Diavolo returns to campus with innovative dance forms

Doors that dance, chairs that twirl, a cage that doubles as a gymnastics apparatus. Welcome to the world of Diavolo, the high-flying Los Angeles company known for examining the funny, frightening and unexpected ways individuals interact with their environments.

Courtesy Photo

The dance “Caged” will be part of Diavolo’s performance.

Diavolo returns to St. Louis as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS Series. Performances will begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28.

In addition, Diavolo will present an all-ages matinee as part of the ovations for young people series at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 28.

Diavolo was founded in Los Angeles in 1992 by Paris-born choreographer Jacques Heim. He begins each piece by creating a distinctively surreal set, around which the 10-member company then begins a process of structured improvisation.

“Architectural structures or sculpted adaptations of everyday items — sofas, doors, stairs — provide the backdrop for dramatic and risky movement,” Heim said.

“I try to convey an appreciation for movement by breaking down barriers to dance via a vocabulary based on everyday activities. Diavolo is made up of people of varied abilities and training — dancers, gymnasts, rock climbers, and actors — all of whom are teammates,” Heim said.

The Edison Theatre concert will begin with “Tete En L’Air”, which translates as “head in the sky.” Inspired by the surreal work of French filmmaker Jacques Tati, the piece explores the journey of isolation faced by citizens in the modern world. Next on the program will be “Knockturne,” an intimate duet built on and around a simple door; and “D2R-A,” in which an abstract obstacle course evokes the trenches of war and the restrictions of being physically wounded.

“Caged,” a work-in-progress, investigates themes of confinement, pressure, freedom, escape and entrapment. Then, following intermission, the program will conclude with “Trajectoire,” a major piece set on a large, abstracted galleon, in which the company is figuratively set adrift — sink or swim — upon the ever-shifting landscape of human relations in modern society.

A 15-minute Q&A with the company will immediately follow the performance.

Heim earned a BFA in theatre, dance and film from Middlebury College in Vermont; a certificate for analysis and criticism of dance from the University of Surrey in England; and an MFA in choreography from the California Institute for the Arts.

Tickets — $28 for faculty, staff and seniors; $20 for students and children and $32 for the public — are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Tickets for the Saturday matinee are $10. For more information, call 935-6543 or visit edison.wustl.edu.