Diavolo Dance Theater - Trajectoire (Continued from Part 1)
Chisa Yamaguchi, Diavolo Dance Theater’s Education Director, addressed the audience before curtain-up on Trajectoire, explaining that the work was choreographed in 1999, and Nathan Wang’s original musical score was not heard until opening night. Yamaguchi noted that this work would be more ethereal and visceral than Fearful Symmetries, and also that it is a company favorite to perform.
Trajectoire began tranquilly; the curtains opened to reveal a large boat in a half moon shape, and the silhouettes of two outstretched dancers in the ship’s underbelly. These performers, still unseen and mirroring one another, were then joined by dancers in front of the ship, for brief, athletic solos. And that’s when the spectacle began.
Diavolo’s female dancers effortlessly mounted the ship and formed a line down the center of its wooden deck. Weight distribution on the half-moon became uneven as the dancers treaded their legs to create a steady rocking motion. The women then became an extension of the boat, falling, rolling, flipping and leaning in a constant exploration of their shifting senses of gravity.
Male company members took the spotlight back with solos in front of the boat that highlighted their individual strengths. For example, dancer Ezra Masse-Mahar’s ballet background was evident in his lofty jumps and elongated lines, while dancer Leandro Damasco Jr.’s quick floorwork and fluidity suggested a familiarity with the funk techniques known as Popping and Waving.
More awe-inspiring moments followed these solos as the boat’s rocking became more intense. In one moment, dancers hung parallel to the ground, supported by the boat’s railings. Later, female dancers took death-defying swan dives off of the boat’s crests, sailing into the arms of their trusted colleagues. These literal leaps of faith inspired waves of discussion and audible gasps in the audience, and they set the tone for the standing ovation that was soon to follow the show.
In another Russian Roulette-style section of choreography, dancers tempted fate as they played below the rocking ship. An obstructed audience viewpoint in these moments made it appear as if the dancers below the ship might be crushed at any second, and also as if dancers appeared atop the ship out of nowhere.
After a bit more vigorous choreographic play, the dancers in Trajectoire reached the end of their visceral explorations. Onstage energy calmed as a single dancer soloed atop the boat and her comrades disappeared inside it. Trajectoire’s final scene featured this woman, after a jump-heavy, fighting-against-the-odds style solo, sliding down the boat, reaching for a light that illuminated her from above.
It should be noted that this work’s ending was markedly similar to the ending of Fearful Symmetries, so to put the two works on a program next to one another was a questionable choice, in that respect. Overall, though, I was impressed by the physical prowess of the Diavolo Dance Theater company members, and by the way that their work has developed over time. This was my third time seeing the company – I saw Fearful Symmetries in an earlier, shorter iteration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Krannert Center for the Performing Arts – and I found that Fearful Symmetries had much more substance upon this more recent viewing. Trajectoire was performed just as I remembered it, and it was refreshing to revisit the work. Diavolo Dance Theatre is never dull, that is for certain!
Have you seen Diavolo perform lately or ever? What is your favorite work in their repertory? If you haven’t seen Diavolo perform, have you seen Cirque du Soleil or another acrobatic company? What kind of death-defying feats have you witnessed onstage?
Leave me a comment and let me know!