Devastated landscapes, hovering helicopters, bombs exploding, and flames so vivid you can almost smell the smoke. The visual effects in Stephen Petronio Company’s “Underland,” presented in its Boston premiere last night by World Music/CRASHarts, take this intense 65-minute dance theater work to a very dark place. But amid the visuals of mayhem and destruction, Petronio’s 11 extraordinary dancers carry on, stoically, methodically. Throughout, they throw themselves into Petronio’s slashing, slicing choreography, falling and getting back up. And toward the end, there is a glimpse of redemption.
Petronio is known for working with a range of provocative creators, from Laurie Anderson to Cindy Sherman. The visuals for “Underland,” designed by Ken Tabachnick with video by Mike Daly, provide a sense of context as they flash across three large backdrop screens. But the work takes its primary inspiration and tone from the gothic songs of Australian artist Nick Cave, whose edgy lyrics and monochromatic delivery can be an acquired taste. Paul Healy’s rumbling, machinelike soundscape effectively fills in the transitions as well as the opening tableau, in which Petronio crawls headfirst down a ladder.