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NEW YORK — Imitation of Christ’s Tara Subkoff has grown accustomed to breaking rules, but her latest project required some degree of dancing around them.
In collaborating with the Stephen Petronio Company to make costumes for its dancers for the premiere of “City of Twist” at the Joyce Theater last week, Subkoff discovered that while her reconstructed collections might be theatrical, some designs weren’t meant for the stage. “There was a point when I wanted them dancing around in crazy burlesque costumes,” Subkoff says.
The show, which will move to the West Coast and Mexico City come mid-November, boasts Petronio’s abstract, nearly invertebrate choreography and an original score by Laurie Anderson, which was inspired by life in New York and was initiated shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Subkoff, however, took inspiration from the post-apocalyptic imagery in the 1966 French comedy “King of Hearts,” in which a World War I private befriends a band of refugees from an insane asylum.
“Anyway, you can tell something happened,” Petronio says. “It’s a post-apocalyptic-cum-Thirties burlesque sailor thing.”
That means ripped-up sequined black halter dresses for the women and white oxford shirts worn backwards for the men, while Petronio himself wears a YSL suit fastened with military belts and imprinted with the word “Collapsible.”
“I wanted to give him a beautiful suit,” Subkoff says. “Dancers are very sensitive.” Some might say too sensitive. One jacket had to be jettisoned when a sweating dancer developed an allergic reaction to it.
“There’s a thing about dance that most of my friends don’t understand,” Petronio says. “The work is serious, but it doesn’t have its head up its own behind.”