It’s been a long 2 years. The world is in a constant state of uncertainty as we still find ourselves in the midst of social, political and medical turmoil. But art in all its forms is both a mirror and an escape route for this collective suffering. It shows us who we are and helps us understand our reality. But it also allows us to indulge in sensual pleasures, if only temporarily, to bask in something could be. With a legacy so cherished at the Joyce Theatre, The Stephen Petronio Company went back to the familiar on May 17, 2022 to remind us all and illustrated that “dance is a kind of social glue that binds us all together. “
The world premiere of New new prayer for now opened the show. Originally conceived as a film, the play was adapted for the stage to reflect the idea of connection, or as Petronio puts it, “connection to space, to each other and to you”. The curtain opened on three dancers, who lay face down, their limbs stretched out like arachnids, curled up and methodical. There were timing and synchronicity issues early on, but they were quickly ironed out as more dancers joined the collective. The original score by Monstah Black contained a remixed version of Bridge over troubled water while the company explored intricate partner work – climbing on each other, lifting each other up and examining their bodies. It was a literal reminder that we may be further from finding that “bridge” in more hopeful times than we care to admit. A particularly exciting theme was the exploration of the diagonal plane dancers, who repeatedly performed cabrioles and renversées across the stage, which helped ground the piece into something familiar and beautiful. Kris Lee stood out in the piece, her intention to move was so crisp and clear.
A personal favorite of mine followed – Trisha Browns Group Primary Accumulation. A celebration of the endurance of the female form, this was my favorite execution of the night. The four performers were so perceptive and intuitive, repeating the series on the floor and adding a new movement to the finished choreography with each round. It hasn’t escaped my notice that this piece begins with the dancers instead of lying face up – a nod of new optimism that tickled me. With no score save for the creaking of their joints, the dancers endured the rigor and both performed with a robotic composure – the dichotomy is intriguing, requiring the audience to participate in the watching; it is active and alive. And the dancers were up for the challenge.
Finally, bloom closed the show. The Young People’s Chorus of New York City preceded the dance, their youthful openness and beautiful voices mesmerized as if the heavens themselves were opening – it made me cry. Their voices added a distinct texture to the dance that flooded the stage. In this piece, the company was wired differently, moving with striking abandon and athleticism. Repeated chaîné twists and arabesques created a structure balanced by the emphasis on movement on circular patterns that swept across the stage. Original music by Rufus Wainwright punctuated by the vocal styles of poetry by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson created a cacophony of sight, sound and touch.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see the company now through May 22, 2022.
Photo credit: Julie Lemberger