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Black Grace is to Petronio as….

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Berkshire denizens were lucky to have the opportunity last week to see Black Grace perform at Williams College’s ’62 Center. It was an amazing performance and Meredith, a former dance student who now spends her days working as part of our performing arts department, was struck by the connections between Black Grace’s performance and our upcoming show on April 9 and 10 by Stephen Petronio Dance Company. We asked her to write it down for us and here’s what she told us.

Both Neil Ieremia of Black Grace and Stephen Petronio use dance to explore the mixing of fashion and design with a dazzling sense of physicality that results in relentless complexities of form. Working with weather as a metaphor and source of inspiration, each choreographer utilizes a sort of scientific aesthetic — duets fold into groups, into clusters, into storms of movement that, though depersonalized by abstraction, leave the viewer feeling emotional and united with the dancers despite their epic virtuosity.

Neil Ieremia looked at weather as a metaphor for human migration and the emotional correlations one can imagine from the quote included in his program notes: “I have always believed in the spirit of the Long White Cloud that embraces everyone equally. But after reading these claims and reviewing passages of my personal journey, I realise the Long White Cloud has become dark in places and it feels like a storm is breaking.”

This combination of clustered spatial patterns and dynamic energetic and tempo shifts resulted in a humanist resolution of the conflict spurred by racist claims of an economist, Greg Clydesdale, who warns that Polynesians display “significant and enduring under achievement” – a problem he believes immigration is making worse

Petronio approaches weather as a force to be reckoned with. He sees the relentless capacities of weather as a reflection of the storms his company has weathered through its 25-year history, and looks forward to the rolling waves with anticipation and accomplishment. Like a howling sea captain, Petronio shows his true colors and creating a new work rather than a retrospective; this fearless choreographer is certainly not ready to rest on his laurels ( though there are plenty).

Each show offers a tri-fold combination of formal beauty, impressive virtuosity and epic explorations of humanity through dance — what I believe to be the most human form. By exploring weather, a subject that constantly reminds us how much we are at its mercy yet that we influence through our every action, in a form that is so tied to what we can control, our own bodies, both choreographers offer you a restless sense of empathy and connection to the performance.

Just another reason why dance so awesome.

Did you see Black Grace? What did you think?

Posted March 12, 2010 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance
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