Friday, May 3, 2013

Petronio's Lazarus Trick

 Nicholas Sciscione, Joshua Tuason, Davalois Fearon, Joshua Green. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Inspired by his title character, in Like Lazarus Did, Stephen Petronio reflects on the idea of releasing the spirit from the body. This is no easy feat for a choreographer whose work is so implicitly tied to physical daring, even after nearly 30 years of making work. He collaborates here with artist Janine Antoni, whose eerie "living set," suspended above the audience, comprises what appears to be a person on a stretcher, holding a buddy light, with limbs and bones floating above her. And providing a moody, atmospheric songbook, including some original slave hymns, is Son Lux with his band and the Young People's Chorus, who sing in the aisles and balcony.

Even amid these spiritual elements, Petronio must rely on bodies. Three trios in white tunics in cones of light  (costumes by H. Petal and Tara Subkoff, lighting by Ken Tabachnik) move in tandem in the choreographer's distinct lexicon: a step forward on releve, palms extended down and out; stiff slashing legs, vertically launched spins, spearing leaps. The costume palette shifts darker, arriving at black briefs with brown scarfy bits. One woman aids another; two men, supplicant-like, balance on one hand and foot while hanging onto one another. A woman is partnered by three men to create Rodinesque tableaux in between brusque tumbles. The musical dynamic builds as the chorus loudly clacks wooden blocks. Scarves discarded and more skin bared, the movement becomes bolder, more risky. A rope drops down; it splits in two to frame—trapeze-like—a guy who circles his pelvis before the curtain drops in a false ending.

Nicholas Sciscione. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

When it rises again, the dancers have changed to red sarongs and black tablecloth dresses. Sections repeat from the opening, but it's far more chaotic, urgent, and dramatic. Even if rings a bit forced at this point, it's what Petronio does best—traveling phrases that exploit the drama of skilled dancers moving really fast. An end solo features Nicholas Sciscione, reborn in beige briefs, squirming and aimless and with any luck, soon on his feet to speed across the stage in grown-up Petronio style. Like Lazarus Did runs through this weekend at the Joyce.

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