In The Studio

In The Studio: Stephen Petronio On Finding Joy in The Unknown

Photo by Julie Lemberger of Stephen Petronio's Untitled Touch (2017) at The Joyce Theater

For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.


What is typically the jumping off point when you begin creating a new work?

It varies every time. It's usually a word or a phrase. In this case I was in discussion with a diamond company about making a work because I've always thought diamonds were so seductive. I became interested in the process of going from something as dirty and amorphous as coal, to something compact and brilliant like a diamond. Even when the stone is hard in its raw state it's very unremarkable, and then it gets faceted and becomes this thing of elusive beauty. So I thought that was an interesting path to follow in making a new work.

Photo by Paula Court of Stephen Petronio Company rehearsing Hardness 10


I heard you say that Yvonne Rainer opened a door for you because she encouraged you to inquire in a way that was important to you. Is that something you try to encourage with your dancers?

I try to frame my questions in a way that there is a balance between what I know is going to yield something of interest and what I don't understand about what it will yield. I like to excite my dancers. I can see when there's a good problem on the floor and if they're excited or not. Having an engaged dancer solving a problem with me—nothing is more exciting. You can drag a dancer through a problem but it's much more fun if everyone is galloping towards some unknown goal.

Photo by Paula Court of Stephen Petronio Company rehearsing Hardness 10

When you do come across a problem how do you keep moving forward?

More often than not when something is not working I leave it, and when we come back the next day it somehow has worked itself out. The one thing I've learned is there's no real prescription for making a dance and you really need to listen to the problem at hand and how the dancers are solving it.

Broadway
Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

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This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

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Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

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Sergei Polunin. Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Polunin Ltd., Courtesy Sundance Selects.

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I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.

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Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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