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There’s a hurdle between childhoodÕs innocence and the rigidity of adulthood we must all jump.
“It’s a beautiful time,” says Stephen Petronio, whose New York-based dance company will premiere their touring engagement locally Feb. 16 at the Power Center in Ann Arbor.
Petronio’s choreography captures the bittersweet transition through the poetic movements of his dancers and carefully selected —Êand originally crafted — music. To invigorate his vision for program piece “Bloom,” the gay choreographer hooked musician Rufus Wainwright, whom he says — as if it’s common knowledge — is a genius.
“The first time I heard him I knew that I could do something really beautiful with his work. There are very few people who inspire me on that level,” gushes Petronio, noting Wainwright’s radical wit and immeasurable talent. “It’s a winning combination.”
Previously released Wainwright works set the stage for “Bud Suite,” a duet for two men set to four of the crooner’s songs, and “The Rite Part,” based on Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” For “Bloom,” though, Wainwright pursued his ambitions as he tangled himself in Petronio’s abstract concept and penned an original score.
“He totally jumped on … the idea of innocence and hope,” Petronio says. The artists decided on using a children’s choir to accentuate the purity of youth and “that kind of fresh, open, hopeful state when youÕre just about to become something that youÕre not.”
Wainwright and Petronio agreed on two Walt Whitman poems and another by Emily Dickinson to spring the melodies to life. Whitman’s “Unseen Buds” uses a seasonal switch as a metaphor for awakening and his other, “One’s-Self I Sing,” celebrates individuality. Both poems, along with Dickinson’s famous “Hope,” were introduced to Petronio as a teenager.
“It just seemed like the right moment to be pulling that back,” he notes.
Through the dancers’ architectural structure and their symmetrical formations — described by Petronio as light, jumpy and uplifting — their innocent yet sensual partnering brims with Petronio’s vision.
“More than ever before I was really trying to create a sense of harmony and hope,” he notes. Petronio fused several elements into the production, including the children’s choir and Wainwright’s music, to immerse others into his art.
“This is a really important time in our country and in our world to have inspiring things ’cause thereÕs so much thatÕs really very, very depressing,” he says.
Petronio’s company, which launched in 1984, continues to bring art to more people around the world. Lately, because of his extensive touring schedule, Petronio has racked up sky-high phone bills with his fashion-involved partner, who lives with him in New York. Both are artists in their own right and their talents crossover, but Petronio almost opted out of the arts.
To appease his parents, Petronio, the first child sent to college, pursued med school. During the second month of dance class, which he took as a distraction, a lightbulb switched on. He recalls, “It was one of those thunderbolt moments.”
Stephen Petronio Company
8 p.m. Feb. 16-17
Power Center, Ann Arbor