Like Lazarus Did by Stephen Petronio

Like Lazarus Did: Notion of Transformation and Rebirth

Stephen Petronio produces powerful contemporary landscapes through his work for the wits with the collision of new visual art, music and fashion. Like Lazarus Did is an inspired work reflecting on the mythology of resurrection. The dancers introduce notions of transformation and rebirth with their trademark “visceral thrill.” Unlike anything offered by modern choreographers, Petronio’s rich, kinetic movement, language and original electro-acoustic score are drawn from a deep range of concepts such as transcendence, regeneration and elevation (Frank, 2013).

Priscilla Frank of The Huffington Post (2013) states that the dance was moved by the power of slave songs and the concept of the afterlife – the concept of getting free from pain. She further states that Petronio was inspired by American slave songs from the 1800s and most of the wisdom of faith as well as the altitude over the situation under which they existed seemed like a beautiful meditation.

The dance focuses on the weight ascending through the body and space, creating room for more free-form interpretations of the subject matter (LLD, 6/25). A successful combination of soul-sharing artwork of physical and spiritual grace can be felt. “Like Lazarus Did” is a line borrowed from an American slave song passed down through oral tradition. Janine Antonio, a contemporary artists of renown, creates a dance inspired by the biblical motif of Lazarus’s reawakening and the slave’s faith and elevation of mind. The dance elaborates on Petronio’s inspiration, leaving an imprint on the audience. The dance subject is stated as somber, but the choreography is not, the dancers movements are astonishing and so deceptively simple and flowing, the breath-like sensuality of the dance so riveting, adventurously spiritual and curious. The male solos both horizontal and the final vertical one, speaks most of Petronio’s intention in the program: “The desire to break free from the limitation of the body” (Dalva, 2013). The undulations, squirms and ripples of the solos do suggest the pleasure of discovering life in every muscle, overthrowing ethereal aspirations. The right message is passed on, which is atmospheric and haunting. The dance long posseses the ability to elevate our thoughts, dreams and desires – thus investigating complex societal issues through interpretive bodies. Channeling arts and spiritually in “Like Lazarus Did (LLD, 4/30) addresses the legacy of slavery through several angles, passes of information from body-to-body (Rosenberg, 2012).

Petronio stretches his energetic investigation out into space, which makes the dance look more like an unconscious state that leads to energetic pathway. The brilliant dancers, costumes and lighting design promises an audience member to be taken on a journey like no other-an-avant-garde spiritual dance trip (Dalva, 2013). The dancing energy shifts furiously from one artist to the other, from one group to the other, creating a swirling and absorbing space. The motion elicits a deep emotional response – the physical work of the dancers is guided with sensitivity and precision. Their technically challenging movement flows through them naturally, making their steps revelatory of something beyond their mechanics (Frank, 2013).

Dalva, N. (2013). In Conversation: Stephen Petronio with Nancy Dalva. The Brooklyn Rail, Retrieved from:
Frank, P. (2013). ‘Like Lazarus Did’: Stephen Petronio and Janine Antoni Talk Dance, Rebirth and the ‘Living Set’ (Interview, video). The Huffington Post , Retrieved from:
Rosenberg, D. (2012). Company News. Stephen Petronio Company, Retrieved from: