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Broken Man
City of Twist
The Island of Misfit Toys

September 30, October 1-2, 2004
Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts

“Almost more than any other US choreographer whose work we regularly see over here, Petronio taps into the mania of the downtown New York scene.” — The London Times

Elegant, impulsive, subversive, demanding: New York-based choreographer and dancer Stephen Petronio returns to Montreal after an absence of several years. His program promises a full measure of excitement, firmly rooted in the asphalt jungle of the Big Apple: Broken Man, Petronio’s first solo since 1996, a piece whose execution, says The New York Times, is "...a stunning tour de force of performing...",City of Twist, best described as a love letter to New York danced to the music of Laurie Anderson, and climaxing with The Island of Misfit Toys, on a stage dominated by Cindy Sherman’s troubling, outsized dolls.

New York permeates Stephen Petronio’s work, and acts as a powerful catalyst. Over City of Twist hangs the shadow of a day in September, 2001, while The Island of Misfit Toys summons up, writes The Guardian, “...a vision of Manhattan twentysomethings shipwrecked by a culture of infantilized excess. (...) Petronio's triumph here is to evoke transgression within expertly polished dance. Individual movements glow with burnished glamour – which makes their modulation into dysfunction all the more chilling.”

Founded in 1984 and celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, the Stephen Petronio Company has performed in more than twenty countries. Its productions seamlessly integrate contemporary music, the visual arts and the fashion world to create a self-contained universe as challenging as it is stimulating. Among the distinguished artists who have contributed to the company’s repertoire are Laurie Anderson, Arnold Ferrera, Cindy Sherman, Charles Atlas, Michael Nyman, Yoko Ono, Sheila Chandra and Tara Subkoff/Imitation of Christ. It has received commissions from organizations and events as diverse as the London Dance Umbrella Festival, Berlin’s Hebbel Theatre, Montreal’s Festival international de nouvelle danse, the Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Angers CNDC, the Holland Dance Festival, New York’s Joyce Theatre, San Francisco Performances, and White Bird of Portland, Oregon.

New Jersey-born Stephen Petronio credits two masters of the dance for his inspiration: Rudolph Nureev, the classical dancer who needs no introduction, and Steve Paxton of the Judson Church Dance Theatre and co-inventor of contact-improvisation dance. Two totally contrasting worlds thus converged in Petronio, leading him first to the dance, then to choreography. Stephen Petronio began his career as first male dancer in the troupe led by Trisha Brown, then the dominant figure in American dance whose influence was to shape his development as an artist.

At once complex and sensual, his vocabulary has been described as an eccentric hybrid of ballet and modern dance (The New York Times, October 2002). New York’s leading daily went on to observe how Petronio’s choreographies were inspired by an architectural model, delivered in a high-speed, quirky, aggressive style. But in recent years, while his style remains true to its origins, his approach to the dance has shifted. “I used to believe that good dance was only about architecture, making one beautiful and dazzling picture after another. Now I think it's more about flesh and spirit,” he told New York Times dance critic Valerie Gladstone in an interview prior to the première of City of Twist.

Bessie Prize winner in 1986, and of the American Choreography Award in 1987, Stephen Petronio has been invited to create works for several leading companies, including the Frankfurt Ballett directed by William Forsythe, the Deutsche Opera of Berlin, the Lyon Opéra Ballet on two occasions, Maggia Danza of Florence, London’s CanDoCo, and most recently, two Mexican troupes, Axis Dance Company and A-Quo Danza contemporanea.

April 2004

Photo: Sarah Silver