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Research into the Kitschy Side of Stephen Petronio’ Works

ji-won Lee 1

1이화여자대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

Stephen Petronio, who continued the experimental line of Postmodernism, ranging through trans-boundaries to trans-stereotypes, is thought of as an author reflecting the anguish of our time, and embracing extensive symbolisms and layers of sensation. Being active in both America and Europe, he carries a unique modern sense and defiant style, which is portrayed in his works. Research into his work style will be a good opportunity to perceive dance of our times, and prepare diverse discussions and guidelines on its identity. His works reveal three features as follows. First of all, his works talk of sex. Beyond discussing its various perspectives, he points out the social problems derived from sex. Secondly, independence of movement is emphasized in his works. He rejects creating movement by way of visualizing music or reacting to one. Thirdly, we can experience formative movements embroidered in space. His motions seem improvised within duets and group dances but they are the results of strenuous practice. There is both stubbornness towards prohibiting a single margin for error as in the Classics and freedom exerting durability of dance. The connection between formative and constructive movements speaks of him as much as the body of a dancer in swift motion speaks of his works. Thus, when the characteristics of his works are viewed from a kitschy perspective, four interpretations are possible. ‘Accumulation’, ‘inappropriateness’, ‘synesthesia’, ‘balance’ from Moles’ kitsch can be elucidated by Petronio’s choreographic method, subject selection, diverse motion, and connection with the audience. First, through the cloning of dance, freedom of construction is provided. As a result, the notion that dance is one work of art, which includes originality of one individual, is destroyed. The déjà vu scenes presented in his works are ones overtly extracted from his other works. Copying images, disorderly pasting and inserting them, and transforming the duplicates reveal our era. Furthermore, by a queerish approach, he accelerated the sex liberation history by portraying tabooed lust or love within movements in a provocative and explicit manner. He practices the belief that what is called on repeatedly, especially by means of a dancer’s body, shall be the truth. He uses this belief to emphasize speech as a political action. Thirdly, he provides an empathic experience through the diversity of movements. The bodies of dancers from different dancing backgrounds and exchange of motion that defies any genre bring an endless stream of movements that are constructed and dissolved. Thus, it explosively releases the magnetism of dance brought on by motions. Lastly, though he choreographs dance separate of music, he conjoins other arts to pursue both the taste of the mass and varying dance pieces. He understands the slow growing pains of art without an audience and as such is tuned to their expectations and concerns. Like this, he presents various dances to the audience, and at the same time seeks a public perspective by experimenting with the space of the dance stage. A public understanding allowing varied interpretations of dance on the stage is the distinct reason for his collaborative pieces. In conclusion, works of Stephen Petronio, America’s lead modern choreographer, can be interpreted in terms of Moles’category of kitsch. As Harold Rosenberg mentioned that ‘kitsch is the result of modernity and the most important form of art’, interpretation of and tendency towards the human body can be newly developed as queer, and the cloning of dance, freedom of empathic force, and approach of pluralistic art can be explained by way of kitsch. The significance of kitsch, in reference to dance, is the possibility of it opening a new artistic horizon with a modern approach as a compass, and also being the interpretive code for deciphering contemporary dance.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.