Lilacs Out of the Dead Land
BY BRIAN McCORMICK | Like the annual migration of the monarch butterflies or the gray whales, the similarly spectacular and mighty Stephen Petronio Company returns to the Joyce Theater to give birth to a new creation. The new dance, “Like Lazarus Did (LLD 4.30),” is inspired by the mythology of resurrection and ideas about transcendence, elevation, and regeneration. The evening-length work features Petronio’s company of 10 dancers, along with composer Son Lux (the stage name of Ryan Lott), the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, visual artist Janine Antoni, costume designer H. Petal, and lighting designer Ken Tabachnick.
Stephen Petronio Company, a New York rite of spring
“LLD (4.30)” features an original electroacoustic score by Lux that draws from a range of spiritual music and texts, from early American slave songs to the meditative drones of Eastern mysticism. Lux and an ensemble, plus 30 members of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, will perform the score live.
“The title,” Petronio told Gay City News, “is taken from a song, which is the inspiration for the whole piece. Ryan brought a songbook of slave songs from the mid-1800s, songs that had previously been passed down through oral traditions. What you hear in them is blind faith. These are the most oppressed people singing the most ebullient songs.”
The choreographer continued, “Angry or lyrical or melancholy or whatever it is that year, it’s all about getting into trance state through form and motion, and bringing bliss to the audience. Reaching for that aesthetic orgasm. This piece is spiritually geared, but in the same mode we’re working to achieve that suspended state that only movement can take us to. Death to rebirth. Hallelujah to lullaby.”
“Like Lazarus Did” is conceived as an ongoing performance event that takes specific and unique form for each space it inhabits. The first version was presented in June 2012 at the Ukrainian National Home Ballroom in the East Village. “LLD (4.30)” was created for the Joyce Theater as the first proscenium performance of the material.
“For these performances, Antoni will be suspended over the audience for the whole piece,” Petronio explained. “She will form the base of a living sculpture that looms 15 feet above, a constellation of colorful porcelain Milagros, reproducing her entire body — skin, skeleton, organs.”
Her suspended state of meditation will serve as both a visceral contrast and visual anchor in Petronio’s continually shifting world.
“She is one of the most exciting collaborators I’ve ever worked with,” he beamed. “Her body in my work. It helps me loosen my grip.”
Petronio is artist-in-residence at the Joyce, and that also has him thinking about how to use the space to the max.
“The audience is her playground,” he said of Antoni.
And if all that’s not enough, the piece will start outside, with the chorus marching down 19th Street singing as they enter the theater.
STEPHEN PETRONIO COMPANY | “Like Lazarus Did (LLD 4.30)” | The Joyce Theater | 175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St. | Apr. 30-May 1 at 7:30 p.m.; May 2-4 at 8 p.m.; May 5 at 2 & 7:30 p.m. | $10-$99 at joyce.org or 212-242-0800