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.

Rant & Rave

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
UA Dance Ensemble members Candice Barth and Gregory Taylor in Jessica Lang's "Among the Stars." Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy University of Arizona

If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.

The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Alice Sheppard/Kinetic Light in DESCENT, which our readers chose as last year's "Most Moving Performance." Photo by Jay Newman, courtesy Kinetic Light

Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.

We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.

Keep reading... Show less
News
A still from Dancing Dreams. Courtesy OVID

If you're seeking an extra dash of inspiration to start the new season on the right—dare we say—foot, look no further than dance documentaries.

Starting August 23, OVID, a streaming service dedicated to docs and art-house films, is adding eight notable dance documentaries to its library. The best part? There's a free seven-day trail. (After that, subscriptions are $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually.)

From the glamour of Russian ballet stars to young dancers training in Cuba to a portrait of powerhouse couple Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder, here's what's coming to a couch near you:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox