Bankhead Theater auditions for new role with residency program
By Lou Fancher
Leaping from its usual arts presenter platform, the Livermore Performing Arts Center launches its fall season with a bold move.
The 500-seat Bankhead Theater will serve as an incubator and co-commissioner of a new work by Los Angeles-based modern dance group DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion, "L.O.S.T. (Losing One's Self Temporarily)." The most radical aspect of the four-day residency taking place Sept. 3-7 is that no one can predict exactly what will happen.
Ed Estrada, LVPAC's production director, say there's only one certainty: the doors will be flung wide open. Specially-invited audiences and people who choose to stroll in to open rehearsals during the venue's business hours will be welcome as DIAVOLO founder and Artistic Director Jacques Heim finesses the final touches on the work's intricately engineered sets, lighting and costumes and sculpts the elite dancers into a human machine.
"We're providing the facility and labor," says Estrada, who served from 2005 to 2007 and occasionally thereafter as DIAVOLO's production manager. "It's low-cost, about $3,000 for us. If we sell out the show, we have a surplus. Their usual tour fee is $20,000, so this is a no-brainer."
If the venture proves profitable, the Bankhead gains the opportunity to fill gaps between events by hosting activities that benefit artists and offer the community unique access.
Asked if the residency is a sign of things to come, Bankhead Executive Director Scott Kenison says, "It's the first time we've done anything like this, but we're open to looking at ways to be creative. We want this to be a place where we can help make all kinds of art happen."
Of course, it's not all wild experimentation. DIAVOLO has proved popular twice before at the Bankhead. In 2011 and 2014, the company presented its heart-stopping works that combine the kinetic thrill of dancers versed in modern dance, ballet, hip hop, martial arts and circus arts with the dramatic visual impact of massive, uniquely animated architectural environments.
Paris-born Heim's background includes Cirque du Soleil and work in film, television and on world stages. His collaboratively-imagined and realized works, impressive in their ambitious technical achievements that demand the precision of a Swiss timepiece from the artists and production elements, pose existential questions and offer metaphorical allusions.
It's not uncommon for audiences to applaud the company's physicality while also reflecting on the behaviors of humans in harsh, angular structures or on giant, two-story-high water wheels. Heim says audiences may wonder what the daredevil interactions suggest about pride, dependence, fate, victimhood, strength, honor or heroism.
Part I, entitled "Passengers," will be completed this time in Livermore to join the previously choreographed Part II, "Cubicle," for a world premiere Oct. 6-8 in Portland, Oregon.
Heim says the first few weeks of rehearsal led him down a false trail, despite months of preparation.
"I started to get too literal, stereotypical," he says, about the work that in its essence is about life passages and the human journey through isolation, vulnerability, community and cooperation. "I was making a musical. It wasn't right."
The creative loop, a whirlpool-like cycle that spirals from initial ideas for choreographers, Silicon Valley innovators, scientists and others seeking answers or fresh concepts, can result in a tangle, especially if rushed or lacking in resources. That's why Heim says the opportunity to step back and see the work on a stage and to refine the production elements is invaluable.
"We don't have the luxury of building a prototype. We have to deal with what we have. This moment to go into a theater; I am so humbled. It's the most crucial moment," he said. "Without this opportunity, we could not do this work as well."
Without Estrada's expertise, mounting DIAVOLO's monstrously collaborative production might not have happened.
"I remember when they toured with a U-Haul truck," he recalls. "Now, they use a 53-foot semi-truck. Since they know me, they asked."
Estrada says he's hoping the show will "pack the theater to the gills" and that scientist types, dance and engineering students, and anyone curious about the creative process will participate.
"This isn't just dance," says Estrada, "these are works of engineering art, and this is a tour of the human world."