Hardness 10—the third collaboration between choreographer Stephen Petronio and composer Nico Muhly—will premiere March 20-25, 2018 during Stephen Petronio Company’s 24th season at The Joyce Theater. This original 20-minute dance work by Petronio, for his full Company, will be set to a previously unreleased score by Muhly titled “Long Phrases for the Wilton Diptych.” The work will also integrate the contributions of Petronio’s Company of seven dancers, designer Patricia Field ARTFASHION (costumes), and Resident Lighting Designer Ken Tabachnick. Muhly and Petronio are in discussion about a remastering of the score that allows for inclusion of 1-2 live musicians in performance.
Petronio’s departure point for Hardness 10 is the nature of the diamond—a dense stone, forged under pressure into an object of brilliance and clarity. Muhly’s score was originally created in response to the “fractal images and gestures” of the Wilton Diptych, a medieval painting, circa 1393, by an unknown English or French painter. Both the dance work and the score explore “multifacetedness”—tracking a progression of roughness to preciousness, simplicity to complexity.
This past summer, Petronio began creating Hardness 10 with five of his dancers during a Skidmore College residency. Together they generated intricate movement phrases inspired by the glimmer and glint of the diamond as well as simple walking patterns attending to a precise geometric structure. This fall, as two new dancers were incorporated into the work, the piece has dispersed into new energies and formations. In Hardness 10, “multifacetedness” is revealed through a constant flow of assembling and disassembling bodies punctuated by uniquely sharp, electrified and torqueing gestures, and elaborate and expansive partnering and group work.
Muhly’s score uncovers similar complexity within a precisely designed structure. Petronio, who asked Muhly to “free him from the trap of melody,” refers to the score as a “river of sound giving way to melodic events.” Drone-like, it layers multiple viola de gamba tracks with slight variations to result in a slow, long meditation. As Muhly explains: “The piece asks you to spend the time to deepen your relationship with it.” He chose this work to offer Petronio in response to the early investigations of the choreographic work.
Petronio and Muhly’s collaborations span a decade. In 2008, Muhly was one of three composers for the five-part This is the Story of a Girl in a World. In 2009, for a Joyce premiere, Petronio and Muhly collaborated on the hour-long I Drink the Air Before Me, for eleven dancers, featuring a live performance by Muhly and the Young People’s Chorus of NYC, as well as costumes by Adam Kimmel and Cindy Sherman. The piece was Muhly’s first evening-length dance score.
Following the Joyce premiere, Hardness 10 will tour, with two potential bookings on the west coast, at White Bird in Portland, Oregon and The Washington Center in Olympia, Washington, plus an additional engagement in Washington, DC.