Attack Theatre

Co-Artistic Directors Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza sparred in This Ain't The Nutcracker.
Sarah Higgins, courtesy Attack Theatre

Attack Theatre

Hazlett Theater
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
December 28, 2001–January 6, 2002

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

True to its defiant title, Attack Theatre's This Ain't The Nutcracker trampled on staid holiday dance fare with bare feet, combat boots, and stilts.

The ninety-minute multimedia event packaged several conceptually based repertoire works into a single story line whose premise involved the audience being able to eavesdrop on the apartment life of a fictitious Pittsburgh judge. Seeing what he saw as he changed channels on his television, the audience caught glimpses of what would be played out live onstage.

This Ain't The Nutcracker's distinctly diverse collection of works traversed through boxing analogies, the repetitive motions of old-fashioned switchboard operators, and a choreographic homage to Nijinsky, to name a few.

In "The Negotiation"—the second of six vignettes in the first half of the program—Attack Theater Co-Artistic Directors Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza were pitted against one another in a playful and aggressive struggle over control of a newspaper. The pair moved through release-technique modern choreography that had them lifting and leaning on each other and falling into clever positions that allowed one dancer to snatch the coveted newspaper from the other.

Another comedic work, "Kharmen Suites," integrated dancers and musicians in a lighthearted piece influenced by Georges Bizet's Carmen. Costumed in fishnet stockings and combat boots and equipped with a Carmen-like bravado, de la Reza and Perks DanceMusicTheatre dancer Rebecca Stenn orchestrated a succession of unusual dancer-musician couplings that had de la Reza carrying bassist Jay Weissman on her back and Kope lying flat on the stage supporting cellist Dave Eggar as he played excerpts of Bizet's score.

Adding to this unique palette of dance works, Stephen Petronio Dance veteran Kristina Isabelle—wearing mime makeup and costumed in a tutu—performed "The Waltz," a balletic solo danced on wooden stilts. Apart from the novel nature of the work, Isabelle's performance was captivating for the way it managed ballet's fluidity on unconventional footwear.

Of the production's many vignettes, two sections stood out for their emotional content and impact. In "Rhapsody," Stenn and Weissman portrayed a music-box maker and his lifesize mechanical dancer. Dressed in a wedding gown, Stenn moved with mechanical precision, violent upheaval, and melancholy grace to Weissman's music, which he played on a miniature piano that approximated the sound of a music box. The work explored an evolving relationship between the two characters that was heartfelt and poignant. Stenn's performance in "Rhapsody" was a splendid meshing of tender vulnerability and physical presence.

In "The Embrace," Kope and de la Reza engaged in a movement study of lovers as they revolved on a turntable within a pool of ambient light. The dancers bent and folded onto each other in subtle outpourings of human intimacy to a cello concerto by composer Olivier Messiaen, played with virtuosic brilliance by Eggar.

With This Ain't The Nutcracker, Attack Theater created a bold new form of holiday magic, an intelligent and inventive alternative to traditional holiday dance works.

Health & Body
Gettty Images

It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.

Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.

It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance on Broadway
Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown

If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.

Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.

Keep reading... Show less
What Dancers Eat
Lindsay Thomas

Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.

So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?

Keep reading... Show less
Simon Soong, Courtesy DDT

When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.

Keep reading... Show less


Get Dance Magazine in your inbox