Stephen was born in Newark NJ and received a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, where he began dancing in 1974. Stephen Petronio was a member of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, New York, from 1979 to 1986 and has toured throughout Europe and the United States with the company.
He has worked extensively as a freelance choreographer/teacher and choreographed Apollo Object, a performance-art piece, in 1981 in collaboration with visual artist Justin Terzi. The piece was re-worked as a solo for Neil Adams to be performed at Tasdance in 1983. Stephen began presenting his own work in 1974, founded the Stephen Petronio Company in 1984 and has since received international acclaim for his choreography. He has been awarded choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from 1985 to 1988, and company grants from the NEA and the New York State Council on the Arts since 1988.
He is also the recipient of numerous awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, the first American Choreographers Award in 1987 and a "Bessie" (New York Dance and Performance Award) for his Walk-In in 1986. Stephen's work is featured in Michael Blackwood's documentary film Retracing Steps and the PBS Alive From Off Centre program The Kitchen Presents II. He has been commissioned to create new works for William Forsythe's Frankfurt Ballet (1987), the Rotterdam DansGroep (1988), The Tulsa Opera (1990), the Deutsche Oper in Berlin (1992) and the Lyon Opera Ballet (1994). Stephen collaborated exclusively with British choreographer Michael Clark from 1989 to 1992 on such infamous works as Bed Piece and Wrong Wrong. Stephen's Love Me Tender and Surrender II were performed by Tasdance in 1994.