“Diavolo”: A Masterpiece of Contemporary Dance and Elaborate Design

by Zosia Czarnecka

Diavolo is far from a ballet – it is the marriage of the laws of physics with the extreme limitations of the human body. Jacques Heim’s fearless approach to pushing his Los Angeles-based company beyond the rules of the stage redefines grace. His dancers seem to float, suspended in time. Leaping, jumping, and dropping, gravity and time pause for them, freezing them mid-air before gracefully setting them down for a short breath before their next acrobatic sequence. This show was in all ways, astounding and breathtaking. Two acts, each only lasting 35 minutes captivated the audience in a way I have not witnessed before. Jacques introduced the show colorfully, joking his way across the stage without revealing anything about what was to come. He pitched each act with a one-line summary, leaving the rest to his viewers to interpret as they wished.

Photo courtesy of Sharen Bradford

Act I, “Voyage”, is the story of a young woman who dreams of escaping the world for space, and a universe of limitless possibilities. In a mere half hour, we witness chaos, loss, a sense of floating and uncertainty – something each person in the audience could relate to in one way or another. In the end, our star realizes that what she really longs for is connection – love. “Voyage” is dedicated to Stephanie Niznik, who some may recognize from her role in Star Trek. Her voiceover for the act recounts travels in space, and the first landing on the moon – a tale fitting for the set of limitless possibilities.

Diavolo’s title and performance brings to mind Dante’s Inferno. “Voyage” reminded me of the line from Inferno, “they yearn for what they fear for.” As our heroine travels through this new universe, she appears simultaneously drawn in and pushed back by the forces and characters she encounters. She hesitates when faced with love and connection and shies away from it at first before opening up to the relationship.

“But the stars that marked our starting fall away. We must go deeper into greater pain, for it is not permitted that we stay.” – Dante, Inferno

The imagined world slides away from the stage and the act concludes with the couple dancing around a spinning doorway, faced with uncertainty and reality, but together this time.

America’s Got Talent Live Finale (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

After a short intermission, we returned for Act II – “Trajectoire”. Even more abstract than the start of the show, “Trajectoire” illustrates people struggling to find their place in the world and the balance between destiny and desire. The majority of this half of the performance was spent on an abstractly engineered structure that resembled a boat. Jacques Heim’s innovative architecture and abstract constructions create a playground for the dancers to slide and dance through. The dynamic of this unorthodox production set was remarkable. Jacques teases physics with his choreography and brings dance to a new level with this remarkable art form of dance and structure combined.

This masterpiece is only in Edmonton for one more performance, tonight at 7:30 at the Jubilee. If you are able to make it out, I highly recommend it as this performance is unlike anything Alberta Ballet has showcased before.

Alberta Ballet returns to the stage next month with Unleashed – their annual mixed bill dance series. Tickets are available online now for Edmonton shows on February 21st and 22nd.


Banner Photo courtesy of Sharen Bradford