Dallas — In the post-performance Q&A at Dallas City Performance Hall Friday night, dancers sat at the edge of the stage, holding ice packs.
Diavolo: Architecture in Motion delights in reckless derring-do, using simple and sometimes very complex structures as their starting point (hence “Architecture in Motion”). Is it any surprise that the dancers’ backgrounds reveal less ballet and modern and more tumbling, competitive cheerleading, track and field, baseball, acrobatics and gymnastics?
Catapulting off edges, swan diving off a platform, scrambling up a staircase, tumbling, flipping and flinging oneself onto another, often at breakneck speed, are par for the course.
It’s intense, ratcheted up to a high pitch.
This is the sixth time TITAS has brought Diavolo to Dallas, so while L.O.S.T. was new, the use of structures that allow all those jumps and dives from on high was quite familiar. Anyone who saw Trajectoire and its perilous rocking boat or Transit Space, in which dancers maneuver on skateboard ramps, will remember the thrill of imminent danger.
L.O.S.T. consisted of two parts, Cubicle and Passengers and of the two, Passengers was far more interesting.
It is inevitable that confined to cubicles and wearing identical gray suits and skirts, workers will rebel. And in Cubicle they do, from the get-go. Crammed inside a 2.5 by 2.5’ foot cubicle, a woman slides a foot out and glares into the distance, smoking.
For most of Cubicle, the workers cart very heavy boxes around to place them in every neat geometric pattern imaginable (these are very orderly worker bees). The boxes become crawl-spaces, something to stand on, stamp, slide over, and flop. The workers grow more reckless, more rebellious, flinging jackets, vests, pants, shirts and skirts, until all are in their T-shirts and undies. Surprise, their undergarments show a hint of individuality: lots of color.
The music is loud and clangorous, and the lighting stark pencil points descending and ascending.
Next to the simplicity of Cubicle’s design, Passengers is a fantastic, space-age set of such complexity that one can only marvel at its ingenuity. And it gives the dancers far more opportunities to let loose.
The massive set slowly pivots, breaking apart like icebergs, and morphing into new shapes that resemble at one point a train, then a subway car, a ship, a submarine and a staircase. It is so towering and imposing, so complex and strange, that the dance could get by with little action. (The train is brilliant, swiveling as it billows steam, whistles and blinds us with glaring lights.)
For the dancers, Passengers brings out a new level of recklessness. Yes, there are calm moments, as when they open the windows on the subway and peer out, or mill around a platform, but most of the time they are in action. They slide sideways down a slanted platform with no foothold, dive, roll, leap, and toward the end, like someone jumping from a burning building, Jessie Ryan throws herself down head first into the catch of a man. She repeats the act several times: life is a challenge and the message is, make the most of it.