3 Questions: Choreographer Stephen Petronio


by Linda Shapiro

class=img_thumbleft>Stephen Petronio's most recent work, "BLOOM," is the choreographer's second collaboration with composer Rufus Wainwright. Incorporating the 40-member Minnesota Boychoir and exuding a spirit of peace and hope, it may surprise fans of Petronio's fierce, fast, and often sexually charged dances. His New York company is known for executing death-defying movement with formal rigor, likened by one critic to "a torrent smacking against the concrete walls of a twisty canal." Prior to this Walker Art Center performance, Petronio explained to City Pages the appeal of Wainwright, Igor Stravinsky, and dancers who dare.

City Pages: Why did you choose to collaborate with Rufus Wainwright?

Stephen Petronio: Because he has the voice of an angel and the wit of a devil. The first time I heard his voice I could tell in the first three bars that it needed to have dance choreographed to it. It's operatic, theatrical, and moving.

CP: Your work "The Rite Part" follows in the footsteps of countless choreographers who have created dances to Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." Why did you take it on?

SP: "The Rite of Spring" is a 20th-century monolith. It marks the beginning of Modernism in performance. Every choreographer of note takes it on as a challenge to measure themselves against. Stravinsky bangs the piano like a drum. I find that all very appealing.

CP: What do you look for in your dancers?

SP: I look for dancers who have such good technique that it is invisible. People who are not afraid to make fools of themselves, have a good sense of humor, and who are willing to go anywhere that I take them artistically.

The Stephen Petronio Company performs "BLOOM," "Bud Suite," and "The Rite Part" at the McGuire Theater in the Walker Art Center. $25. 8:00 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. Tonight through Saturday.