A candid memoir of misadventures and modern dance.
In this talky debut, dancer and choreographer Petronio looks at the formative experiences that set his dance career in motion—and the momentum that’s carried him forward ever since. His wit and penchant for getting into ridiculous situations may call to mind celebrated gay memoirists such as David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, but Petronio, a self-described “awkward boy/obstinate man,” has a story that’s all his own. He grew up in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s and, after a college girlfriend encouraged him to take his first dance class, went on to have an acclaimed career. His trajectory is quite impressive, and readers interested in the downtown New York art and performance scene will enjoy his stories about collaborating with people such as Lou Reed, Cindy Sherman, Rufus Wainwright and Yoko Ono, to name a few. On the other hand, the name-dropping sometimes clutters the narrative with superfluous detail and contributes to an undercurrent of self-satisfaction. The book’s range of tones, however, proves to be one of its greatest strengths; the author is equally at ease with introspection as he is with showmanship, proving that camp and spiritual inquiry aren’t mutually exclusive. Unsurprisingly, he has a gift for articulating the complex experiences of movement and performance, and some of his best prose comes when he’s describing dance. Under the header “Two versions of the same dance on different nights,” for example, he offers two conflicting accounts: One begins, “My arm is moving like no other in history,” and the other starts, “I am moving my arm, how humiliating.” Overall, Petronio approaches his most sacred material—his life’s work—with humor and grace.
A choreographer’s wild stories and engaging insights into love, life and artistic practice.