Attack Theatre keeps dance relevant with 'Traveling'
April 2, 2012 3:30 PM
Attack Theatre went 'Traveling.'
By Jane Vranish Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
We accept that life is a journey and sometimes solitary, but if you pine for some "Traveling" companions along the way, Attack Theatre might be just the ticket. The company's latest production, on view the past weekend at the New Hazlett Theater, was designed to be portable on tour, where it would attract new audiences, although veteran Attack fans on Friday's opening night appeared to embrace it whole-heartedly as well.
The Attackers may be warm and generous, a feel-good group much of the time and true ambassadors of dance, but it is also a deceptive company. While their ideas may seem quite simple, as in using a ladder or a pole as props, the dancers work hard to make it look that way.
There was a playfulness to this production in the first act, which tapped a childhood imagination in all of us.
Actually this was a recollection of various Attack productions, so there seemed to be choreographic tweaks abounding. And Ben Hardt and The New Victorians provided a great assortment of tunes, hugely different from the original accompaniments and a musical landscape that altered our choreographic perceptions as well.
Props tend to determine movement, though, and results were mixed. Sometimes it looked too much like manipulation, like the pole that became a pool cue, a chin up bar, a barbell and a maypole.
But sometimes it opened the door to things literally outside the box. When Dane Toney flew out the New Hazlett door at the side of the performing space, the other dancers were loath to leave the white floor tarp, which allowed for Kevin Matz's lush lighting. They placed the ladder on the tarp's edge and tried to reach for the door, but in vain.
And let's face it, who couldn't love the slinky that turned into the Big Blue Monster with large blue spirals adorning Mr. Toney's floppy limbs?
In typical Attack fashion, the second act turned the topic topsy-turvy, from direct physicality to the romanticism of time travel, inspired by The New Victorians' recent releases where they focused on a couple who meet during World War II, but using an '80s overlay.
Vocalist Rachel Pinto-Martin set a lovely retro mood as she drifted down the stairs.
Michele de la Reza came on with a suitcase and took out a red rose. Was she meeting someone? Or hailing a cab?
As the others took to the stage in Maribeth Maxa's grayish costumes, looking like a soft collection of shadows, they began to make their own connections.
There were some lovely segments here, including an organically moving daisy chain that alternately broke and regrouped, and a trio where Ashley Williams was tossed like a feather.
At the end, the cast walked to the audience, peering into the future. Or was it the past? We could only answer that for ourselves, just one way in which Attack Theatre reaches out.
The opening night audience got a bonus, a "third act," where the audience helped celebrate Peter Kope's birthday, something that included a whiskey tasting and, of course, a cake. Then he and Ms. de la Reza gave something back, a celebration of a duet, so intimate and seemingly personal, yet gradually growing to embrace everyone.