The Stephen Petronio Company will be on campus from Feb. 25 to 28, performing various choreographic pieces during their stay.
On Feb. 25, 26 and 27, the company will perform excerpts from some of their works such as Underland, which features music composed by Nick Cave. On Feb. 26, Stephen Petronio will take part in a Chancellor’s Colloquium Q&A. The week will end with a full performance of the company’s recent work Like Lazarus Did.
Like Lazarus Did is a piece about resurrection, starting with a funeral and ending with a rebirth. It features music by Son Lux, who reworked the vocal songs of slaves.
Don Roth, the executive director of the Mondavi Center, was taken with Like Lazarus Did when he first saw it, immediately deciding that he wanted to present it.
“What’s beautiful about modern dance like this is that there’s a connection between the lyrics of the music and the dancing,” Roth said. “It’s more abstract than just a play on words, though. The movements onstage express the feeling of the words.”
Gino Grenek, who has been dancing with the Stephen Petronio Company since 1999, worked alongside Petronio while he was conceptualizing Like Lazarus Did. He has danced in it since its premiere in 2013.
“For Like Lazarus Did, we explored the mythology of resurrection, and not necessarily in the biblical sense,” Grenek said in a phone interview. “We looked at resurrecting material from the past 30 years of the company. When people think of resurrection, it’s usually a heavy concept but this piece has a lot of lightness and joy as well.”
Davalois Fearon, a dancer who has been with the company for eight years, appears in several sections of Like Lazarus Did, although she is introduced after the first 20 minutes.
Fearon also had strong words for Petronio’s creative process.
“I was able to see how Stephen can sculpt images onstage,” Fearon said in a phone interview. “He can see the big picture. He has a good idea for putting things together in a way that I would never think to do.”
Grenek also said she admired Petronio’s ability to work with dance ensembles.
“The company is full of extraordinary dancers, but we don’t think of ourselves as soloists,” Grenek said. “We’re unique talents but we approach our pieces as an ensemble. They’re about watching a group of incredibly talented artists go on a journey and take the audience with them.”
The Chancellor’s Colloquium on Wednesday will feature Petronio having a conversation with Ralph Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor of UC Davis.
“The Colloquium might help people get insights into what Stephen has done and why as well as how he is as a person,” Roth said.
Roth believes that Like Lazarus Did will have wide appeal.
“I think it will be very easy for someone who is not familiar with modern dance to get,” Roth said. “Students will enjoy it. People will enjoy the sense of movement and how it communicates. I highly recommend it.”
Like Lazarus Did will be performed on Friday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. The exhibition performances will be held on Feb. 25 through 27 at 8 p.m. The Chancellor’s Colloquium will be held on Feb. 26 at 4 p.m.