Stephen Petronio Steps Out

The Choreographer and His Dancers Captured by Tierney Gearon On the Streets of New York

Stephen Petronio founded his eponymous New York-based dance company in 1984 with one grand ambition: “to change the world through dance.” Since then, he has never stopped creating works that transport his audiences into an alternate universe, mesmerizing with the seemingly impossible agility (check out his gravity-defying performance of Trisha Brown's "Man Walking Down the Side of a Building" at the Whitney last weekend), precision and sheer kinetic force of his dancers. In these exclusive images for NOWNESS, photographer Tierney Gearon captures Petronio and his troupe rehearsing his most recent choreography, I Drink the Air Before Me. While the dancers would never normally rehearse outside—“it’s far too hard to concentrate!” says Petronio—Gearon took the shoot onto New York’s streets and aboard the Staten Island Ferry for a change of scenery. The dance they are rehearsing, named after a line in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and inspired by the unpredictable atmospheric elements, was created last year to mark the company’s 25th anniversary; it will be performed on October 5th and 6th at London’s Barbican Center. As is Petronio’s trademark, the work features illustrious collaborations: fashion designer Adam Kimmel is responsible for the nautical striped costumes, artist Cindy Sherman dreamed up the attire for Petronio’s “salty dog” sea captain character, and radical young composer Nico Muhly delivered the score.

Stephen Petronio educates us on how to spot a dancer here.

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