Attack Theatre, led by Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope, has cemented a reputation as one of Pittsburgh's most theatrically uninhibited performance companies. Its body of dance-based works ranges from intimate duets to vast investigations involving everyone from small children in outreach programs to grand institutions like the Pittsburgh Opera. In the group's upcoming premiere, Preserve and Pursue, the frame of reference widens further, with resurrected older material joining fresh artistic collaborations.
The latter is most striking in "Trapped," featuring original music by Somei Satoh, a Japanese Buddhist monk and internationally renowned composer whose credits include work with the New York Philharmonic. Satoh came to Attack Theatre through its music director, Dave Eggar, after the two met at a conference. Eggar's descriptions of the company led to e-mail exchanges culminating in Satoh's post: "I'm going to a castle in Italy and write you the most beautiful piece I've ever written."
Satoh found a muse in Attack's choreography, and the troupe responded in kind. Both sides drove each other, though from a distance -- they've yet to meet in person.
"We had to begin choreography without hearing music," says de la Reza. Rather than focus on mechanics or building a blueprint, the collaborators cultivated a lyrical exchange. "The words used in correspondence were much more poetic than narrative."
One recurring word was "space." Kope and de la Reza moved from sending e-mails across a planet to face-to-face conversations in their neighborhood, where they asked two questions: When someone says "space," what's the first word that comes to mind? And what emotion does "space" provoke?
The answers, surprisingly, frequently alluded to confinement and fear. "It's not what we expected, but it's pretty darn interesting," de la Reza says. Words were mixed and matched and sentences built; from this skeleton, characters were born and a story was shaped.
In Preserve and Pursue, Attack also teams with another Japanese composer, Miyuki Ito. While Satoh's arrangements bend in a classical direction, Ito's are unfailingly modern, electronically derived soundscapes. Yet while Satoh's piece was developed via contemporary technology, the work with Ito looks further back for inspiration, drawing on the Japanese myths of Rajin and Fujin, respectively the deities of thunder and lightning, and wind. With Ito, the unpredictability inherent in Attack's collaboration with Satoh will be integral: She'll manipulate her score during performances, and the adjustments she makes each evening will compel the actions and intentions of the dancers reacting to the sound she generates.
Rounding out the evening are "Ralph," Kope's 2006 work about his relationship with his father, and a program of duets including "The Lady From Arles," inspired by the works of Bizet and Daudet. The Feb. 1 opening-night performance and reception, co-hosted by the Japan America Society of Pennsylvania, is guaranteed to be a particularly spectacular event, including the opportunity to meet the guest composers.
Attack Theatre presents Preserve and Pursue Fri., Feb. 1-Wed., Feb. 6. New Hazlett Theater, Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20 ($24 at the door); $15 students and seniors; $40 opening-night reception. 412-441-8444 or www.attacktheatre.com