Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts will present Diavolo Dance Theater, an internationally renowned modern acrobatic dance company, Saturday. Diavolo Dance Theater was founded and is directed by Jacques Heim, choreographer for Cirque du Soleil’s “KÀ.”
With Diavolo, universes collide. Art meets science, matter and space coexist, reality bends where imagination begins. Paired with large objects, Diavolo takes movement, athletics and daring to the extreme to create abstract scenarios in which inspiration thrives. Comprised of dancers, gymnasts, athletes and actors who create performances collaboratively, everyday items such as doors and chairs, ladders and stairways, cylinders and wheels — exaggerated in size and function — become co-conspirators as the dancers shock and delight audiences with leaps, spins and contortions.
“Patrons should approach the Diavolo performance by throwing away all preconceived notions of dance,” says Norton Center executive director Steve Hoffman. “All dancers are athletic, but with Diavolo, the dancers could even be considered jocks. The combination of beautiful and striking choreography with large objects will provide a visual feast for theater-goers.
“The student matinee has been sold out for a couple of months. Check out the Diavolo page of www. NortonCenter.com to view a three-minute video clip and see why Diavolo is a must-see performance."
Diavolo Dance Theater is based in Los Angeles and was founded by Heim in 1992. Heim starts with a passionate idea, then finds a corresponding artwork that compels the observer to explore that object fully. In the process Heim and his company discover the feelings the artwork evokes and the movement required to explore and master it. The company will take as long as six months to explore an artwork.
“We perform for people who are longing for a different kind of movement,” explained Heim, a Parisian-born choreographer who created the company after graduating from the California Institute of the Arts. “Our work is not modern dance. It’s not jazz. It’s not ballet. It’s a mixture of gymnastics, acrobatics, stunts and everyday movement. Nothing is narrated. There’s no story. It’s abstract, visceral and organic. I leave a lot of room for the audience to use their imagination and create a story.”
Diavolo derives from Spanish for “day” and Latin for “I will fly.” The troupe has risen from cramped alternative spaces to major international festivals, evolving into a fresh and thrilling form of movement theater.
Heim combines influences as diverse as Parisian street theater, Hollywood movies, the choreography of Pilobolus and Elizabeth Streb, the paintings of Robert Longo, the imagery of Pina Bausch, the spectacle of Cirque du Soleil, and everyday life, to create large-scale, interdisciplinary performances that “examine the funny and frightening ways individuals interact with their environment.”
Diavolo’s subject matter hinges on a common theme in contemporary French dance — individuals trapped in an alienated world — but stylistically looks to the origins of modernism, including: futurism, where abstract, geometric imagery abounds; Dadaism, utilizing the strategies of irony and play; and surrealism, the dreamy, ominous world of realism. Through the interaction between the dancers and structures, based on these styles, Diavolo explores the challenge of relationships, the absurdities of life, and the struggle to maintain our humanity in an increasingly technological world. It reflects Heim’s idea of being an “urban person one who loves the movement of the city, the patterns of the people and seeing that everyone’s heads are in the air, so to speak, that we’re all struggling with identity confusion to one degree or other, over and over, as part of a weird cycle of ongoing change.”
The company is made up of actors, gymnasts, dancers, and rock climbers. All the performers must be great athletes, and daring and trust are required from each member as he swings, hangs, climbs, and slides down the object of the particular piece. Heim doesn’t individuate his artists, although they all are listed in the program. What they do is skilled and dangerous, and a group effort.
This season marks Diavolo’s 13th U.S. tour, with more than 14 weeks on the road in 20 cities. In addition, Diavolo has toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America. The company also has created unique performance events for corporate clients such as Wells Fargo, Honda, Sebastian Inc. and General Motors.
Central Seal is the exclusive sponsor for Diavolo Dance Theater at the Norton Center.
About Jacques Heim
Jacques Heim has been one of America’s most transformative choreographers for nearly 20 years. He founded Diavolo Dance Theater and also has worked extensively for other companies in dance, theater, TV and special events worldwide.
Heim choreographed the long-running “KÀ,” a permanent show for Cirque du Soleil, which premiered in April of 2004 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Heim was invited to be a Creative Director for the Opening Ceremony of The 16th Asian Games, in Guangzhou, China and served as Artistic Director for the 2005 Taurus Stunt Awards. With Center Theater Group, Heim created choreography for The Stones. On television, his work appeared on BBC America’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and Bravo’s “Step Up and Dance.”
Heim has been the recipient of a James Irvine Foundation Fellowship in choreography, the Martha Hill Choreography Award by the American Dance Festival, the Special Prize of the Jury at the 6th Saitama International Dance Festival, and a Brody Arts Fund fellowship. He has choreographed workshops at Ballet Pacifica and taught movement and dance for many years at Cal State LA and UCLA.
The Diavolo Dance Theater performance begins at 8 p.m. in Newlin Hall. Tickets, ranging from $18-$35, are available by logging on to www.NortonCenter.com or by calling (859) 236-4692.