Dance born of passion, props in Beaver Creek |

Dance born of passion, props in Beaver Creek

Kris Sabel
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Elazar C. HarelDiavolo dancers combine their athletic and acrobatic abilities to perform their shows. The troupe performs at the Vilar Center on March 4.

Editor’s note: Director’s Chair is a weekly column where Kris Sabel, who is in charge of cultural programming for the Vail Valley Foundation, gives his expert take on shows not to be missed.

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” On March 4, Diavalo Dance Company makes a highly anticipated return to the Vilar Performing Arts Center. Having wowed audiences in the past, Diavolo has developed somewhat of a cult following in the valley. To call it a dance company does not begin to describe the experience of seeing this performance. Company members are dancers, gymnasts, actors, athletes, rock climbers and, above all, teammates. These artists must have the highest level of trust and teamwork to create and perform their craft. Leaping, flying and spinning in and out of huge props, they defy gravity in works that frequently elicit gasps from the audience. The first time I saw them live, I was in awe at the athleticism of the performers and the wit of the work.

Under the artistic direction of Jacques Heim, the troupe explores the often humorous and sometimes frightening ways individuals interact with one another and their environment. Heim explains the creative process this way: “Although no two Diavolo pieces are created identically, they do always start with a passionate idea ” born out of artwork that moved me in a certain way or an exchange I watched between two people on the street, for example. I immediately decide on an idea for a constructivist set piece. Whether found or constructed, I choose the set because of its role in our lives ” its architectural qualities, its geometric shapes and its mechanical functionality. In short, it must be something striking, as landscape or as object, that compels exploration and the desire to understand the ways in which it influences human behavior.”

This set piece or prop is then mocked up for the dancer to improvise on ” a process that can take as long as six weeks as the performers explore their relationship with this object and with one another. After this process, the dance or story line is created and worked out between dancers and choreographer. Then, finally, the music is added, often original compositions. With most other companies, the majority of the dance we see starts with the music, and then the movement follows. With Diavalo, the set piece or prop preliminarily defines the work. Everyday items such as doors, chairs and stairways provide the backdrop for dramatic movement that creates metaphors for the challenge of relationships, the absurdities of life and the struggle to maintain our humanity in the shadow of a technological world. Other works are created on very elaborate props, like the hull of a ship or a huge wheel. The props create breathtaking opportunities for the artists to fly, swing, slide and hurtle across the stage.

Founded in 1992 in Los Angeles, Diavolo has received high praise and won numerous awards nationally and internationally. In 1995, Diavolo was named Best of the Fest by the London Independent and Critic’s Choice by The Guardian at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The company has performed in more than 30 states, as well as internationally in Japan, Mexico and Chile. Inspired by Heim’s work, the creative team at Cirque du Soleil engaged in a creative partnership with him to develop new projects. In 2005, he was chosen to choreograph “Ka,” one of the permanent Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas.

In addition to the evening show, the company will present a daytime educational performance and workshop for local students as part of our STARS (Support the Arts Reaching Students) program. I hope you can join us for this special return engagement with Diavolo.

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