Los Angeles Dance Review: DIAVOLO (The Broad Stage in Santa Monica)

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by Ella Martin on September 29, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles

“ALL THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US IS NOTHING”

Los Angeles dance company Diavolo is back at The Broad Stage, remounting their Trajectoire and offering the Southern California premiere of their new piece Transit Space.

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of DIAVOLO at the Broad in Santa Monica

Trajectoire opens like a sunrise with loud, low drums, two dancers moving almost as one in front of a glowing semicircle.  Their movements are focused, connected, almost yogic, and in spite of their physical separation (a thin, transparent barrier lies between them) there is a strong element of oneness.  This arbitrary separation of people—choreographer and artistic director Jacques Heim’s metaphor for life itself—heightens throughout the performance.

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of DIAVOLO at the Broad in Santa MonicaThere is some striking visual imagery, as when one dancer pushes himself into a handstand to reveal a great pair of wings tattooed to his back.  Costume designer Meegan Godfrey’s clean use of color heightens a sense of purity by dressing the dancers in immaculate white. Heim’s choreography and Daniel Wheeler’s set design work beautifully together, creating a system of controlled chaos in which the dancers use balance, concentration and strength to remain upright atop a large, constantly shifting structure.  The increasingly dynamic choreography over and around the dangerous space wordlessly conveys a truth best expressed by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”  Dancers embrace the advent of each fall with breathtaking commitment and increasing effort, making terrifying leaps from progressively greater heights, only to land safely in each other’s arms; it should come as no surprise that Heim choreographed for Cirque du Soleil.

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of DIAVOLO at the Broad in Santa MonicaAfter intermission comes the distinctly Los Angelean work, Transit Space.  A new dance-text hybrid, this urban piece debuted at its commissioner—Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State University—earlier this year, and was developed with the assistance of university students and Angeleno skateboarding artists.

Steve Connell’s text accomplishes a great deal in short sound bites.  The overlay of dance, text and music by Paul James Prendergast works best when grounded in specific locations—a bridge, a metro station, a skate park.  Sibyl Wickersheimer’s ramps and Tina Trefethen’s bridges, combined with David and Valeria Beaudry’s physical interactive design, fluidly manipulate the geometry of the space to great effect.  “You have me traveling towards other sides and believing I will get there,” says a voice as performers cross over a bridge.  “All the distance between us is nothing.”

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of DIAVOLO at the Broad in Santa Monica

While the prop skateboards are used so little as to seem unnecessary, watching human beings so artfully throwing themselves up and down skateboard ramps is unexpectedly fanciful and undeniably inspiring.

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of DIAVOLO at the Broad in Santa Monica

Diavolo, founded by Heim in 1992, offers dance as affirmation.  That Heim opted to lift his dancers up off the ground is something to celebrate.  As Connell’s text states, “The only way to get there is to go.”

Ella Martin's Stage and Cinema review of DIAVOLO at the Broad in Santa Monica

photos by Ben Gibbs

Trajectoire and Transit Space
Diavolo at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica
scheduled to end on September 30, 2012
for tickets, call 310-434-3200 or visit http://www.thebroadstage.com

for tour dates and more info, visit http://www.diavolo.org/

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