Dance Beat: Attack, August Wilson, 310

HOLIDAY UNWRAPPED. It’s pretty amazing how Attack Theatre can put together entertainment for munchkins who barely top my knees and still enthrall this adult. But such was the case when the company did its Holiday Unwrapped, a 30-minute jam-packed package of family-friendly entertainment, at the Pittsburgh Opera studios. Certainly the Attackers got more mileage out of a table than any other group around. But they also brought in hip-hop “Nut” hoodies, “heavy” red boots for Liz Chang, Jewish inflections on “Trepak” (has anyone else integrated Hanukkah as well?) and red socks that turned into the Waltz of the Skaters. This is a company of action heroes, where the women fearlessly fling themselves upside down into the air and strong, supportive men who are always there to seize the dance. Catch it if you can next year — preferably with a munchkin…or not.

SO YOU THINK THEY CAN’T DANCE? August Wilson Dance Ensemble may only be charging into its second season, but it has already presented its first benefit. A take-off on Dancing With the Stars, it paired eight of the ensemble members with Pittsburgh notables like senior vice president at The Bank of New York Mellon Oliver Byrd,  Highmark Foundation president Yvonne Cook, jazz trumpet player Sean Jones, and, of course, August Wilson Center’s president and CEO, Andre Guess. And “guess” what — they really could dance (the men were particularly surprising)! Judges Leslie Anderson-Braswell, Mark Southers and Buddy Thompson were, for the most part, loathe to pick their own winners publicly. Although things were a bit jumbled for the first time out, WTAE’s Andrew Stockey kept an elegant lid on things, setting up SYTTCD for an encore next year.

310 AT THE SPACE. So you’re at Point Park University. Where to go then? It’s a big, cruel dance world out there. But a few Point Park students are already trying to aid in the transition through Three10 Moment.  Appropriately called “Momentum,” the showcase at The Space Upstairs (Pillow Project’s home in Point Breeze) was surprisingly well-curated, building nicely as the program progressed. While the first works had a strong structure — Jessica Lengyel’s “Dirty Orchestra,” Laura Warren’s “The Bitter Earth” and Anna B. Howard’s “Rise” — it was the second half that had, well, let’s call it that indefinable “pizzazz” or “personality” to add to the choreographic mix. Robert Priore showed a burgeoning talent for large, evolving patterns in “IncludeMeOut.” Then Brent Luebbert and Taylor Knight totally improvised in “Over Time,” a piece that showed some of its seams while captivating in other areas and Renee Danielle Smith’s “Faltering Grace” had a dense interation among its trio of dancers. Although it’s unusual to end with a solo, it was most appropriate to feature the beguiling Julie Brown in Addison Brasil’s tour de force, “Let’s Paint the Town Red.”

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