Daring Diavolo, Always Working Without a Net


Jacques Heim, artistic director of locally based Diavolo Dance Theater, must have an astounding dream life. How else could he conceive of ladders as trysting sites; oversize doors as free-standing props; and a large metallic half-sphere, reminiscent of Disneyland’s whirling teacups, as a haven for a pair of pining, metaphorically storm-tossed lovers?

All of these images and more were included in Diavolo’s audacious six-part program that opened Saturday at El Camino College’s Marsee Auditorium. In its Cirque du Soleil-meets-Stanley Kubrick style, Diavolo refuses to accept the limitations of gravity or the notion of safety first (if at all), while embracing physically punishing maneuvers.

The one premiere, “Trajectoire,” featuring a Daniel Wheeler-designed boat hull as an eternally tilting prop, however, delivered too little, too late, coming after a quintet of finely tuned signature pieces. The full company indulged in rounds of jumping, sliding and even pirouetting on the lit-from-within craft, but, as with many Diavolo premieres, this work may benefit from future honing. The Hans Zimmer-Philip Glass score didn’t help: It was more Dramamine than drama.


What was spectacular, though, was the previously reviewed “Capture,” Lara Hudson and Darren Press’ half-sphere duet. The swaying of Adam Davis’ prop served as an erotic backdrop for leaps, handstands and balancing acts. Also wildly inventive: “Apex,” featuring Nick Erickson, Meegan Godfrey, Robert Lou and Allen Moon. Breathing life into four ladders--twirling them like batons, fearlessly cavorting on them to create nonstop Busby Berkeley-like patterns--these performers considerably upped the ante on Ed Sullivan’s erstwhile plate-spinners.

“Divan d’Enfer,” a daring solo with couch, has now become a literal springboard for Heather McArdle, replete with brash dismounts and flips. Also featured in the fray were Hudson, Press, Jeremy Jacobs and Hiroko Maejima.

Completing the program: “Te^te a Claque,” Heim’s inspired take on doors, with Jean-Pierre Bedoyan performing his score live; and the always alluring, steel-pegged obstacle-course antics of “D.2.R.I.”

* Diavolo Dance Theater performs the same program Friday, 8 p.m., Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 456-4522. $27.