While it is common for a dance company to bring back a work they have previously performed, it’s a bit out of the ordinary to do it the very next season. That is the case however for Attack Theatre and of In Defense of Gravity, an evening-length work the company premiered in 2017 and is remounting, Nov. 29 - Dec. 2 for five performances at Pittsburgh Opera’s George R. White Studio in the Strip District.
“It’s a topic we felt we wanted to explore more deeply and take some different approaches to some of the ideas we initially explored,” says Peter Kope, co-artistic director/founder of Attack Theatre.
The choreographically reworked, 70-minute, no-intermission dance-theater piece is inspired by the everyday life portrayed in the poetry of former Allegheny County police detective and boxing coach Jimmy Cvetic.
“This work starts from a place of loss, sadness, and gravity,” says Michele de la Reza, Attack’s other co-artistic director/founder. “Where the poetry takes us, and our perspective takes us in the work is not how we can push past loss, but how we can own it and defend the gravity of those situations.”
Set to a jazz-infused original score based on Cvetic’s poems, along with reimagined jazz classics performed live by vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield, clarinetist Ben Opie, pianist Ben Brosche, and percussionist Jeff Berman, In Defense of Gravity follows a central figure portrayed by Kope that serves as a universal witness to tragedy. “He has many pathways for empathy,” says Kope.
Kope is joined onstage by six more dancers including de la Reza, who for the first part of the piece set the scene for Kope’s character to revisit the darkness of tragedy. The work’s second part portrays surreal physical representations of ideas contained within a collection of Cvetic’s aphorisms that are delivered by him and actor Patrick Jordan in recorded voiceovers that aid Kope’s character in his healing process.
“As storytellers, we are at our best when that storytelling is both abstract, to give people room to interpret the story, but also very clear and direct,” says Kope.
For those who missed In Defense of Gravity the first time around or just want to see it again, this reworked version promises to deliver more on what Cvetic saw as the energy of the dance and the energy of his poems working together to send a message of hope out into the world.