With so many stories to tell, American dancer/choreographer Stephen Petronio chose a darker journey when the Sydney Dance Company commissioned him to write what became Underland in 2003. In 2011, Petronio was able to buy the rights to the modern dance work set to the music of Australian pop musician Nick Cave and mounted a production in New York City. Now Houston's Society for the Performing Arts is sponsoring Petronio's first visit to Houston and has asked him to perform this work that he says is set in ''a dark world, a dark place beneath the surface — maybe post-Apocalyptic place and maybe someplace where the sun's not always shining.'' It runs continuously at just under 70 minutes, Petronio says, and is built around seven Cave songs that already existed — some ''from a period in the '80s called the murder ballads.'' There will be 11 performers onstage, including Petronio himself, who makes an appearance in the beginning that involves the help of an aerial crew. ''It's not a chipper ballet, for sure. I'm a modern choreographer. I draw heavily on many different idioms. There's a lot of very quick, very fast legwork, so there's more of a balletic feel to it.'' He said he wanted to tell this story because ''everything can't be pretty and beautiful. And dance can speak to many different parts of us. Having said that, it runs the gamut from dance to light.'' Petronio says the work appeals to a very broad audience ranging from anyone who likes Nick Cave to people who are very interested in movement. It's not a narrative work, but it has a narrative arc, he says.
Fri., Jan. 11, 8 p.m., 2013