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      Melissa Toogood in Stephen Petronio 2014
      Photo by Quinn Batson
      Melissa Toogood
    A Beautiful Machine, Flying Backward

    Stephen Petronio Company's 30th Anniversary Season at The Joyce


    Consistently nurturing a company and an aesthetic, Stephen Petronio has created a beautiful, organic machine that continually bears fruit. How perfect, then, that he chose a dancer from Merce Cunningham's company to put a point on the success of this model, for a new piece in this 30th anniversary season of the Stephen Petronio Company.

    Choreography by: Stephen Petronio.
    Dancers: Julian De Leon, Davalois Fearon, Josh D. Green, Gino Grenek, Barrington HInds, Natalie Mackessy, Jaqlin Medlock, Nicholas Sciscione, Emily Stone, Joshua Tuason
    Guest Artist: Melissa Toogood
    Music by: Michael Nyman (Attractors), Michael Volpe (Locomotor).
    Costumes by: Ghost, Janine Antoni, Narciso Rodriguez.
    Lighting design by: Ken Tabachnick.
    Production stage manager: Meghan Rose Murphy.
    Executive Director: Laurie Uprichard.
    The Joyce
    April 8-13, 2014

    The new piece, Locomotor, answers the question Petronio posed for himself — "how to move forward while acknowledging the past 30 wonderful years of building work with a family of incredibly talented and intelligent dancers?" It feels fresh and vital — and the dancers are running and leaping Backward for much of the dance. As a dancer, that can be exciting and disconcerting, adding both new skill and heightened danger of collisions.

    Petronio and Company pull this off well, with excellent help from music by Michael Volpe, which is soft and crunchy, sparse and loud, all in good measure. Melissa Toogood, the former Merce Cunningham dancer, is superlative, somehow always managing huge extensions while dancing impossibly quick and soft. She looks completely at home in Petronio's movement in only her second appearance with the company. The other dancers travel mainly in pairs, often in unison, occasionally in push-pull interactions, with characteristic elastic spinning and sharp limb angles, and plenty of zap. Barrington Hinds and Nicholas Sciscione have a very Petronio duet, with the huge Hinds tossing a sizeable Sciscione around like a rag doll in half-intimate, half-violent interaction.

    Davalois Fearon and Barrington Hinds in Stephen Petronio 2014
    Photo by Quinn Batson
    Davalois Fearon and Barrington Hinds

    Hinds has found "it" in Petronio's movement after several years in the company, and he shows it in the opening solo of Strange Attractors Part 1, originally choreographed in 1999. Every Petronio dancer onstage this year has gone through this process as well. Some, like Jaqlin Medlock, seem to find and nail "it" almost immediately. It is sweet beauty to watch an old piece come fully alive with new dancers. The large and long people — all the men and Emily Stone — look ideally fluid in this version of Attractors, especially the remarkable Gino Grenek, who continually improves — 15 years into his career. It is quite possible he danced in the original performances of Strange Attractors. Spine-melting music by Michael Nyman haunts and propels, too.

    And Stephen Petronio, finding it impossible to stay away from performing, also debuts Stripped, a solo limited by blindness. It is an odd piece, open to many interpretations: is the huge bird's-nest of neckties around his head, that is unraveled in a continuous string throughout the piece, a metaphor for stripping old things away to get to one's inner child? A commentary on the blinding effect of age? An inspiration to create, as he says his collaborations with artist Janine Antoni have become? The perception from the audience is watching a poor imitation of Stephen Petronio moving carefully around the stage (blind) for most of the time, and then seeing a too-short flash of the real Petronio as the last tie leaves his head and he can move freely and well.

    Thankfully the nurturing company model is working thoroughly in this 30th Anniversary Season of the Stephen Petronio Company, and the dancing, dancers and choreography are as fresh and vital as ever.

    APRIL 20, 2014

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