Watch your step entering the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty this weekend.
You might be dancing.
But that's OK. As far as world-renowned dancer and choreographer Nora Chipaumire is concerned, dancing is part of our daily life.
"People are dancing all the time," said Ms. Chipaumire, who was born in Zimbabwe in 1965 but moved to America years ago. "The world is filled with sounds. In any city we're part of a sound-score, whether we're conscious of it or not. In dance, you become part of the same wavelength, and beautiful things can happen.
"There's so much being said, being expressed. So many narratives happening in the body. I think you can just sit down on a park bench and have a free performance."
Ah, but you wouldn't be witnessing a performance anywhere approaching what will be offered by Ms. Chipaumire and fellow artist Okwui Okpokwasili as they present "Miriam," part of the Andy Warhol Museum's Off the Wall series at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
"Miriam" is Ms. Chipaumire's creation, inspired by anti-apartheid singer Miriam Makeba, who died in 2008, and the Virgin Mary -- two icons whose spirit, Ms. Chipaumire said, "will live forever." With music by Cuban composer Omar Sosa, it deals with "the objectification and power of the black female body and the alienating experience of living in exile."
Ms. Chipaumire and Ms. Okpokwasili have collaborated on the piece for some time with a tour last fall, their current spring tour and another tour already planned for next year.
"It's been an interesting schedule with the tour broken up. But it's been phenomenal," Ms. Chipaumire said upon arriving in Pittsburgh today. "Each performance in any given venue -- even from today to tomorrow -- keeps the work alive.
"I feel that with 'Miriam' I've created a piece that is actually extremely demanding of us as the performers, so we're constantly being challenged by the work. We're constantly discovering. So I don't think there's any problem keeping it fresh and alive because it's whipping our ass every single time."
"Miriam" is more than just dancing. It is acting. It taps into elements of the theater that go beyond traditional dance.
"I'm interested in theater," Ms. Chipaumire said. "I would say all my work has been character-driven, but this is the first time I've worked with an actor and put so much focus on the things that traditional theater brings, as opposed to dance theater. I'm trying to really access those uses and consciously trying to go beyond straight dance.
"I've performed some dances that are less than my capacity, and I can just do, you know. But I can't take anything, any minute for granted in 'Miriam.' 'Miriam' is a difficult goal and that is part of the excitement and the challenge. I'm happy to be in a place where I am challenging myself. I'm never in a comfort zone."
Well, she's in Pittsburgh, and that's a little bit of a comfort zone.
"I love Pittsburgh," she said. "This is my fourth time here. Actually maybe my fifth. And twice my pieces were voted the best [dance] performances in Pittsburgh for that season, and that just made my heart sing. I was really excited. It makes my whole relationship with Pittsburgh rather warm and fuzzy."
Of course, you can never take the word of theater-people as gospel, so I looked Ms. Chipaumire up in the Post-Gazette library. Sure enough, she's right.
Here's a quote from PG dance critic Jane Vranish, when she hailed Ms. Chipaumire's March 2011 performance at the August Wilson Center as the best of the year:
"The performance was an eyeful, filled with Ms. Chipaumire's gloriously authentic movement and a mesmerizing video projection that swirled around it. And it was an earful, courtesy of Thomas Mapfumo, the legendary Afropop pioneer and The Blacks Unlimited. The emotional impact of this African odyssey still resonates [months later]."
While "Miriam" is a constant test of her talents, Ms. Chipaumire said it is still a steppingstone. Or a dancing-stone, if you will.
"I think my next enterprise is probably going to go deeper than this enterprise," she said. "I've just only scratched the surface. I think there's more to be discovered here."
You can discover Ms. Chipaumire and "Miriam" tonight and Saturday at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. Ticket prices range from $35 to $15 for students and artists and $20 for those living in the 15206 ZIP code.
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/trypittsburghpress/ If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456. First Published April 19, 2013 8:00 PM