REVIEW: Diavolo Explores the Air Space

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Jacques Heim, the man at the helm of LA-based Diavolo, is riding high these days. His $165 million Cirque du Soleil show, KA, just opened in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel. Heim’s show, nearly three years in the making, involves a 50-foot stage that transforms into a vertical wall, spectacular technology, 70 performers, and no acrobatics. Diavolo recently flew into Houston, literally, to show two of their signature works at the Cullen.

Diavolo’s dances originate from “structures” that generate the actual choreography during “improvised play sessions.” Tete en l’Air’s Magritte-inspired staircase unfolded in a barrage of unconnected follies involving falling, rolling, skiing, tobogganing, and jumping. Amidst this flurry of visuals some novel moments surprised me. The slinking backwards down the stairs reading the newspaper and the death defying backwards fall that ends the piece were both high points. Tete lost its sinister core towards the end during in the evening gown competition. Original music by Jean Pierre Bedoyan and Juliet Prater, created an eerie mood, but later eroded into repetition.

For viewers of Diavolo’s next piece I have some advice: hold on to your life preserver, or the person next to you. This piece gives new meaning to the song, Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat. Trajectoire places a rocking boat-like structure in the center of the stage. The dancers ride, slide, fall overboard, swing from the rafters, balance in the most precarious positions, and fearlessly fly in and through the airspace. Forget about eye candy, this is air candy. Sure, you can read all kinds of meaning based on the slippery slope of cosmic thresholds. But, why bother?

At its heart, Trajectorie’s power dwells in the complex juxtaposition between an entity that rocks and the human body. You see humans at work coping with both the affordances and challenges of this gigantic structure. They accomplish this task with a mixture of beauty and strife. This work, in particular, serves as potent reminder that we are not alone on this planet. We exist in relationship to our environment. Diavolo’s mission of generating art from the landscape of a structure alters the hierarchy between that which is human and non-human. In this abstract realm of form, the boundaries between motion and matter thrive; Diavolo yields endless possibilities.

Diavolo’s performance, presented by Society for the Performing Arts (S.P.A.), took place on Feb. 12, 2005 at Cullen Theater.
www.spahouston.org

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