Dance Alloy Theater executive artistic director Beth Corning says that all of her choreographic works represent, in a way, a personal journey. Maybe so -- but works like 2004's "At Once There Was a House," in which Corning asks whatever happened to children's-literature icons Dick and Jane after they grew up, suggest that some are more personal than others.
That might also be the case with Corning's latest effort, the evening-length Feed Your Head Café, at the New Hazlett Theater March 28-April 13.
The 70-minute dance-theater piece drops in on "Alice," a 50-year-old café proprietor whose world is drawn a little bit from Alice in Wonderland and a bit from Martin Scorsese's 1975 film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, with nods to Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant" and perhaps Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."
"It's a surreal place that on some levels presents itself like a living pop-up book," says Corning.
The crux of the nonlinear work, explains Corning, concerns expectations -- specifically, the expectations programmed into most of us about the American dream. In Feed Your Head, Corning uses metaphor to muse on how she got to be where she is, and who she is, at the half-century mark, all while creating a world where perhaps we all can recognize something of ourselves in Alice as she goes down that rabbit hole.
"The whole concept of art is taking something that is a norm and turning it on its head to look at it in a different light," says Corning.
While Corning's Alice may be inspired by other fictional Alices, she emphasizes that Feed Your Head Café doesn't retell any of their stories. Corning's is a unique puzzle; for instance, rather than Guthrie's or Jefferson Airplane's songs, audiences can expect an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Strauss to Meredith Monk.
The work features a cast of some 15 performers, including a rotating group of guest artists for each of its three-weekend run. The guests include Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Aaron Ingley; Quantum Theatre artistic director Karla Boos; Greer Reed, formerly of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; and local drag divas Jezebel Bebbington D'Opulence, Marsha Mellow and Eda Bagel. Corning declined to give much else away about the work, except to say that "it will be something really different for the senses."
The show's three-week run of nine performances is almost unheard-of in Pittsburgh dance, where a single weekend is the norm. Corning says the extended run reflects the company's long-term strategic plan to attract new audiences.
Dance Alloy Theater presents Feed Your Head Café Fri., March 28–April 13. New Hazlett Theater, 1 Allegheny Square, North Side. $25 ($20 students/seniors; $2 discount on advance purchases). Sundays are pay-what-you-can. 412-363-4321 or www.dancealloy.org