Audiences will have the opportunity to see dancer and choreographer Stephen Petronio’s work “Like Lazarus Did,” at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in Jackson Hall.
Petronio began dancing in 1974 and was the first male dancer of the Trisha Brown Company (1979-1986). The Stephen Petronio Company was founded in 1984 and has performed in 26 countries throughout the world, including more than 35 New York City engagements with 16 seasons at The Joyce Theater.
Petronio has created 35-plus works for his company, and has been commissioned by some of the world’s most prestigious modern and ballet companies. He has received numerous accolades, including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts and an American Choreographer Award.
The full-scale performance of Petronio’s hourlong piece, “Like Lazarus Did,” delves into spirituality, death and the hereafter. The piece generated numerous articles in the New York Times, the New Yorker and elsewhere when it premiered last year.
Petronio told an interviewer from the Huffington Post that “Basically my composer (Son Lux) brought me a songbook of American slave songs from the 1800s, and I was so inspired by the sense of faith as well as the elevation above the conditions under which they were living. It made me think about various forms of leaving the body for a heightened state, and it seemed like a beautiful meditation.
“I also loved that it had been passed down from oral tradition for so long without having been written down. I love the idea of things from mouth to mouth; in dance we similarly pass information from body to body.”
He also said, “I was completely moved by the power of the slave songs and the concept of the afterlife. I am interested in that state of being free from pain; every culture has a reincarnation or a regeneration story. From pagan cultures to eastern cultures, there is a regeneration and rebirth story, from the phoenix rising to Sleeping Beauty awakening and being transformed. It’s all over the place. So there is a strong belief and a strong urge to have a place that is free.”
Petronio’s work features 10 dancers, an electroacoustic score and a “living set” by artist Janine Antoni. For the duration of the hourlong performance, Antoni is suspended high above the stage inside a hanging sculpture of her own creation, resembling a helicopter stretcher, with artistic renderings of various body parts nearby.
Antoni actually gets into the hanging sculpture half an hour before the performance begins (and before the audience enters the hall) so she is “up there” for quite a while.
The performance will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the artists, moderated by professor Lorelei Bayne, a dance professor at Sacramento State.
Tickets for “Like Lazarus Did” range from $25 to $49 general, $12.50 to $24.50 for students, and are available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.