Dance Beat: Attack Theatre’s New Home

Attack Theater didn’t waste any time sharing its new home in Lawrenceville. 

By J. Vranish, originally published on her blog Dance CurrentsFollow her on Facebook at dancecurrents.

Located at the corner of Butler and 42nd Street, just across from New Amsterdam restaurant, the new location was the result of years of searching, with actual tours of 150 possible locations.

So it had to be pretty special.

Now the company is a permanent part of the ever-so-cool Lawrenceville vibe, an area they have often tapped in the past for individual performances or just plain celebrating at one of the many neighborhood haunts.

It’s a historic building, with apartments, distinctive palladium windows and — wait for it! — a veranda. Because of that, they also have to negotiate to purchase any signage that will officially stamp their new residence.

Back in May, I got to have a private tour with co-founder Michele de la Reza and Audience and Communications Manager Daniel Fleegle (who has since moved on to the University of Pittsburgh as Communication Director). Yes, Attack found itself with two floors of space and enormous potential.

We began on the street level, which boasts a gymnasium, converted to rehearsal studio with yet another custom dance floor courtesy of co-founder Peter Kope, who is supervising the renovations. In the back corner is a room that will eventually be the Creative Learning Lab, with a capability for video classes, a wave of the future.

The future Creative Learning Lab

Downstairs is divided into numerous offices, meeting rooms and a lounge area where we sat down to talk about the future.

Office space.
Office space.
Michele and Daniel.
The veranda.
The veranda from Butler St.

Our conversation ranged from the education component, a pillar of the company, to reinvigorating touring to new choreographic prospects.

Most of all, they wanted it to be a “hub” for movement in the Pittsburgh area.

The company has resided in the East End, Garfield, the Strip District with Pittsburgh Opera and Lawrenceville. “This is where we need to be now,” says de la Reza. Attack Theatre has a “scrapper mentality,” according to Fleegle. “Moving into the opera allowed us to grow in so many ways.”

Now they were ready to grow in totally new directions, much more than I anticipated, over the summer.

Michele with the dancers in the gymnasium/rehearsal studio.

When their June 2 performance at the Open Air festival was cancelled due to rain, Attack offered a performance in its new space to a small audience, a soft opening for the space, if you will.

Then there was an official Open House on June 26, replete with tours, movement, and the Lawrenceville Pop-Up Market outside on the corner. It was good to see former Attacker Ashley Williams, now working for Stanford University (remotely), checking out the new surroundings.

Rebecca Himberger.

On August 5, the company paid tribute to longtime executive director Rebecca Himberger, who was essential in the forever home hunt and so, so much more. (She was also instrumental in my switch to Apple and the development of this blog.) It was an emotional time for the woman who had given so much to the company. Yet, her final gesture was to make a final speech supporting the arts and pass a donation can. Update: As of September 13, Rebecca joined NonProfit Fiscal Management LLC in the “newly created role of Director of Operations. Headquartered in NYC, NPFM specializes in supporting nonprofits all over the United States by providing financial management, leadership, and planning tools.” But evidently she will be able to remain in Pittsburgh.

Antonio Brown in rehearsal with the dancers, while Peter Kope finishes the lighting design up on the ladder.

This weekend, the company is presenting New York City choreographer Antonio Brown in the development of a new work, “Plus One.” Brown was inspired by the current need to gather and where better to celebrate than our own backyards? It will blend the two companies in performance.

Even with all the changes in staff (de la Reza will be taking over as executive director for the near future) and company (longtime company member Dane Toney is transferring over to a video role and Simon Phillips has already moved on to other projects, but is remaining in the Pittsburgh area), the Attack atmosphere is still the perfect juxtaposition of energy and growth.

And they can’t wait to share this warm and inviting space with the whole community.

Categories: Feature Stories

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