Dance Matters: Diavolo in Transit

January 30, 2012

The company takes on new spaces (and structures).



Jacques Heim never met a block, pegboard, or wheel he didn’t like. Artistic director of the risk-intensive troupe Diavolo Dance Theater, Heim, 47, has been using custom-made structures in his choreography since founding the Los Angeles–based company in 1992. Props have included a 5,000-pound, 16-foot rotating aluminum wheel (Humachina); a 17-foot-long rocking boat (Trajectoire); and a large vertical pegboard resembling an oversized S&M device (D2R).

On January 28, the 10-member troupe begins a 17-city, four-month tour, ending in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Performing works including the above three, Diavolo’s über-athletic dancers (all from the U.S.) seem to have trust embedded in their DNA: The flying, whirling performers rely on one another to partner, catch (death-defying swan dives are common), and occasionally slink about in clown mode.

Heim’s latest work, Transit Space, co-commissioned by Penn State and the Los Angeles Music Center, premieres April 19 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Making use of specially designed ramps, Heim appropriated skateboard culture as a metaphor for finding one’s way—through public space and in life.

Currently in its 13th year of international touring, Diavolo is one of L.A.’s most successful dance troupes. Its works have grown larger in scope. Diavolo’s rep includes two collaborations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, with 2010’s Fearful Symmetries (set to John Adams music) featuring dancers manipulating a giant cube that splits into six parts, often atop a motorized stage.

And while Diavolo doesn’t have a home season, the company performs two SoCal concerts this year (Feb. 2, Northridge; March 22, Irvine).

“My dancers are gladiators,” says the Paris-born Heim. “And because I keep pushing them—mentally, physically, emotionally—they can become giants.”



Fearful Symmetries. Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, Courtesy Diavolo.