The late summer is a perfect time to see a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, when the evening temperature is just mild enough that short sleeves are comfortable.
On Thursday, September 5th, in one its last appearances during the summer season, the Los Angeles Philharmonic offered up a program of contemporary works linked through an association with dance, culminating with a performance by Diavolo, one of modern dance’s most innovative companies.
The lively British conductor Bramwell Tovey served as both conductor and emcee, at one point sitting at the piano and taking the audience on a musical journey through the scenes of “Romeo & Juliet,” previewing the excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet that would follow. This amusing digression was highlighted by a lively exchange between Maestro Tovey and an unfortunate heckler.
The evening began with “The Chairman Dances,” a resetting by John Adams of a sequence from his brilliant opera “Nixon in China.” Described as a “foxtrot for orchestra,” this musical humoresque is one of the most accessible and enjoyable works of post-minimalism, with its pulsing dance rhythms and Astaire/Rogers interlude. Under Maestro Tovey’s baton, the orchestra was energetic and precise.
It was Diavolo, however, that the near-capacity audience was there to see.
Under the stewardship of Artistic Director Jacques Heim, Diavolo Dance Theatre presented the world premiere of “Fluid Infinities,” the third and final installment of “L’Espace du Temps,” a triptych of artistic collaborations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, performed at the Hollywood Bowl over the last several seasons.
The music was Symphony No. 3 by Philip Glass, an understated and subtle work for string orchestra, consisting of the repetition of cascading themes, which served as a perfect underscore for the movement on the stage.
The dancers were costumed in androgynous bodysuits, and the set featured a spherical dome, with holes cut out like a honeycomb, which hydraulically lifted to different angles. Adjacent to the dome, was a large, clear, phallic cylinder.
Diavolo is famous for its fusion of ballet, acrobatics, modern dance and other contemporary forms of movement, all of which were on spectacular display during the 24-minute work.
There seemed to be two themes working simultaneously, which might be identified as the creation of life from orgasm through birth, and the progression of time on an astrological level.
Undeniably the movement was consistently erotic, beginning with the emergence of the dancers through and out the top of the phallic cylinder, then fluidly (and acrobatically) slipping through and around the holes in the sphere. When the sphere elevated, the dancers engaged in a series of organic pas de deuxs, intertwining to the point where they merged as one.
All the while, in addition to stage lighting, there were remote lights carried by stagehands that moved laterally across the proscenium, creating an unusual pattern of shadows.
The company has plans to perform the trilogy in a single program at some point in the future, and for anyone interested in the advancement of dance as an art form, that will be a must-see event. The other two installments feature music by John Adams and Esa Pekka Salonen.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic begins its fall season, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney Hall, with an Opening Night Gala and Concert on Monday, September 30th. For more information, please visit www.laphil.org.