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Daring Diavolo, Always Working Without a Net

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

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.

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“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.


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