The sureeal beauty of Jacques Heim’s demons
Must not be afraid of heights.So reads the audition notice for Diavolo, a company of dancers, gymnasts and actors who examine in large-scale performances the funny and frightening ways people interact with their environment. A major coup for Beaver Creek, Diavolo comes to the Vilar Center Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.The Vilar is an unusually intimate location for the grand theatricality of the show.Critics adore Diavolo performances, and descriptions run the gamut from “fun house frippery” to “sex, technology and athleticism.” What they’re responding to, beyond the outrageous feats of dance and movement, is the dream world created between the performers and the audience.Diavolo Artistic Director and Founder Jacques Heim choreographed the latest Cirque du Soleil show, opening in April at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. What he does with Diavolo is slightly more cerebral, but equally surreal and performance-oriented.”As modern society becomes more complex with new technologies and marvelous possibilities,” he writes, “the everyday act of survival becomes increasingly fraught with danger and anxiety. My work investigates the latent absurdities of contemporary human life and seeks to recontextualize those absurdities through the body, exploring the influences of the environment, possessions and relationships. My aim is to capture and comment upon the ironic and frequently humorous patterns, as well as the darker consequences, of human behavior.”In layman’s terms, they take nothing for granted. A ladder isn’t simply a means of ascension – it’s something to spin, to dance with. It also becomes a dramatization of how people relate with one another – support, betrayal and near misses. A ship doesn’t just travel from point A to point B – it rocks to and fro, as waves of chance determine its direction. The people on board are forced to examine survival techniques rooted in community.And it’s all illustrated through movement and music.By not accepting any barriers in his concept of what dance is, Heim pushes the limits of the known. Human forms soar through the air – suspended from the ceiling, careening through space of their own volition. It’s high risk, and almost unbearably beautiful.The processHeim likens his creative process to Roger Rosenblatt’s description of where the best in art and life comes from: a center, something powerful and urgent.”I am really excited about exploring the very tension that exists between passion and structure,” says Heim. “I am concerned with how we navigate this terrain, how we adapt to it, and finally, how we remain free. 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.”From there he immediately decides upon a set, either culled from everyday life or created specifically for the piece. Whatever he decides on, it’s chosen because it’s striking enough to warrant serious exploration.After choosing a set, he has his dancers “break it in,” letting them explore the possibilities and cultivate the story behind the work. This takes a minimum of six weeks.Only after this period of exploration is complete will Heim actually choreograph the movements of the company. Almost always, the music comes last.The Name:Di-a’-vo-loDia:Spanish: dayGreek: through, across, from point to pointVolo:Latin: I will flyDiavolo has other connotations:Diabolical: of, relating to or characteristic of the devil.Diablerie: playfulness of humans; the clever, astounding or comical pranks of a child, clown or rascal (French)Diavolo: The name of a Russian avant-garde circus performer who in the 1920s did outrageous stunts on a bicycle.