Co-Artistic Directors Peter Kope and Michelede la Reza sparred in This Ain't The Nutcracker. Sarah Higgins, courtesy Attack Theatre
Hazlett Theater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania December 28, 2001January 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 programAttack Theater Co-Artistic Directors Peter Kope and Michelede 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 Isabellewearing mime makeup and costumed in a tutuperformed "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 ona 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.
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?