Some laws beg to be defied. Take the law of gravity, for instance: how thrilling is it to imagine floating free of the pull of gravity?
Attack Theatre’s new dance work Laws of Attraction plays fast and loose with gravity as well as with several other principles that govern the physical world. The piece, which had its origins in a dance/science residency at the Winchester Thurston School, playfully puts dancers’ bodies in conversation with the mechanics of motion.
The space is a former auto body shop – bringing yet another connotation of “mechanics” to mind – with old chairs arranged sculpturally along one wall, a pile of cardboard boxes in one back corner, a large net of rope hanging on the upstage wall in the other corner, and a pile of musical instruments on a platform to the side. It’s a big playground for the five dancers, one of whom – Attack veteran Dane Toney – opens the piece by hoverboarding onto the stage and pushing around a table full of typewriters, on which he types a screenplay about a married couple that drifts apart and eventually reconciles, a framing narrative for the dance that offers a romantic take on the notion of “laws of attraction.”
The intersection between scientific principles and interpersonal relationships is a running theme in the work. So, for example, the choreography investigates magnetism both as a quality of attraction between a magnet and a metal surface, and as a mysterious chemistry between two strangers at a “Cocktails and Canvas” event. Ditto with the principle of fulcrums and balances, explored movingly on a seesaw that unexpectedly emerges from under the pile of boxes. The large rope helps animate oscillation (as the screenplay couple are themselves unsure of their relationship) and a ladder is mobilized in the examination of leverage. Clichéd phrases are wittily overliteralized, as when, after a dance set in which the performers fall and get up repeatedly, we hear, in voiceover: “You’re exhausting me; I’m tired of all these ups and downs.”
Hoverboards make several appearances in this work: they allow the dancers to glide around the room fluidly, like electrons in an atom, zinging through space without colliding. One of the best uses of the hoverboards in this work comes at the top of the second act, when the dancers use the hoverboards to indicate a Venetian canal filled with fish and then rats, followed by a tour de force pas de deux on hoverboard between Toney and Ashley Williams that tests Toney’s center of balance as he keeps the hoverboard moving while lifting and spinning Williams in a Latin-inspired dance.
When not on the hoverboards, the dancers display the signature Attack Theatre soft athleticism, absorbing and releasing energy like gently wound springs. The music ranges from recorded classical, pop, and jazz music to live acoustically-enhanced percussion and keyboard played by musician and artist Ian Green, who also produces a painting of the “Cocktails and Canvas” scene as the dancers enact it.
Mike Papinchak’s vibrant lights transform the space from scene to scene and make areas of the open space pop with saturated color, a saturation that is echoed in the hints of cobalt blue that peek out underneath the black and gray of Yu Su’s futuristic-oriented costumes.
In addition to Williams and Toney, dancers Kaitlin Dunn, Nile Alicia Ruff, and Anthony Williams helped co-invent this playful exploration of laws of attraction both physical and emotional. They bend and fold their bodies into cubes and balls, stiffen into planks, leap up walls, catapult through space, suspend horizontally in defiance of both gravity and logic, and balance and counterbalance each other in a graceful, athletic, and visually and aurally provocative evening of dance.