“Dance Theater” is a common performance genre where artists use both movement and dramatics to inform their work. In Pittsburgh, that style has always been associated with Attack Theatre. The company’s work in multiple genres (dance, theater, opera and more) has influenced their multi-layered style. Perhaps this is partly why they have such a widespread and devoted following.
Attack is deliberate in the planning stages of choreography. Managing Artistic Director, Michele de la Reza, says the group spent many hours on the discussion phase of “The Chalk Line." This way of creating is definitely inspired by their work with theater companies.
De la Reza explains that in theater, each performer knows their motivation for every action. “It’s a very valid way of working. From a personal preference, I value really knowing what I’m feeling at all times...it is important for clarity in your own performance.”
And so Attack spent a lot of time talking and drafting versions of the overall piece until they were happy with the shape of it. Only then did they begin to create the movement phrases.
Another inspiration they took from the theater was to rework old material. In theater and music and even television, we constantly see new versions of old art. Dancers don’t typically work in that way. Instead, they regularly develop new ideas. Attack wondered what would happen if they took an older piece of repertoire and re-imagined it.
In 2011, the group premiered “This is What,” a show that was co-created by audience members through open rehearsals and patron feedback. That performance resonated with the company long after they performed it. “There were so many ideas we wanted to go back to,” de la Reza says. “This season seemed right.”
“The Chalk Line” begins where “What” left off. Audience members who saw the piece two years ago will recognize bits and pieces of choreography that they helped create. It is brilliant, really. How many dozens of Broadway shows are remade these days? How many movies? How many songs? Why not in dance?
Just like in “What,” the choreography is partly driven by the notion of crime dramas like Law and Order. De la Reza and Producing Artistic Director, Peter Kope, have always been fascinated with TV shows that operate under the same formula every single episode.
The piece won’t follow one specific storyline in the way that television does. “We are keeping it abstract,” de la Reza says. “We’ll provide clues but not give anything away. We’re more interested in the complexity of the characters.”
For example, in one scene a dancer enters a shower, which will be obvious to the audience. What we won’t know is what the performer is washing away metaphorically. Her guilt? Her memories? That will be up to our interpretation, and will provide the poetic layer de la Reza and Kope are hoping for.
In addition to the five company dancers performing the work, Stu Braun will play live music, providing the “inner life of the characters.” Braun will be using a low octave harmonica, an instrument highly engineered to create a deeper sound. He will also add bells, washboards and other instruments to create the soundscape.
The show will run for several nights, another way Attack has been influenced by the theater. De la Reza says she and Kope have found it takes time for word to spread about a performance. With multiple shows on weekday and weekend nights, more people hear about it, and make an effort to come.
When: November 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16
All performances begin at 8:00 p.m., doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Attack Theatre's Spring Way Studio
2515 Liberty Avenue (Strip District), click HERE for directions
Cost: $20 general admission, $15 for students, seniors, teachers, click HERE for purchase