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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK


Theatre takes to the air

The De La Guarda carnival takes place on ropes above the audience

Argentinian troupe De La Guarda, who took New York by storm last year, have now their sights set on conquering Europe with their latest alternative theatre extravaganza.

BBC News 24 takes a look at the De La Guarda experience
Their act, which opened in London this week, combines dance, music, acrobatics and theatre to create an experience that the UK press has described as "better than sex".

Co-creator and performer Pichon Baldinu told BBC News Online: "We are bringing something positive, something euphoric and energetic to theatre."

[ image: A circus, a rock concert and a rave all rolled into one]
A circus, a rock concert and a rave all rolled into one
By creating a huge party which swings all around the arena, the show aims to makes the crowd feel "exhilarated, out of control and yet completely safe".

"We are asking the audience to give us their bodies and their emotions," said Baldinu.

And despite the fact that most of the action takes place in the air above a standing audience, the crowd are quick to join in the carnival vibe.

In fact they practically climb over each other to get close to the action, even if that means being jumped on by dancers and soaked with water.

But as Baldinu explains, this is exactly why the troupe are proving such a hot ticket.

[ image: The crowd are asked to dress down and look up]
The crowd are asked to dress down and look up
"The audience is 50% of the show," he said.

"We all share the same stage and everybody can feel free to express themselves however they want to."

And hip Britain turned out in force to give this week's premiere the thumbs up. All Saints star Natalie Appleton told BBC News Online she thought the performance was "very interesting, very good" and the show certainly made 70s pop veteran Leo Sayer feel like dancing.

"Fabulous" and "absolutely incredible" was how he described the special preview performance.

"The whole thing was so visually and physically superb, it was like sculpture," said Sayer, who even said he'd like to use something similar in his own live shows.

While most of the crowd participation takes the form of dancing and chanting along to the hypnotic music, a select few onlookers are plucked from the floor and taken for a flight around the theatre on giant bungee ropes.

Pichon explained why the six-piece Buenos Aires based group use such adventurous measures.

[ image: One lucky audience member takes a trip around the theatre]
One lucky audience member takes a trip around the theatre
"Every human being wants to be able to fly, it's a dream. That is the type of feeling we want to produce in the show. We also want to make it simple, to show that everybody can do it."

One lucky Peter Pan was Trainspotting actor Johnny Lee Miller, who told BBC News Online "It was fantastic... I thoroughly enjoyed it."

"I've never seen anything like it," said the star.

Miller is not the only celebrity to rave about the upside-down circus - Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow and Harrison Ford are also big fans of the show.

But as Pichon explains, the De La Guarda experience is not just a playground for celebrities.

"The concept for the show is to mix all sorts of people," said Pinchon.

"This show is for everybody and everybody can understand this language because it's a language about feelings, about energy and everybody has the tools to understand this."

De La Guarda will run at the Camden Roundhouse in London until 4 July.

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