Stephen Petronio Celebrates 25 Years with ‘Ghostown’ and a New Costume Designer


The Stephen Petronio Company is wrapping their 25th Anniversary season with a six-night run at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea.  The acclaimed modern dance company is performing five pieces for the occasion, including “#3” (performed by Petronio himself, 25 years after he first choreographed the number in his tiny apartment above Yaffa Café on St. Marks Place — the unofficial artist thoroughfare during that time).  To close the show, the company presents “Ghostown,” a brand new dance to beat-less, entrancing music by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.

In creating “Ghostown,” Petronio deliberately challenged himself by using music without hard beats. “I’m a beat-addict, and after 25 years, I wondered, ‘What will happen if I take that away?’ I like to discover the possibilities.”  He developed the choreography with his dancers, transforming little everyday gestures into something more lyrical. The mood is curious and a little haunting – like you know something happened here, but you don’t know exactly what. “‘Ghostown’ is meant to conceal as much information as it’s meant to reveal,” he noted.

Over the years, Petronio has enlisted the help of many talented emerging designers to outfit his dancers. After working with Adam Kimmel, Rachel Roy, Benjamin Cho, H. Petal, Tara Subkoff, and many others, he had Jillian Lewis create costumes for “Ghostown.” Her gauzy swirls of sheer, flowy fabric in nude and gray tones bring an elegant sense of movement to the piece. A former dancer herself, Lewis understands the materials and details that work best whilst leaping, twirling and thrashing about on stage (i.e., extra crotch and leg seams). “I approach the design two-fold: first, on an athletic level – the fit on the body, the right fabrics for sweating and moving, etc. Then there’s a layer of looser pieces I add. These are more fashionable and create an illusion of floating shapes and invisibility.” Watching weeks of rehearsals, absorbing the music and consulting with the lighting department helped Lewis develop something special – or “spiritual,” she says – for Petronio’s anniversary.