Dance Center welcomes return of Stephen Petronio Company


Courtesy Stephen Petronio Company

“BLOODLINES” will be the first performance of the Dance Presenting Series 2015—2016 season.

By Campus Reporter

The world-renowned Stephen Petronio Company is set to premiere its latest project, “BLOODLINES,” Oct. 1 at Columbia’s Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. 

The Stephen Petronio Company has performed in 26 countries and been at the forefront of the contemporary dance movement since it was founded in 1984, according to its website.

This is the third time the Dance Department has hosted the company, said Bonnie Brooks, associate professor in the Dance Department and director of the Dance Presenting Series. 

“We are very excited about this project, which is different from things they have brought to us before,” Brooks said. “We are very happy to be the first place they are going to be doing this.”

The project will kick off the Dance Center’s 2015–2016 season. The company is scheduled to perform “BLOODLINES” Oct. 1–3 at 7:30 p.m., according to the Dance Center website. 

For “BLOODLINES,” the company will perform Merce Cunningham’s “RainForest,” Trisha Brown’s “Glacial Decoy,” and “Non Locomotor,” an original piece by Stephen Petronio, artistic director of the company. 

Petronio said his inspiration for the project came after modern dance pioneer Merce Cunningham died in 2009 and Petronio’s mentor, Trisha Brown, became ill last year. 

“I was thinking about history and how people have affected my life and what I wanted to do with the rest of my artistic career,” Petronio said. “I thought it would be amazing to curate a series of performances that focused on the masters of postmodern dance that influenced me that are a part of my history—a part of my bloodline.”

The original piece, “Non Locomotor,” is a response to a previous work of his called “Locomotor,” Petronio said.

“BLOODLINES” will be the first time “RainForest” and “Glacial Decoy” are performed outside of their original companies, he said, adding that this is the first time he has used other choreographers’ work in his company.

“[The dancers in my company] are experts at speaking ‘Petronio’ and so they had to [also] master Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown vernacular,” he said

The company had former dancers from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and current dancers from the Trisha Brown Dance Company teach the choreography to the dancers, Petronio added.

“[Brown] made ‘Glacial Decoy’ when she was at the height of her dancing,” Petronio said. “To see her movement come alive in my dancers is not only very exciting, but very emotional.”

“RainForest” uses sets by Andy Warhol and “Glacial Decoy” uses sets by Robert Rauschenberg. The costumes for “Non Locomotor” were designed by Narciso Rodriguez. All three are renowned artists outside of the dance community, he said.

“This project has a lot of relevance for our college community, for the Dance Department and for the city of Chicago because it is an opportunity to look at the work of contemporary dance masters,” Brooks said.

“BLOODLINES” is something that all students can appreciate, said Brian Weaver, a sophomore dance major.

“I think [students] do not always understand what we try to do at the Dance Center,” Weaver said. “[‘BLOODLINES’] is going to bring in a new perspective and a new light on what dance is in the modern day, and what it is at Columbia.”

Students in the Dance Department will have the opportunity to take workshop classes during the week taught by Petronio dancers while the company is at the college, Brooks said.

“[Students] get to try on living history,” Petronio said. “That is an amazing opportunity. It is really crucial to embody, physically, a broad sense of history when you are a student of dance.”

It is important for the Dance Center and Columbia to support artists, like Petronio, who are breaking ground in their fields of work, Brooks said.

“Where better to show [‘BLOODLINES’] than at a college that is dedicated to our students becoming the author of their time as those artists were in their time?” Brooks said.