- Photo by Sarah Silver
- Taylor Boyland, Mac Twining, and Tess Montoya in Stephen Petronio Company's "American Landscapes"
This year marks the centennial of the groundbreaking American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009), whose work put him at the vanguard of modern dance for more than five decades. On July 12, 13, and 14, as part of a nationwide, six-week celebration of his life, art, and influence, Hudson Hall in Hudson will host New York's acclaimed Stephen Petronio Company for a series of performances that includes two of Cunningham's landmark pieces.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Petronio began his dance career in 1974 and was initially inspired by Rudolf Nureyev and Cunningham disciple Steve Paxton, with whom he studied contact improvisation. He founded the Stephen Petronio Company in 1984, after several years as the first male dancer of the Trisha Brown Company. Since then, Petronio and his troupe have performed at prestigious venues in more than 40 countries and at New York's Joyce Theater for a staggering 24 seasons. In 2018, the company opened Crow's Nest, a 175-acre dance-study retreat in Greene County offering residencies to artists.
Like Cunningham, who is known for his frequent collaborations with artists from other disciplines—John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol—Petronio is highly regarded for his work with figures from a varied list of other artistic worlds. These include those from the spheres of music (Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Wire, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood), visual art (Cindy Sherman, Janine Antoni, Anish Kapoor), and fashion design (Patricia Field, Narciso Rodriguez, John Bartlett). One of the three pieces to be performed by Petronio's ensemble at the Hudson Hall series in July is his own American Landscapes (2019), which features original music composed by filmmaker and musician Jim Jarmusch and Josef Van Wissem with accompanying images by painter and sculptor Robert Longo and lighting by Ken Tabachnick.
But, of course, it's Cunningham's creations that remain the larger focus of the engagement, which also includes the late choreographer's Tread and Signals (both 1970). Tread was first performed by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and features music by avant-garde composer Christian Wolff; Signals debuted at the Theatre de France in Paris. Both stagings will include live music by the group Composers Inside Electronics, costumes designed by Cunningham, and lighting by Richard Nelson. Making up the current iteration of the Stephen Petronio Company are accomplished dancers Ryan Pliss, Taylor Boyland, Mac Twining, Bria Bacon, Ernesto Breton, Megan Wright, Jaqlin Medlock, Nicholas Scisione, and Tess Montoya.