Patina/Perfect Broken

Patina is a hybrid of dance and visual arts, inspired by Buddhist concepts that derive from "wabi sabi," which celebrates the beauty of imperfection. Iconic standards of beauty, embodied by the golden proportion and other mathematical patterns ubiquitously found underneath the seeming chaos of nature, dictate a carefully measured space and precise choreographies of the body. Paper, flesh, light and textured sound become the landscape for a world where lived experience accumulates as visible artifact, the stage space filling with information generated by the dancers, evolving these memories into a new formation and idea of humanness without race or gender.

The body, engaged in concentrated task opens itself to the poetry of error, while the charcoal, delicately held by the dancers as they move, becomes an extension of the choreography, offering both the paper and the skin as a real-time canvas, a patina of layered memories. The paper, both fragile and durable by nature, becomes a metaphor for transformation and a vehicle of expression that we use to identify ourselves.

Patina touches upon empathy, impermanence, the curiosity and awareness to see beauty in transient, fleeting moments, to treat the flaws and signs of age that society is so quick to hide, as the very essence of one's history and identity. Because life is more than a perfect circle.

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places" –Ernest Hemingway

—notes by Renata Sheppard

In both of these performances, the dance evolves very slowly. In "Patina," as the audience enters, the dancers are meditatively drawing patterns on the floor with charcoal. As the patterns emerge, the dancers' bodies are gradually being covered with charcoal from their drawings, giving their bodies a "patina," a visible artifact of their activities and lives. It is from this place that the dance proper begins, at around 24' 50" . In Perfect Broken, there is a similar structure, though the dancers are walking as the audience enters, and the dance proper begins at around 12' 00" with the drawing and acquiring of the patina.

Video of Patina, premiered February 4, 2019 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts


The concept behind the overhead camera and Isadora programming is that as the dancers draw circles and patterns on the floor, the dancers' bodies disappear as they move, yet the floor patterns become visible as they evolve. A motion blur is applied to the video input to achieve this effect.

Choreography Renata Sheppard with the dancers

Music composed and performed by John Toenjes

Costume Designer Richard Gregg

Set Design and Concept Renata Sheppard

Lighting Designer Michael Cummings

Media Designers John Toenjes, Anja Hose, Kyungho Lee

DANCERS Kennedy Cowan, Nina Crouchelli, Nick Hittle, Lindsey Jennings, Grace Krizay, Danielle Mastricola, Mya McClellan, Rachel Rizzuto, Jenna Soldati, Jeannette Williams


Patina is a second iteration of the dance Perfect Broken, originally commissioned and performed by the Balletto Teatro di Torino (Turin Ballet Theater). The interactive graphics for Perfect Broken, programmed in Isadora, are by John Toenjes. In Patina, Toenjes' original Isadora programming was updated by UIUC graduate student Anja Hose, with additional animated graphics by graduate student Kyungho Lee.

Video of Perfect Broken, premiered November 19, 2017 at the Lavanderia a Vapore theater in Collegno, Italy (suburb of Turin).

Choreography and Set Design: Renata Sheppard

Music composed and performed by: Ensemble Matita

Electric Pianos: Antonello Raggi, Penne Fabio Bonelli, Matite Luigi Bonelli

Pencils (for making music): Fabio Valesini

Isadora Programming: John Toenjes

Disegno continuo: Susanna Tosatti

Dancers: Balletto Teatro di Torino

Narrator and Poetry: Tania Haberland

Dramaturgy: Matteo Marziano Graziano

Photography: Asif Malik, Renata Sheppard