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Dance Review (Milan): Diavolo Dance Theatre at Teatro Arcimboli

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Diavolo Dance Theatre is really its own category of dance: part dance, part gymnastics, part spectacle, called “hyperdance.” I have admired Jacque Heim’s work since I first saw it at UCLA, then later in KA in Vegas, and finally at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. I caught up with him again at the magnificent Teatro Arcimboli in Milan, Italy, at a full concert of his work with his company, Diavolo Dance Theatre.

Diavolo Dance Theatre is based in Los Angeles and was founded by Jacque Heim in 1992. Since then the company has toured the world wowing audiences wherever it performs. Milan audiences were no exception. The company performed at the beautiful Teatro Arcimboldi, one of the best venues in Milan, which was built in 2002 and holds about 2400 patrons. Included in the event were various works from the company’s repertoire.

“Origin” is a solo piece about the power of the feminine mystique, which utilizes a large female form as its focal point. “Çapture(d)” traces the struggles in a relationship by means of a courtship dance inside a rocking silver half-sphere. The exquisite “Dreamcatcher” features an 18-foot aluminum spinning web where dreams are reenacted, dreamt, and fulfilled. Most of Heim’s work pits man against a machine that man must learn to master. The result is exhilarating and sublime.

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, creating out of this process a story and a set of moves.

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, though they are all listed in the program. What they do is skilled and dangerous, and a real group effort. One performer did stand out, though, because of his height and his prowess: Garret Wolf, who is also the assistant artistic director.

The company performed only two shows in Milan and then were off to other parts of Italy. The event lasted a breathless 90 minutes and the Italian audience was enraptured and left wondering, “How did they do that?” I look forward to more performances wherever I can catch up with Diavolo Dance Theatre. You can find out the schedule, sign up for email notification, and see pictures from the repertoire at their website.

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About Robert Machray