Last night’s Diavolo performed at California Plaza for Grand Performances (grandperformances.org).
Diavolo is an international modern dance + movement theatre troupe that combines dance, gymnastics, and movement using large set pieces. It’s described as “… a unique collection of gymnasts, acrobats, athletes and actors who create along with leader Jacques Heim, powerful, witty and exhilarating movements for the stage.”
A performance of Trajectoire a few years ago at Cal Plaza moved me to silent awe. It was primordial, passionate, dangerous — a way out of the modern dance tropes that sometimes seem to have hardened into a cliched international style. Here are some images from the piece taken from the company’s website.
The company describes the setting as a galleon. I felt as if I were looking at the Ark.
Last night the company performed Cage. A man ironically defends his space inside a steel barred cage. The piece features the company’s trademark leaps along with aggression and real wit. There were a few times the audience laughed out loud.
I love the theatricality and French-ness of the company. Even the entr’actes were engaging. When company members transferred the cage to the stagehands, it felt as if the performance was continuing. During subsequent transitions, two men who could have been walked out of a Tati movie danced with ladders. Fun, beautiful and dangerous.
Three dancers walked out holding small torches to introduce Origin. This elegant, sensual piece features a female soloist who danced with and around a Henry Moore-like female sculpture. Originally created in 1999, the piece was recreated this year.
This was followed by Cubicle, a humorous dance version of The Office complete with briefcase. Cubicle was followed by Apex. The performers worked in, on, around and through three doorlike structures.
Bench provided the most humor of the evening. Watching the epic struggle over a meaningless bench explains human nature in a few minutes. The evening concluded with AWOL, another recreation. Originally performed in 1992,
It’s true that the pieces sometimes lean too heavily on throbbing technopop. They don’t need to. The dance is spectacular enough. On the other hand, audiences used to the spectacles of Cirque de Soleil and summer blockbusters might need this.
Small quibble. Diavolo’s work is extraordinary. Even when it doesn’t quite hit the mark, you feel like you’re watching amazing dancers with a great trust and love for each other and choreography that’s dealing with modern dilemmas: alienation, loneliness, greed and meaning. It feels like a way forward. I hope the demands of corporate gigs, audiences and community work doesn’t box them in. I want to see what they come up with next.
The company performed with Noruz, a Colombian troupe of two dancers and an actress who performed Suite para Barrotes y Presos (Suite for Bars and Prisoners). A deeply felt piece, unusual aggression and physicality for women.