of Stephen Petronio Company to honor and embody the American postmodern dance masters who greatly inspired and influenced Stephen Petronio. To date, the Company has restaged eight works by these artists, including Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Anna Halprin, Yvonne Rainer, and Steve Paxton, with plans to incorporate others in the coming seasons. The juxtaposition of Bloodlines repertory alongside Petronio’s works offers audiences an experiential insight into the evolution of the postmodern dance tradition.
The company’s White Bird program features six of these restaged works, as well as a work choreographed by Artistic Director Stephen Petronio. The first three pieces are choreographed by Yvonne Rainer; Diagonal (1963) is a playful game, full of humor and chance, but with clear rules for space, time, and movement, denoted by letter and number. In reducing the design to a series of actions, devoid of meaning, the performers’ relationship to the movements is revealed. Trio A with Flags (1966/1970), set to the Chambers Brothers song “In the Midnight Hour,” is one of many versions of the iconic dance, Trio A. Originally titled The Mind is a Muscle Part 1, Trio A is an egalitarian, movement-focused work performed by any willing participant with any degree of skill. Trio A can be a trio, solo, an ensemble work, or duet and focuses on movement invention sans repetition, seduction, or spectacle, which over time was seen as the ultimate rebellious act of post-modern dance. Chair-Pillow, set to Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” is an excerpt from 1969’s Continuous Project-Altered Daily. The most structured and conventional of the three excerpts presented on this program, Chair-Pillow is a dance about self-inflicted obstacles, theoretical and tangible.
Next is Excerpt from Goldberg Variations (1986), choreographed by Steve Paxton, American choreographer and creator of the movement technique Contact Improvisation. Beginning in 1986, Paxton’s Goldberg Variations project extended over six years, rooted in his commitment to never perform the work identically. Inspired by Glenn Gould’s 1982 recording, and intrigued by the juxtaposition of an ever changing dance set to a fixed audio reproduction, Paxton did not commit to recording any of his performances until the project’s end in 1992.
Stephen Petronio will perform the solo The Courtesan and the Crone, created by Anna Halprin in 1999, at the age of seventy-nine. A feminist work about aging and image, the piece is emblematic of the manner in which Halprin remains present in her work, evolving thematic material to reflect current states, eliminating the distinction between life and art.
The program concludes with Petronio’s new work, Untitled Touch (2017), set to a score by Son Lux, a mix of purposeful propulsion and dexterous motion. The nine dancers often act upon another, rather than work in tandem, orbiting around each other while transitions and groupings dissolve. As noted in the title, it is a tactile work, but is neither sensitive nor indulgent. Instead, it employs surprisingly percussive movement vocabulary.
Stephen Petronio was born in Newark, New Jersey, and received a B.A. from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he began his early training in improvisation and dance technique. He was first male dancer of the Trisha Brown Dance Company (1979 to 1986) and has gone on to build a unique career, receiving numerous accolades, including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, an American Choreographer Award, a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award, and a 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. Petronio has created over 35 works for his company and has been commissioned by some of the world’s most prestigious modern and ballet companies, including William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt (1987), Deutsche Oper Berlin (1992), Lyon Opera Ballet (1994), Sydney Dance Company (2003), The Scottish Ballet (2007), and two works for National Dance Company Wales (2010 and 2013). Stephen Petronio recently established the Petronio Residency Center in Cairo, NY, which, beginning in summer 2018, will offer paid residencies, a haven for artists and their collaborators with a keen interest in the history of contemporary movement and an appetite for the unknown.
Founded in 1984, Stephen Petronio Company has performed in 40 countries throughout the world, including 23 seasons at The Joyce Theater in New York. The Company has been commissioned by Dance Umbrella Festival/London, Hebbel Theater/Berlin, Scène National de Sceaux, Festival d’Automne à Paris, CNDC Angers/France, The Holland Festival, Festival Montpellier Danse, Danceworks UK Ltd, Festival de Danse–Cannes, and in the U.S. by San Francisco Performances, The Joyce Theater, UCSB Arts & Lectures, Wexner Center for the Arts, Walker Art Center, and White Bird, among others.
White Bird’s 20th season (2017-18) is supported by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, including support from the City of Portland, Multnomah County and the Arts Education & Access Fund; Work for Art; The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Cultural Trust, and Starseed Foundation.