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Review: Stephen Petronio Company Makes a Sensorial Return to The Joyce Theater

Don't miss the opportunity to see the company, now through May 22.

Review: Stephen Petronio Company Makes a Sensorial Return to The Joyce Theater

It's been a long 2 years. The world has been in a constant state of uncertainty, as we still find ourselves in the midst of social, political, and medical turmoil. Yet art, in all its forms, is both the mirror and the escape for these collective woes. It shows us who we are, helping us make sense of our reality. But it also allows us to succumb to pleasures of the senses, even if only temporarily, to bask in what could be. With such a tried-and-true legacy at The Joyce Theater, Stephen Petronio Company returned to the familiar on May 17, 2022 to remind us all of just that, exemplifying that "dance is a kind of social glue that keeps all us connected."

The world premiere of New New Prayer for Now opened the show. Originally conceived as a film, the piece was reworked for the stage to reflect the idea of connection, or as Petronio says, "connection to space, to each other, and to you." The curtain opened on three dancers laying face-down, their limbs outstretched like arachnids, coiled and methodical. There were timing and synchronicity issues early on, but they were quickly ironed out as more dancers joined the collective. Monstah Black's original score included a remixed version of Bridge Over Troubled Water as the company explored intricate partnerwork-climbing on top of one other, lifting one other, and examining their bodies. It was a literal reminder that perhaps we're further away from finding this "bridge" to more hopeful times than we'd like to admit. A particularly exciting theme was the examination of the diagonal plane-dancers performed repeated cabrioles and renversées across the stage that helped ground the piece in something familiar and beautiful. Kris Lee was a standout in the piece, her movement intention so clear and crisp.

A personal favorite of mine followed-Trisha Brown's 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 sharp and intuitive, repeating the series on the floor and adding a new movement with each round of the completed choreography. It didn't escape me that this piece begins with the dancers instead laying face-up-a nod of new optimism that tickled me. With no score but the creaks of their joints, the dancers persevered through the rigor, performing with both a robotic serenity-the dichotomy is fascinating, It requires the audience to participate in the watching; it's active and alive. And the dancers were up for the challenge.

Review: Stephen Petronio Company Makes a Sensorial Return to The Joyce Theater

Finally, Bloom closed the show. The Young People's Chorus of New York City preceded the dancing, their youthful openness and beautiful voices mesmerized, as if the heavens themselves were opening up-it made me cry. Their voices added distinct texture to the dancing that flooded the stage. In this piece, the company was wired differently, moving with striking abandon and athleticism. Repeated chaîné turns and arabesques created structure, offset by the movement's emphasis on circular patterns that swept the stage. Original music by Rufus Wainwright, punctuated with the vocals stylings 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 22nd, 2022.

Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger

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