Pittsburgh is rich with public art, from colorful murals to Shepard Fairey illustrations stamped unassumingly in alleys and on buildings across the city.
"Public art is very special because it's something you potentially walk past and drive past every day," says Attack Theatre co-artistic director and founder Michele de la Reza. "But how many times have you actually stopped to look and talk about something that's right there in your community?"
This question is at the heart of the modern dance company's season opener, "Some Assembly Required: Public," which will take audiences to the sites of five different public artworks in order to explore them and to experiment with how they impact the creation of other art forms, like dance. It begins Tuesday in Oakland at the "A Song to Nature" statue and fountain in front of the Frick Fine Arts Building in Schenley Plaza and runs through the end of the month.
In the past, Attack Theatre's "Some Assembly Required" programs have invited audiences into museums and art galleries to watch and interact with dancers as they drew inspiration from the exhibits around them and built a new dance. But the company was curious: "How could this concept translate in outdoor spaces with public art and public spaces?" Ms. de la Reza says.
It worked with the city Office of Public Art, as well as a handful of other local arts and community organizations, to seek out places with public artworks that would be suitable for four to six performers, two musicians and about 100 audience members to work together to make a dance influenced by the style and aesthetic of the art.
In addition to the fountain in Oakland, the company picked as performance sites the "Lend Me Your Ears" mural at Penn Avenue and South Beatty Street in East Liberty, the "Pittsburgh Variations" structure between the Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol bridges on the North Shore, the "10,000" mural at Penn Avenue between Wood and Center streets in Wilkinsburg, and the "Cubed Tension" figure in Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square on the North Side.
At each performance, a small cast of dancers and musicians will start off with a framework of steps and sounds. Audience members can share their thoughts on the art, which will then fuel the choreography and compositions the dancers and musicians create.
"It is something that requires an active level of ... engagement," Ms. de la Reza says.
To make the experience more accessible to a wider demographic, American Sign Language interpreters will participate in each session.
This back-and-forth between dancers and the audience will continue for about an hour. Afterward, artists will be on hand to answer questions.
"I think it's really a wonderful opportunity to stop, look and think in a community environment about our surroundings in which we exist," Ms. de la Reza says.
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com. First Published September 18, 2012 4:00 AM