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Stephen Petronio: Past and present

The choreographer has recovered and re-staged several postmodern classics, which inform his own current work

Stephen Petronio returned to Portland’s Newmark Theatre four years after his company danced the haunting, longform piece Like Lazarus Did. This time, his company performed a concert that included both a recent, original work and a set of iconic and influential pieces from some of Petronio’s postmodern heroes and mentors—Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton and Anna Halprin.

Starting in 2014 with Merce Cunningham’s RainForest, the company has added one or more historic pieces to its repertoire as part of the project Petronio calls Bloodlines. After celebrating his company’s 30th anniversary, Petronio began Bloodlines as a way to honor the choreographers whose works were pivotal to Petronio’s own legacy. At the same time, the series provides a new path forward for the company—each season they perform a new, original work alongside the historical pieces. As writer Melanie George explains in her excellent essay included with the program, Bloodlines establishes “a ”dialogue with itself and current and future pieces by Petronio.“ It’s a way of saying, ”this is where we’ve come from,” that doesn’t just leave Petronio’s influences in the past: The historic pieces brought to life on the stage, some of them for the first time in many years, find an equal footing with brand new work.

Yvonne Rainer’s “Trio A With Flags,” performed by the Stephen Petronio Company/Photo by Julie Lemberger, courtesy of White Bird

This invites a comparative reading of the dances, new and old alike. Besides Cunningham, Petronio has focused on Trisha Brown, Halprin, Paxton, and Rainer for this exciting, ongoing project.

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