Dance review: Diavolo’s ‘Fearful Symmetries’ at the Valley Arts Center


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After its alfresco launch with live orchestration in 2010 at the Hollywood Bowl, Diavolo Dance Theater’s “Fearful Symmetries” was surely going to take a hit when it moved indoors. Yet it’s hard to imagine a kinder transition for Jacques Heim’s exalted explorations of manhandling-architecture than to alight within the glowing glass-paneled grandeur of the year-old Valley Performing Arts Center’s Great Hall.

Kara Hill’s ceremonious multi-story lobby -- with a soaring staircase that bisects the levels, creating framed containers for the moving pedestrians -- coolly ushered in Heim’s feverish explorations of bodies and art in motion Thursday evening, part of Diavolo’s national tour, which will return to Southern California in March.


PHOTOS: Diavolo Dance Theater at Hollywood Bowl

A full-tilt bill of ensemble fare, the tour (with recorded music) pairs the ever-shifting right-angled industrial landscape of “Fearful Symmetries” (2010) with the plunging, keeling galleon from “Trajectoire” (1999/2001), the troupe’s daredevil signature work set to Nathan Wang’s score. Shauna Martinez plays the heraldic figure in both works, which -- when paired -- make for a journey from the subtle (relative subtlety, of course; Heim is all about whipping energy into a frenzy) to the sublime.

In “Symmetries” the unisex tribe is clad in stylized urban uniforms, bearing a steady playfulness as they manipulate, tumble through, climb amid and catapult effortlessly from Adam Davis’ ingenious assemblage of steel beams. In contrast, the white-clad troupe from “Trajectoire” reveal the effects of gravity and force as they battle, mimic and outwit Daniel Wheeler’s heaving ship-scape. All members of the current company deserve a shout-out for their heroic verve and control on this demanding bill: Ken Arata, Brandon Grimm, Ashley Nilson, Jennifer Huffman, Omar Olivas, Crystal Runk, Anibal Sandovar, Johannes Williams and Chisa Yamaguchi. While Diavolo’s work holds up fine on a proscenium stage, this acrobatic-fueled choreography will probably always fit more comfortably in the great wide open, where eyes are not conditioned to seek out gestural precision and nuance. Heim’s pieces are calculated, highly controlled and fueled by bursts, and the moments of stillness are somewhat hokey (stately processionals that are disguising set-ups for complex tricks or dramatic skyward looks to convey response or change). Best to balance the energy with a vast, wild heaven pushing back.

“Symmetries” is the second in a trilogy of the company’s minimalist collaborations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this one set to the 1998 John Adams score. The third installment, ‘Fluid Infinities,’ set to Philip Glass, will premiere in 2013.

--Jean Lenihan

Diavolo Dance Theater, ‘Fearful Symmetries’ tour, Irvine Barclay Theater, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine; 8 p.m. March 22, $28-$100, (949) 854-4646 or