October 12, 2018

The high-spirited charismatic Jacques Heim – Artistic Director of the Los Angeles based “DIAVOLO/Architecture in Motion” started the anticipated evening at Glorya Kaufman’s Dance at the Music Center with an attention-getting intro, at first speaking French, just to make sure everyone was awake, he then explained his purpose with his extraordinary company.   Since 1992 Heim’s hope was to defy not only the dancers physical, mental and spiritual abilities, but the audience’s immutability to change through his architectural inventions.   Exploring the dangerous and powerful challenges that force a human to rise above and beyond, recognizing that there are challenges with infinite possibilities that exist as resolutions to each encounter.

With this message, Diavolo has captivated audiences around the world with their fearless athleticism, aesthetic performances, and daredevil antics, that have stunned and excited sold out audiences in 250 cities and 14 countries.

Voyage, Diavolo’s first piece of the evening was a premiere for L.A. Audiences.   It is a piece inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing.  We see a young woman, journeying into a dream scape in the hopes of escaping the mundane.  She meets “Gravity-defying bodies” on her journey along her whimsical and fantastical transformation from the mundane to the extraordinary.

As the curtain rises, the stage is set with a quarter sphered “moon” which reflects light through representative cavities, on the opaque surface.  Birds and sirens are background sound scapes with music by ODESZA, Zack Hemsey, Moby, The Crystal Method, Sarah Jaffe, Florence + The Machine, Jon Hopkins.  The music leads us through the mysteries of living mathematical, geometrical and structural adventures.  As the architecture, the music and performers anticipate each change and challenge, modulating step by step the story being told on stage.

A young woman, on stage front, is our protagonist and adventurist.   She’s in a sleeveless t-shirt and loosely fitting cargo pants of dark grey, black tennis shoes and a blond pony tail, looking comfortable, yet ordinary.  She appears prepared only because of her outstanding athleticism to meet her alien counterparts, who wear quite unattractive faux black short shorts, with skin colored beige tights and tops.  These choices may have been good for performing, however, with the exquisite lighting and effects, the washed out color choices and unappealing shorts and tops did not enhance the look of the dancers bodies nor the piece.

The lighting effects by Evan Merryman Ritter – lighting Designer and John E.D. Bass Lighting Director were emotional and breathtaking, not matched by costumes by Brandon Grimm.  There was an attempt to put a human touch in between death defying movements that kept the audience on pins and needles.  It tended towards busy-ness onstage.  The audience’s need to keep track of the architecture, through continued power and strength moves kept us trying to feel something for the couple’s attraction for each other.

Doors that open, walls that partnered our girl, her fall from heights into the arms of young men, tubing that appears to birth our protagonist in our Alice in Wonderland misadventures eventually lead to one pyramid that opens into three and becomes a type of human Leggo.  As is the genius of Heim, he leads us through mind twisting counter shapes of static and kinetic and ever changing environs. One becomes three becomes one again.

DIAVOLO Architecture in Motion®. Photo by George Simian DIAVOLO Architecture in Motion®. Photo courtesy of the Krannert Center(1) DIAVOLO Architecture in Motion®. Photo courtesy of the Krannert Center
DIAVOLO Architecture in Motion®. Photo courtesy of the Krannert Center

The dancer/athletes are commendable in their endurance, gymnastics, and attempt at dramatic line.  And since this company is noted for it’s teamwork, and making the architecture the star, it was not possible to pick out one for their uniqueness, but believing all were outstanding in their abilities, caring for each other, timing, and courage in performing their unique art form.   Among the 13, that are never distinguished until the final curtain, they are: Christopher Borrero, Christopher Carvalha, Kate Dougherty, Simon Greenberg, Steven Jasso, Aubrey Lawrence, Derion Loman, Majella Loughran, Danielle Maloney, Chantelle Mrowka, Madison Olandt, Matthew Wagner, and Kimara Wood.

And finally, as the piece attempts to resolve itself, we see a cylinder in quarter sections of a circular disc shape, which the dancers rock in sections, then assemble into an almost two storied full circular metal construction which introduces death defying leaps from heights of one and two stories as the sphere rolls side to side, back and forth, and diagonally across the stage.  The metal wheel is maneuvered around the stage by the strength and agility of the performers, challenging the audience to keep track of the handstands, skips and leaps that come from the dancers on the wire structure with Ferris wheel precision.  Defying gravity and crawling with humanity, they escape through holes all around the silver sphere with impeccable timing.  Large leaps from the rotating metal structure, soon disappearing to the quiet of the fated couple on the top of a door frame that opens in an unusual way and leads back, Wizard of Oz like, to “Home.”

After a 20-minute intermission, we are treated to the brilliant signature piece, Trajectoire.  It starts with a ship-like edifice, designed by Mike McClusky, McClusky LTD.,Tina Trefethen, that is the symbol and challenge of the piece and is placed center stage.  Like a meditation, back lit in the internal organs of the structure, one person, becomes two, becomes three, introducing each member of the company dress in white tunics, shirts and pants so tastefully designed by Meegan Godfrey.   As if magically, we slowly get to know each dancer and how they handle the challenge of the soon rocking “ship.” And as it is pushed fearlessly by each, they begin to slide down the steep angle of the ship in a mesmerizing rhythm.  The music, composed by Nathan Wong, swirls around us and carries us breathless to each change.  It signals the impending storm with often surprising results.  Both women and men in legato-style, sway two and three at a time, then balance like Mastheads in an impending gale.   It embellishes and crescendos into flight off the sides that goes beyond courage.  They defy not only gravity, but belief.

This writer has seen this piece five times, and each time it takes one’s breath away, and by it’s ending one has experienced heart pounding excitement but more than that, a sense of mystical reverence for the courage of the human spirit.  This is a piece of art that moves one beyond the mundane and fulfills Heim’s dream of lifting the soul to extraordinary heights.  His company fulfills his dream with astonishing focus, commitment and beauty.  Even though this piece debuted in 1999, some 19 years ago, it’s simplicity and genius holds up through time, which after all is all one can ask of an artistic endeavor.   It’s a must see and experience in ones lifetime.

For more information about DIAVOLO/Architecture In Motion, click here.