New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review 1, 10-17: Reflections with a Twist
Living in the Glam with Petronio & Co.
By Nancy Dalva
Copyright 2002 Nancy Dalva
NEW YORK -- Uptown Tuesday
night, at Radio City: the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards. Downtown, at
the Joyce Theatre: the post-modernly fashionable Stephen Petronio
Company, dressed by Tara Subkoff of Imitation of Christ (the actual
name of a "creative collection of social engineers" whose portfolio
includes clothing design) and Tanya Sarne of Ghost (another fashion
house). The packed house was glam, but the dancers were more glam.
And none more so than Petronio himself, opening the program with
"Broken Man," a new solo in which -- no small accomplishment --
his silky, noirish allure was subsumed by the really heartbreaking
allusions he conjured.
Subkoff dressed Petronio
in what the choreographer once, in conversation with me, amusingly
referred to as "reverse drag" -- that is, in a dark business suit,
or a version of one, with the jacket, half off, suspended by straps
that looked like a car's safety belt. On the back of the white shirt
were some cryptic graphics. Inside the black jacket was a blood
red lining, the only flash of color on a somber stage. Ken Tabatchnik's
lighting provided the set: slats of clear light stacked up in columns
-- or towers -- on the backdrop.
To music by Blixa Bargeld,
Petronio threw himself through a rich tumult of activity, with his
usual pantherine attack. As ever, he was demonically lyrical, or
lyrically demonic, swift, muscular. All this intensity was heightened
by some charged gestures, as when he held his fingers straight out
in front of his eyes, like rays, or symbolic tears. Indeed, this
was a dance that seemed, to me, to have enough tears for everything.
Petronio had been recovering, I'd read, from a broken foot, and
from that you might deduce that the dance is about being broken,
and in pain. Or, "Broken Man" might be about some kind of spiritual
break, or a break with another person, or perhaps a break from reality.
Somehow, with his jacket half off and his feet bare, Petronio seemed
to have been thrown out of something -- a vehicle, a thought, a
complacency, or, indeed, life itself. Somehow, he seemed to dance
the movement and what the viewer was thinking about the movement.
(That is true charisma.) To me he was not fallen, but falling, falling,
as if from some place high, and the sight filled me with sorrow.
This remarkable dance,
quite short, was mirrored, at the end of the program, by an equally
sorrowful solo by Ashleigh Leite, who closed the new "City of Twist."
Dancing before another set composed only of light projections on
the backdrop -- at this moment a night city scape, at others a starry
sky with dual crescent moons, a red sky at dawn, and more -- Leite
leapt forth, wrapped in fringed white drapery that floated around
her like feathers. She was not Petronio's mirror, as his dancers
often are, but there was a similitude, as if she were his spirit,
or an angel come to avenge him.
In between these solos
there was, of course, the rest of the program. "Prelude" (2000)
is a line-up dance where the performers grope (mostly) themselves
in an orgy of solipsistic hedonism -- this being Petronio's signature
attitude, for better or worse. "Strange Attractors Part II" (2000)
followed. It's the Petronio dance that looks like gene decoding,
or chaos, or buckyballs, or entropy -- something inevitable, yet
difficult to explain.
"City of Twist" is a
much hotter item, with the same expansive projection, powerful torque,
and limited vocabulary, but more differentiated gender roles, and
less interchangeable dancers. Subkoff's oddball costumes -- fetching
black cocktail and bedtime attire for the women (her trademark is
recycling vintage garments, an amusing gambit) and unfetching white
dress shirts (plus one sweater suitable for a maritime adventure;
hello, sailor!) and teeny underpants for the men -- give it a French
loony bin flavor (reminding me of that old Alan Bates movie "King
of Hearts"). The piece opened with a series of solos. Each performer
appeared in isolation, as if dancing not in a theater, but at home,
before a mirror. I felt like a voyeur, and I thought they looked
a whole lot like Petronio even while portraying themselves, which
is not a bad thing, really. The dance -- it continued on with shifting,
strangers-in-the-night encounters -- transpires to beautiful silvery
original music Laurie Anderson composed for the occasion. When he
danced with Trisha Brown (1979-1986), Petronio had a memorable solo
in "Set and Reset," which transpired to another wonderful Anderson
score. Back then Petronio could blow anyone off a stage, though
he wasn't rude enough to do it. Twenty-odd years later, he still
has that power. A whole company of Petronio dancers, excellent all,
is still not as compelling as just one Petronio, but they're the
Editor's Note: Stephen Petronio Company continues at the Joyce
through Sunday. For more information, please click here.
Go back to Flash Reviews