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An aerialist/musical performing troupe. I have capitalized it here as the program does.

De La Guarda began in Buenos Aires in the mid 1990's. Originating as a nightclub warm up act, its first public incarnation was named Villa Villa, created and directed by Pichon Baldinu and Diqui James. It opened off-Broadway in 1998 and I saw a performance in July, 2002 at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York's Union Square.

De La Guarda is difficult to describe concisely. The audience did not sit, but stood and moved throughout the 70 minutes of the performance in what appeared to be a dance hall. The performance space began dark, but became lit in a number of interesting ways. There was a lot of live percussion and other sound effects, most of it painfully loud. The program (handed out at the end of the show as we left the theatre) lists 18 performers, some of whom served as "captains" and wore cordless headsets; they moved among the audience from time to time, mostly to herd us out of the way of mild dangers.

The 70 minutes of the performance were filled with a series of short acts or events - most of them 5 or 10 minutes long. There was no spoken or written language at all, though there was a lot of screaming, wailing, and howling. Most of the events involved performers tethered to beams high up in the theatre and either swinging around overhead, climbing the walls, interacting with a vertical trampoline placed against one wall, or seizing audience volunteers and lifting them into the overhead space. The volunteers were mostly young women without adequate underclothing to cover them when seen from below, and at least one of them seemed displeased to discover, too late, what had befallen her. Things occasionally fell onto the audience's area, including water, confetti, and balloons (which the captains viciously popped, much to the sorrow of my 11 year-old niece). At one point the audience was actively encouraged to dance to the ear-rending percussion, and the captains moved around among us trying to shame us immobile types into dancing. (I jumped up and down in the puddles of sodden confetti until those fellows passed me. Phew! Traumatic memories of a compulsory 6th grade dance!)

Some of the short acts have clear political or other symbolism, which I will not describe here. It is enough to say that I found this symbolism heavy-handed almost all the time. I think the most aesthetically satisfying acts were the somewhat eery opening - which involved sound and light effects that were gentler than any other part of the show - and the several pieces involving the vertical trampoline.

I took along my stern Taiwanese wife and our 11 and 12 year-old niece and nephew, visiting from the Old Country. We had hoped the children would enjoy a bizarre spectacle without needing to know any English, but they were completely bewildered by the whole evening. My wife and I found the show interesting, but not enough to draw us back for a second performance. I have described the more satisfying end to our evening at the daylog for July 6, 2002.

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