When the house opens, a man lies face up downstage right, his arms at his sides, the plush blue curtain hovering between open and closed inches from his face. When the curtain rises, we see in the upper third of the stage a second supine body suspended overhead in a kind of sieve, sculpted appendages dangling like a mobile above it. Doris Humphrey said last century that movement exists “in the arc between two deaths.” Stephen Petronio tests this philosophy in Like Lazarus Did, with the nonstop, loose-limbed, razor-sharp dancing that occurs that seem to commemorate the bustle and hubbub of our mortal existence, its loves and lusts and failures.
After the tableau of the laid-out bodies and the peculiar dissonance of the San Francisco Girls Chorus singing over a recorded track by Son Lux, the piece opens to the ghostly image of nine dancers in white tunics, dancing in trios. The imagery is simplistic, the music hymnal, the movement set orthogonally to the planes of the stage, limbs moving like compasses along the axes of the skeleton. Gradually costumes change, filling the stage with color; relationships change—a duet for two women that ends with one cradling the other on the floor, a quartet: three men manipulating the pliant limbs of a woman. Two ropes hang down from the top of the stage, and the body of a man becomes a rope, winding, swaying, and rippling as he parts them.
Like protractors and compasses, they take a measure of the world along the fixed ratios of their physical limits. Being human means being a body composed of restless angles. The piece ends quietly with the almost nude Nicholas Sciscione coiling and uncoiling his body on the floor, tumbling gymnastically though fetal, blind, exploratory. It would be called virtuosity if it seemed anything less than pure. The audible slap of his head against the floor of the stage. The body rising up into the light.