A most compelling reason to see Attack Theatre's Passion Reflected has little to do with the production's dancing. It's the music -- most notably that of Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Katie Costello. The diminutive Costello -- a rising star on the verge of going nova -- performed selections from her latest album, Kaleidoscope Machine, last Friday night, and her performance was nothing short of stellar. So too was Attack's live musical ensemble, led by the multi-talented Dave Eggar, whose poetic music and cello wizardry was augmented by a turn as a bilingual vocalist.
While Passion Reflected's music stood out, the three new dance works on the program also made a spirited impression. They showcased the troupe's collective choreographic and dance skills, which may be the best in the company's 15-year history. A past tendency to recycle old choreography was not present in Passion Reflected, and joining Attack's signature athletic partnering sequences were several synchronous and engaging group dances that, together with the music, made the program a solid winner.
In the first work, "Remainder," an orange-amber hue blanketed the stage as Attack's Peter Kope slowly walked onto it barefoot, dressed in an overcoat and carrying two black shopping bags. Kope set the bags down and burst into a circular sprint around the stage before being tackled by another dancer. The cycle then repeated. Set to original new-age/ambient music, and danced by the full company, "Remainder" was the culmination of a project the company had worked on in conjunction with the Carnegie Museum of Art's recent Life on Mars exhibit. The myriad of visual images surrounding Kope's character, inspired by several art works from that exhibit, painted pictures of despair, anger, envy and joy.
An alluring, Spanish-flavored solo by Michele de la Reza created a mood of seduction in the opening scene of "Ardiente" (Burning), a work inspired by the music and book El Amor Brujo, by Manuel de Falla. De la Reza was joined by three other female dancers who appeared gripped in tacit competition with one another. Through the interplay of the dancers, the work loosely told of a woman haunted by a dead lover. The dancers at times chewed on their own shoulders, as if upon festering wounds. Eggar's dulcet crooning in both English and Spanish, of songs with lyrics like "Sifting the soul's remainder," were a perfect backdrop to the dancers' piercing glances and crisp group dancing.
Passion Reflected closed with what amounted to a long-playing, live music video for Costello's music. Set behind the scenes at an old-time circus, "At a Later Date" was a visual delight of costume and light. The work's melancholy theme reflected on the travails of circus performers outside the ring. Its failing -- and at the same time its blessing -- was that its dancing tended to disappear at times, as all eyes were inexorably drawn toward the very talented Ms. Costello.
Attack Theatre presents Passion Reflected 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 20, and 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 21. New Hazlett Theater, Allegheny Square East, North Side. 412-394-3353 or www.proartstickets.org.